The Fashion Industry

Cadillac is rather clever to align itself with up-and-coming designers, as it is an up-and-coming brand within the luxury space.

Earlier this month Cadillac announced that it is collaborating with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in the creation of a program, the Retail Lab, that is meant to facilitate the development of young, new designers.

Part of the undertaking will be a physical retail shop that will be housed on the main floor of Cadillac’s global headquarters in Manhattan.  The shop will carry fashions developed by the young designers who have been selected for the program (six will be chosen for the 2016/2017 term) by a cadre of people in the fashion industry.

At this point, I imagine there are a number of people who need a roll of Rolaids.

“Cadillac is a car company, damit!  What’s all this talk of fashion!?!  It’s all about the sheet metal, not tulle or whatever!”

Actually, for a brand like Cadillac, it is about more than the sheet metal.

People think nothing of car brands supporting musicians on tour even though the audiences for many of the performers and bands probably can’t afford a new car or truck.

In this instance, to its credit, Cadillac is taking a different tack.  It is supporting a community that is supported by the generally well-heeled, consumers that can easily buy a loaded Escalade or CT6.  Cadillac needs to reach these fashion consumers (many of whom want to be ahead of the curve when it comes to picking out what to wear), and it is rather clever for it to align itself with up-and-coming designers, as it is, arguably (despite being more than a 100-years old), an up-and-coming brand within the luxury space.

One thing that auto manufacturers have been doing for the past several years is making sure that their vehicles are driven by celebrities, hoping that the star power will rub off on the particular vehicles such that readers of People or viewers of “Entertainment Tonight” will think that they, too, can get a little of what that celebrity has by going to their local dealer.

In the case of what Cadillac is doing, it is slightly different because the Retail Lab program is about business and product development for the designers; it is meant to help them with things ranging from mannequins to marketing.

Yes, the first designer whose shop will open in July at 330 Hudson Street, Timo Weiland, “has developed a following with celebrities like Kerry Washington, Elizabeth Banks, Elijah Wood and Andrew Garfield.”

So it’s not like Cadillac folks aren’t thinking that there will be some gilt by association.

Steven Kolb, President and CEO of the CFDA, said “Every designer aspires to a freestanding retail experience that allows them to tell their brand story and connect directly with consumers. Cadillac’s commitment to the industry will help the selected designers make this a reality.”

When many of us hear the word “industry” we put “auto” in front of it.

But for a select few—select, of course, by comparison to the multitudes who buy cars, trucks and crossovers—the “fashion industry” is the operative term.

Putting this in a slightly more mercenary context, Cadillac is doing a variation on Willie Sutton: They’re going to where the money is.  Fashion in New York.