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New York fashion world darlings Zac Posen and Marchesa are the latest designers to launch secondary "contemporary" collections, giving customers a bit of glamour at more affordable prices.
At fashion week in the Big Apple, which wrapped up on Thursday, several top names put both their primary and secondary collections on the catwalks, including Marc Jacobs, Prabal Gurung, Donna Karan and Victoria Beckham.
Although secondary lines are not new -- Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, and Chloe have been doing them for years -- the increasing number of designers getting into the game shows a need to win customers at lower price points.
Posen, whose red carpet-ready gowns are often the choice of Hollywood A-listers, told AFP that he wanted to widen his target audience "without compromising on design, fabric, and viewpoint."
The New Yorker launched the even less expensive Z Spoke in 2009, a diffusion line targeting young buyers, but that brand has had middling results. The new mid-range line, called ZAC Zac Posen, will be the designer's middle ground.
As with Marc by Marc Jacobs and Karan's DKNY, the name is part of the game: easily identifiable with the designer, and drawing customers who love the high-end clothes -- but cannot afford them.
However, these "contemporary" lines are still not cheap. While a red-carpet Posen dress can go for $12,000, ZAC frocks will be on offer from $490 to $1,690 for an evening gown.
"It's like buying the Toyota and one day, you move up to the Lexus," explained Hal Rubenstein, one of InStyle magazine's founding editors and its fashion director.
"It allows the people who have the most enthusiasm, which is generally the young, to purchase designer lines," Rubenstein said.
Alex Apatoff, an associate editor at PeopleStyleWatch.com, said: "The real thing is always what you desire, what you covet -- the contemporary lines is what you obtain."
"You get the sense that you get a little piece of the designer without having to shell out quite as much," added Apatoff, while attending the Marc by Marc Jacobs show at Lincoln Center.
Giovanni Pungetti, the chief executive at Maison Martin Margiela, acknowledged that while the quirky house's main line is "probably not for everyone," the new MM6 collection launched in New York is more accessible.
"When you widen your target, the goal of course is to attract more people... and to do a bit more business," Pungetti said.
Marchesa, whose A-list fans include Jennifer Lopez and Penelope Cruz, is launching the Marchesa Voyage daywear line in the coming months, in collaboration with LF USA, the US subsidiary of a Chinese retail group.
"As a loungewear collection, it was based on the idea of the marchesa in the palazzo during the day," designer Georgina Chapman told AFP after the main Marchesa collection for autumn-winter 2013-14 hit the New York catwalk.
American designer Tory Burch says more and more designers are getting into the contemporary game, insisting on high quality to compete with mass-market fashion chain favorites Zara and H&M.
"It's definitely great that you can make a great dress for 500 dollars so I mean for us, it is about giving the customer a lot for the cost," said Burch, the queen of ballet flats known for her classic cuts and bold details.