Lilly Pulitzer is a long-standing preppy brand, known for its colorful prints and large price tags. Recently, their impending collaboration with Target has caused much controversy — specifically with the realization that this union may cheapen a high-end brand and with their introduction of plus sizes.
Lilly Pulitzer started her fashion empire from a small juice stand in Palm Beach. The juice stains on her dresses at the end of the day inspired her to make colorful shifts for herself that hid the citrus stains. She got so many compliments on her dress that she decided to make more and sell them, and as her business grew, she began to focus on only dresses. Her very high-end style began to procure interests from socialites — especially from her school friend Jacqueline Kennedy, who could arguably be responsible for much of her success.
Followers of the Lilly brand are split on the idea of the “Lilly for Target” collection: Some are excited for the opportunity to buy their favorite name brand with a much cheaper price tag, while others are heated about the prospect of the prestige of owning Lilly being diminished by its direct association with the Target name.
It has been said that many of Lilly’s enraged patrons are acting like spoiled brats — which isn’t extremely far from true. While it’s true that co-designing with Target won’t exactly help Lilly’s snob appeal, there is also a lot of publicity (good and bad) that comes with this partnership.
“Lilly’s attitude and overall approach to her designs has always been about inclusivity…We saw a collaboration with Target, a retailer that strives to make style accessible to everyone, as the perfect opportunity to amplify this message and bring Lilly’s story to a broader audience,” said Jane Schoenborn, Vice President of Creative Communications, according to Elle.
This seems to contrast with Lilly patrons’ point of view — and while it would be wrong to disagree that many fans are being snobbish about this business deal, there is also a justified reason for this elitist attitude. Lilly Pulitzer is traditionally an expensive brand — the people that have payed a good $200-$300 per dress for Lilly in the past are now rightfully outraged that the Lilly style that they gave up so much money for initially is now available to a mass population for $40 a dress. When put in this context, it doesn’t exactly seem fair for those who have been following the brand since before it was in the limelight.
“[Lilly Pulitzer fans’] concern is legitimate. The fact is that this is a legacy brand. This is a leading designer who’s earned her stripes — or her flowers,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for the NPD Group, according to Jezebel.
Whether people think it to be haughty or not, there is some genuine concern with losing the worth and the name that Lilly worked so hard to build. There is not another brand that can mimic Lilly’s one-of-a-kind colorful prints, and it has been a socialite staple brand since the early 60s. This brand has earned its status, and it’s quite likely that its union with Target has the potential to knock the name brand down a few notches.
Regardless of the controversy about the quality of the brand being at stake, Target is offering the plus sizes that Lilly Pulitzer never offered on their own; and most women, no matter their size, are very supportive of this. With the recent body image movement in our society, the addition of larger sizes to an otherwise exclusive brand is definitely affirming.
Even with this positive point of the Target collection, there has been some dissension. Target is only stocking the Lilly collection up to a size 18 in store — the rest will be sold online. While the women who fall into the plus size category may feel snubbed, this is purely smart business for Target.
They felt a Lilly plus size collection must be included after the backlash about their Altuzarra x Target collection lacking the upper sizes. However, they are a business: They are testing the waters, and they don’t want to risk losing money in-store to appease the plus size population. The online availability is a smart compromise to include those women without dramatically decreasing their profit.
Overall, the Lilly for Target collection is controversial for a reason. The addition of a plus size collection is great, and this is an incredibly smart business move for Target itself — their sales will skyrocket. However, for the Lilly fans, this collaboration isn’t such a good thing. The impending decrease in value and status of a once distinguished brand could be a potential threat to the business’ future.