Is Lipsy London a Designer Brand?
When asked to think of a British designer brand, the likes of Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, and Vivienne Westwood probably spring to the mind of anyone who’s even slightly fashion-forward. And they wouldn’t be wrong. By and large, these brands are worthy of the reputation they’ve earned with their bold, original designs.
However, there’s another tier of English clothing labels that also deserve recognition. They might not attract the same price tags per item of clothing, but their popularity ensures annual turnovers large enough to rival even the most famous luxury labels.
Lispy London numbers among this more economically accessible tier of slick and savvy fast-fashion brands. It’s managed to keep its everywomen persona while attracting the attention of A-list celebrities like the Kardashians, Ariana Grande, and even Kate Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge). How has Lipsy managed to stay on top despite inhabiting the fast-fashion niche?
Read on to find out whether or not you should consider Lipsy London a designer brand and explore its unique hybrid market position.
What Makes a Brand a “Designer Brand”?
In our effort to dig deeper into the question of whether Lipsy is a designer brand or not, let’s explore exactly what makes a brand “designer” in the first place.
Most luxury brands have a traceable history that stems back at least a few decades, if not hundreds. Along the way, they’ve acquired a depth of market knowledge, coupled with a unique brand story, that helps them to stay on top. Think Coco Chanel or Nina Ricci, Veuve Cliquot or Rolex.
These brands capitalize on their history, talking about famous figures that once wore their garments or drove their cars. This gives them a legitimacy that only time can buy.
Of course, the objects luxury brands sell are also hard to get–usually because their prices are set at levels out of reach for most of society. To achieve this, they release certain products in limited editions, make them from rare, expensive, or hard-to-find materials, and limit who and where can sell their products.
If you know anything about Lipsy, you know that it doesn’t really fall into this category–despite the brand’s popularity with A-lister celebs. So, where does it fall? Well, let’s take a closer look at fast fashion and find out!
What Is Fast Fashion?
There are designer brands, and then there are fast-fashion brands, and ne'er the twain shall meet. (Well, the two models do occasionally cross paths on the catwalks and in-store, but that’s a story for another day…)
Rise of Fast Fashion
In years past, most people wanted to buy their clothes from well-known labels. They were attracted by high prices because they indicated a certain level of quality. And those who couldn’t afford to pay those prices made their own clothes.
Today, however, the demand for quality has been replaced by a desire to get the most for your money. This is coupled with manufacturing technology advances that allow companies to produce textiles and clothing faster and cheaper than ever before.
The term “fast fashion” first arose in the early 2000s, when retailers started bringing catwalk looks to stores at an unprecedented rate–and at affordable prices. Today, the term indicates low-cost clothing that imitates the fashions pioneered by luxury brands and underground streetwear labels.
As the moniker implies, the fast fashion industry moves unbelievably quickly. In fact, it has been dubbed the most significant disruptor in the contemporary fashion sector due to its ability to change direction as the market demands.
If you need an example, think of stores and labels like H&M and Japan’s Uniqlo and online clothing behemoths like ASOS and relative newcomer SHEIN.
What Makes Fast Fashion Great
For one, fast fashion is affordable. The latest trends are available at dirt-cheap prices. Ultra-efficient supply chains, low business overheads, low-cost materials, and large volume sales provide anyone the chance to look like they’ve just stepped off a catwalk.
Then there’s the variety. Forget about waiting for the next fashion week season to roll around. Fast fashion brands produce upwards of hundreds of new styles every week. That means there’s endless variety for the consumer to choose from–and they demand all that new, too.
Fast fashion brands also make it easy to buy their products. For example, there are over 2,000 Zara stores worldwide, and they also have an online platform that delivers to almost every country in the world.
That means anyone, pretty much anywhere, can access their products, even if they’re entirely housebound. And most fast fashion brands follow this model.
Finally, fast fashion aims to make shopping fun. From collaborations with celebrities and famous artists to minute-by-minute discounts, sales, and promotions, there’s a certain level of excitement attributed to buying cheap yet good-looking clothing.
Fast Fashion’s Downsides
Of course, the fast fashion industry has its detractors, too, with some blaming the sector for contributing to economic disparity and environmental damage.
Some of the criticisms of fast fashion include:
- Encouraging overconsumption
- Using non-biodegradable fabrics
- Using cotton or other natural fibers are grown with chemicals
- Perpetuating unethical labor practices
- Paying low wages in third-world countries
In recent years, due to pressure from various activist groups, many fast-fashion labels are working to fix the inequities in their supply chains.
Lipsy London: A British Fashion Pioneer
So, how does Lipsy fit into all of this? It’s about time we took a look at the company itself, from the designer purse brands and celeb-coveted clothing to the decadent wallpaper it now makes.
Lipsy’s Early Days
Lipsy has been around for a decently long time, at least compared with many other UK-based fast fashion brands. It was founded by married couple Jeremy and Marcelle Stakol in 1988 as a wholesale brand, selling in department stores and spots like Topshop. Jeremy Stakol helmed the organization as chief executive.
The brand was also an early adopter of online shopping, launching the now-defunct Lipsy website in 2006. They soon followed with their first brick-and-mortar London store in 2008.
From the beginning, the brand focused on accessible, trendy cosmetics and clothing, in particular, dresses and occasion wear. It aimed to attract teen buyers and customers in their twenties. Lipsy quickly grew into, if not one of the top designer brands, certainly one of the UK's most popular affordable clothing brands.
Sale to NEXT
In 2008, the Stakols made it big when they sold their famous brand to NEXT for £17.4 million. The British retailer continued to market Lipsy to the public, and for a while, Jeremy Stakol remained the CEO.
At one point, Lipsy had more than fifty stores in the UK and more than dozens of franchise stores worldwide. In addition, you could buy Lipsy products in stores from Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan to Singapore and Australia.
The brand wasn’t short of celebrity supporters, either. It collaborated with the Kardashian sisters on women’s wear and kids collections in 2013 and 2014. Alex Gerrard was the face of Lipsy glasses that same year. In 2016, Lipsy signed singer Ariana Grande as a representative and supermodel Kate Upton in 2018.
Heading Into the New Century
However, in 2018, NEXT shocked the fashion industry by announcing that the Lipsy website was being shut down. The brand would be available only on the NEXT website. Store closures quickly followed.
While it might sound like the end was nigh for Lipsy, that was far from the truth. The label launched its first menswear collection in 2018, acquired beauty brand Fabled by Marie Claire in 2019, and launched a new womenswear brand called Love & Roses in 2021.
Lipsy London Today
Today, Lipsy London collections are sold online alongside other designer clothing brands on the NEXT website. They stock everything from beachwear to evening wear, footwear to lingerie. There’s even a Lipsy Home collection, where people can buy bed linen, lighting fixtures, dinner sets, curtains, vases, and diffusers in the signature Lipsy aesthetic.
Fast Fashion Label With Designer Aspirations
Whether you consider Lipsy London a designer brand or not, one thing is clear. This clever clothing label is not only here to stay, but it has the wherewithal to attract online, high-street, and celebrity shoppers. What more could a fast fashion brand (and those who love to shop for good-looking clothing at reasonable prices) ask for?
For more insights into everything from the fashion brands of the moment to brand logo design, be sure to browse the other articles on our blog.