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Monday, February 15, 2016

Masstige Killed The Pocket Square

I am so fortunate to have such interesting customers full of titbits that when one stops past my Studio or drops a line by email, I am bound to learn something new. This week it was a wonderful word I'd never heard of - masstige.

The word came up in conversation as this particular customer was telling me about how a particular brand of menswear was trying to re-target their audience and that during sales meetings the word 'masstige' was buzzing around in the air, being touted as the style of products with which said menswear company would strike a path forward in 2016.

Masstige is the combining of two words 'mass' and 'prestige' and is used to describe 'prestige for the masses' - products which are made en masse but targeted to the end audience as luxury goods. The word was made popular by Michael Silverstein and Neil Fiske in their book Trading Up and Harvard Business Review article "Luxury for the Masses" according to Wikipedia.

Examples used by Silverstein and Fiske are items such as entry items from brands like BMW, where the 1 series cost $19000USD whereas the sedans of their more traditional series start at a price of $500000USD. Other items are such things as entry level accoutrements from brands like Hermes which offer bracelets for $400AUD as opposed to a 100KAUD crocodile Kelly bag.

For many luxury houses the first introduction to their brands were perfumes and colognes but increasingly customers want to get access to a luxury item without paying the big ticket price, so brands look for products that they can mass produce in such a volume that they can make a good margin and engage a new audience with an 'entry level' taste to the brand. However, whilst giving these new customers a taste of luxury, they inadvertently cause harm to their existing customer base which purchases said items specifically for the duality of both luxury and exclusivity. There can sometimes be a backlash to these new product lines if, whilst opening up your dialogue with a brand new customer base, you happen to piss off your existing ones. It can also kill a product category, and masstige, in my opinion, has taken out one product in particular in menswear - the pocket square.

When we began making pocket squares eight years ago there were literally no pocket square companies in Australia, it was hard to even define what one was because the portmanteau of the word 'pocket square' included in the vernacular handkerchiefs and bits of synthetic crap overlocked on the edges for the cheesey wedding market. It was a world in which Australian men not only didn't know what you were referring to but they'd never even worn one in public. There was, however, a cognoscenti of lawyers, barristers, professionals and weekend bon vivants who wore them, but it was almost like a group of freemasons, a proper hand-roll stitched silk or cotton pocket square was like a secret hand-shake.

Today the load of crap that is out there and which has been dumped on mass traffic shopping websites from big online retailers and department stores has flooded the local market with - well, what better word than 'masstige'. The ubiquity of these squares, often straight stitched on a machine or else overlocked and occasionally chain stitched by machine, coupled with the increased use of digital printing in cotton and blends of silk, has lead to the pocket square glut and a race to the bottom in price.

What once was a delicious hot tub in which nobody was soaking themselves has now become an over-crowded market space that has a bad smell about it, kind of no different to trying to hop in the communal sauna at the Bondi Icebergs pool. On first glance, it seems appealing, but when you really focus in on what's going on, you don't want to buy in.

My big piece of advice for 2016 to the kind of men that buy good menswear is this, beware of masstige, it is coming to a store near you. You can buy it, it may serve a purpose, but if you want to collect something long term, it is unlikely to keep you happy and you will rarely have an emotional connection to it. I am certainly not advocating to pay retail if you don't have to, I am certainly not telling you to not snap up a bargain when you see one. I am merely trying to tell you that there is an inherent price to creating something of quality and in the end you get what you pay for.

For the time being, masstige has killed the pocket square.

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