Sunday, February 18, 2007

Why I Hate Limited Edition Products

Luxury brands have been releasing limited edition products forever. The process is entirely predictable: if a popular designer like Marc Jacobs or Karl Lagerfeld decides to only release a small number of a certain product, that product will instantly become a cult item, no matter what it is or how it looks. It's really a brilliant marketing technique because it requires no advertising. By selectively releasing information to a small group of influential people (magazine editors, trendsetters, celebrities), word of the elusive product trickles down to regular consumers and leads us to believe that there must be something very special about a product that's only available to a select few "in the know", giving the product cult status.

If fashionistas want to fight tooth and nail for the "privilege" to pay $10,000 for a handbag, I could care less. But lately I've noticed a trend of mass market brands releasing limited edition products, and this really makes me angry.

First it was Lancome, who released the "Behnaz" lipstick in October, a limited edition lipstick designed by famed makeup artist Gucci Westman for Behnaz Sarafpour's Spring collection. Only 250 (!) were produced, but the beauty editors, bloggers and makeup artists who tried it instantly proclaimed that it was "the perfect red" (whether this declaration was influenced by the limited edition status is up for debate), but it's undoubtedly a gorgeous color. Within days, the lipstick was selling for over $100 on eBay.

Then in November the Gap (yes, of all places) announced that they were selling ten limited edition dresses designed by French designer Roland Mouret at select stores in the U.K. and the U.S. This led to a riot in London on the release day, and instantly boosted Gap's fashion credibility. I'd have more to say about the collection, but unfortunately it wasn't available at any Gap stores in my state (is Michigan not cool enough for you, Gap?) or online, so I haven't seen the dresses.

Finally, the biggest cosmetics story of 2006 was Chanel's Black Satin nailpolish, which was seen on the nails of trendsetters and their loyal followers everywhere, and sold for over $150 on eBay at the height of it's popularity. What's most amazing about the Black Satin phenomenon is that this is a nailpolish that is best described as "goth chic"... it's an almost totally unwearable (in my opinion) color that really just screams "I haven't let go of my teenage angst."

If I sound a little bitter, it's because I am. Brands like Lancome and the Gap are based on the idea that quality, stylish clothing and cosmetics should be available to everyone at a reasonable price. I shouldn't have to pay $200 on eBay for a product that should be available at my local department store cosmetics counter for $15. If most consumers are priced out of the trendiest, most fashionable clothes, it's not fair for a mass market company to turn around and use limited edition products to deny those of us who aren't high profile or have the right connections.
Not surprisingly, Lancome has released a new limited edition Gucci Westman lipstick, this one inspired by the Proenza Schouler collections, titled "Proenza". Undoubtedly, it will inspire as much hoopla as the "Behnaz", but I think it's a really ugly, unflattering color. I hope that this leads to a backlash and Lancome (and other companies) decides to start releasing a greater number of products. But I'm doubtful that consumer pressure will ever lead to that.

8 comments:

EthidiumBromide said...

I hate limited edition products because I find something that I love... and won't be able to purchase it again. And since cosmetics have a shelf-life, it's not like I can stock up for a lifetime supply of something.

Suzi said...

How do you feel then about cosmetic companies releasing Limited Edition products which do not have the price inflated? For example Revlon releases eye shadow colorstay brand quads from time to time that are rarely advertised but I've never seen them above the $10 mark. Sometimes they are available seasonally, then gone. Perhaps you will pay more on e-bay after the item is no longer available though, not because only a few were ever made and sold for exorbitant prices. I actually LIKE those limited editions. Yes, part of it is the feeling I got something not normally available, but it's also because these Limited editions are usually more colorful or interesting combinations than the standard fare. Anyway, thought provoking topic. I too dislike the chalky pink lip color Proenza.

Meg said...

EthidiumBromide- I didn't consider that the shelf life is limited so you're REALLY screwed, even if you stock up on something.

Suzi- I totally agree with you. Obviously it's necessary for cosmetics companies (like fashion companies) to only release certain products for a limited time (one season generally). But these, like the Revlon example you gave, are still available to everyone (not 250 people or something ridiculous like Lancome is doing). I think in this case they're doing it simply because of economic necessity (they want to introduce new products each season and need to replace those that aren't selling extremely well). I'm really happy you commented though, because I didn't really distinguish between different limited edition products, and why some are acceptable.

sparkler said...

Thanks to Blogdorf Goodman, I make my own facsimile of the Black Satin nail polish by mixing Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails in Black Out with a red glitter nail polish. I LOVE the way it looks, although I do need to figure a way to give it more staying power – it chips pretty easily.

maggie said...

MAC is one of the worst offenders. They release LE collections waaayyyy too close together and they often sell out within days (at least for some of the products). Good luck getting an MSF online and in some stores. In addition, a lot of the colors haven't been all that original. They're totally playing on the hoarding instinct people have when faced with limited "ressources".

The Glitterati said...

Thank God, I thought I was the only one who didn't "get" Proenza. I mean, those boys are cute as heck, but ... flat, pale, zinc-pink? Er...

The Peter Som though, that I can understand. Granted, I will not pay Lancome's price (LE or not) for a lipstick (I couldn't afford if I wanted to!), but using my current stash (or some cheaper buys) to try recreate the look is half the fun anyway. I think that's the true spirit of the LE -- to inspire people to try a particular trend or move in a particular direction. But it doesn't have to be taken to Black Satin/Behnaz levels for that to happen.

Meg said...

Glitterati and Sparkler- Oh my gosh, the Peter Som... simply gorgeous.

I'm like both of you, I get so much more pleasure out of finding a similar color at drugstore prices (and since Lancome is owned by L'Oreal, which also owns L'Oreal Paris and Maybelline, this isn't hard) or making my own by mixing products in my stash (the bonus is that you know you'll never run out). I want to do a post at some point where readers write in about their best DIY colors that came from mixing or layering their own products.

daddylikeyblog said...

Love this post and feel exactly the same way. I just discovered your blog through a post on "She's A Betty" in which we were both described as "smart people," and after reading your blog I must say that I think we are kindred fashion blogging spirits (we smart people have gotta stick together, no?).