After an initial burst of enthusiasm, Target's Lilly Pulitzer capsule collection has already taken one ride on the backlash merry-go-round, for the fact that it'll include plus-sizes but banish them to the website. Now, here comes another question—can the brand's snobbiest fans STAND IT?
Refinery 29 cataloged the initial response, as a particularly pissy slice of Pulitzer fans vented on Twitter. How could the brand betray them by diluting the value of their carefully curated purchases like this? Woe, woe is them! And now Ad Week examines the collection, the conniption and why this particular team-up might inspire such a reaction. You see, Lilly Pulitzer is a bit different than other capsule collections Target has done, in that it's neither an up-and-coming designer nor particularly high fashion/avant-garde:
Target may have partnered with high-end brands in the past, but Lilly Pulitzer is the first old-guard, social-register brand to sign on, and that makes a big difference.
"[Lilly Pulitzer fans'] concern is legitimate," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with NPD Group. "The fact is that this is a legacy brand. This is a leading designer who's earned her stripes—or her flowers."
Sure, plenty of fans just appreciate a candy-colored retro pattern that looks like that fourth mint julep tastes. (That's a compliment, to be clear.) But there's lots of buyers drawn by the fact that it's traditionally known as a brand worn by socialites, by Jackie Kennedy, by ladies who lunch. A Lilly Pulitzer dress sent pretty much the exact same signal when my mother was in college as it does today. As Perfectly Prep author Sarah Chase told Boston.com: "Lilly is the brand that defines preppiness. You can't get around it. So much of being preppy is exclusivity."
Add the fact that it's just expensive, not astronomically far out of reach, which means there's a bigger population of people peeved because their "I'M FANCY" sign is dealing with some sudden electrical interference. Cohen added that this kind of flip-out isn't uncommon when you see designers partnering up with the mass market: "[Fans say,] 'Why would you allow someone to buy the product who's never bought it before?'"
The funny thing is, Preppy Handbook author Lisa Birnbach told Boston.com that she's pretty sure Pulitzer herself would've gotten a kick out of the collection:
"What surprises me—besides how emotional and snobby people are being about this—is that I don't think Lilly Pulitzer would be disappointed at all," Birnbach told Boston.com. "I think she'd probably be very keen on it. I spent time with her in Palm Beach a few years ago, and she was very pleased that her clothes had become more popular under the new ownership. She was, I think, a Democrat in the social sense of the word."
Anyway, if you're buying something for the social signal it sends rather than pure love of the game, I'm pretty sure the joke's on you from the get-go.
Image via AP