$3000 T-Shirts: If Everyone Jumped

Would you pay $295 for a T-shirt? How about $3,000? If you’re an ordinary guy or gal like one of us, your answer is probably no, but would you change your mind if we told you that T-shirt is made by Valentino?

Appearing in the window of the Valentino boutique on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles last week was a red T-shirt adorned with a strip of lace at the neck, a bouquet of embroidered silk roses and a $790 price tag. {The Wall Street Journal}

Valentino T-shirts, at left $1350, at right $890

Valentino has been famous for creating dressy evening wear for the fabulously wealthy since 1959, but the label’s new design duo, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, who took over for Valentino Garavani in 2008 after creating accessories for the brand for 8 years, are working to move the label into the future by including less stuffy attire. Enter: Valentino’s 10 new T-shirt styles ranging in price from $295-$800 for embellished jersey tees and up to $3,000 for silk versions. {The Cut}

“Before, Valentino was quite untouchable,” Valentino’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Stefano Sassi said. “It’s a reinterpretation of the brand.”

Chiuri and Piccioli were criticized for “trying to hard” with their Spring 2010 collection for the label, which broke away from the established Valentino image. {Harper’s Bazaar} Whether Mr. Garavani himself is pleased with the introduction of T-shirts is unclear.

According to multiple reports, Valentino hates the T-shirts and has not liked much of anything the pair has come up with.

Sassi said, “This is the anathema to Valentino,” though he admitted to not actually having spoken to the designer about the matter. {The Wall Street Journal}

Meanwhile, a Harper’s Bazaar portrait of Chiuri and Piccioli, who began as handbag designers for Fendi, paints a picture of a playfully stern relationship between Mr. Garavani and the pair. The two discussed how he needled them for being late to shows by threatening not to use their handbags and slipping in comments about how he made more money than they.

“I couldn’t say I like everything they design,” Valentino said in the story. “Sometimes I think they try too hard to be cool and lose sight of the heritage they have received. However, their desire of renovation is respectable and acceptable in the world we live in today, and I am very happy that they became the creative and artistic directors of the Maison Valentino.” {Harper’s Bazaar}

But nevermind what Valentino thinks: the more obvious question in our minds is of who would buy these T-shirts? Perhaps the same lady who has a place in her closet for the holey $1625 Balmain t-shirt, but are $1000+ t-shirts (easily replicated by DIYers at that) really an effective strategy for expanding a brand? While that much for a t-shirt would be laughable for most, if the $3000 tee drives sales of Valentino’s new $300 shirts, it could prove to be an effective strategy. For Balmain? Well, considering there are no offerings in the aspirational luxury price range, we’ll agree with other feedback calling the pricing fashion foolishness.

What do you think – at $3000, would you buy the emperor’s new clothes?

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