By  on August 18, 2010

Target on Friday will add a new wrinkle to the high-low conversation by partnering with Gilt Groupe, an online boutique featuring luxury designers and fashion brands at prices up to 70 percent off retail.

The Target sale on Gilt will focus on the discount chain’s designer collaborations and will take place long before the collections appear in Target stores: Sept. 12 for Tucker’s apparel in exclusive offbeat prints and Oct. 10 for Mulberry’s handbags. John Derian’s handmade decoupage designs for home also will be sold online at Gilt. The sale will last through the weekend, with quantities limited.

At the same time, Target is pushing the edge of the price barrier with the introduction of Justin Timberlake’s William Rast collections for men and women on Dec. 19 at most Target stores and The collections, which will be available through Jan. 22, feature several leather jacket designs for men and women, all priced at $200.

“If you think through all the Go International collections, many have had some leather pieces,” said Trish Adams, senior vice president of merchandising at Target Corp. “[William Rast] might be slightly higher. They were fantastic partners and we’re really pleased with the line and the quality of the leather and denim, which probes some prices we haven’t had up to this point. We wanted to make sure we could deliver that brand in a very authentic way. Prices in fabric have gone up in the past year. It’s the natural progression of pricing.”

Jeans also will have a higher ticket than previous designer collaborations. With six washes for men and six for women, the jeans are $50.

Marcella Lindeberg, designer for William Rast, said, “I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I was surprised by what Target could do within the price [constraints]. It’s really going to get our brand out there. We’re opening stores — in Miami — and looking for locations in New York. We’re launching eyewear for Fashion’s Night Out and shoes for women in the fall and men in spring. Handbags are in the pipeline.”

Adams said Target customers are ready to shop for apparel again. “During the recession, total spending came down a little bit,” she said. “Guests still bought fashion and key pieces to update their wardrobes, but the number of transactions had gone down slightly. The recovery is starting but we’re still very cautious about it. People who are working have a more stable view of their personal budget and are feeling more secure in their jobs. They know what they have to spend. Maybe they’re not as pessimistic as they were a year or a year and a half ago. For people who are still unemployed, that budget is a little more uncertain. What we’re seeing now as the economy is starting to inch up a little is that [guests are] making more trips.”

Fall’s fashion will be showcased in tonight’s Kaleidoscopic Fashion Spectacular, an event at the Standard Hotel that’s part light show, part runway show and part dance theater. The southern facade of the hotel will be illuminated as 66 dancers in 155 rooms perform a piece of choreography synchronized with fast-paced lighting patterns and set to an original music score. The dancers will be dressed in fall styles from Mossimo, Merona, Converse One Star, Xhilaration, Pure Energy and Liz Lange.

“It’s not all just cutting-edge fashion,” Adams said. “You’ll be surprised at the elements of trends we have and also the core layering pieces. When you see the assortments, you will know it’s fall 2010 and all the key trends will be represented, including dresses, military looks and accessories featuring embellishment and animal prints. The brands will be mixed up on models. We get feedback from our guests, and the fact is that they do mix the brands. They mix Target brands with other brands and come for core basics like T-shirts or everyday fashion from Mossimo and Converse One Star. They are savvy and budget conscious.”

Adams said the Kaleidoscopic event will provide customers who don’t know how to update their wardrobes with a road map. “They’ll watch [Kaleidoscopic] on and understand what pieces contributed to the outfits,” she said. “We’ll have photos on Target’s Facebook page of the 25 looks, and consumers will be able to preorder some of them.”

Shawn Gensch, vice president of brand marketing at Target, said of Kaleidoscopic: “We want it to be accessible for all. We’ll be streaming live. We view [New York] as a place where we want to debut our fall fashion collection. The guest experience is a primary focus for us as it relates to merchandise, value and quality. Take the way we’re amplifying the messaging around the product: It’s to get to the ‘Expect More’ part and deliver more parts of the brand promise.”

Target in December 2008 began stressing the “Pay Less” part of its “Expect More, Pay Less” tag line in light of the economy. It also said it was making sure its prices match those of Wal-Mart in all local markets. Kathryn A. Tesija, executive vice president of merchandising, said at the time: “Our ‘Expect More, Pay Less’ strategy has guided us through boom times and down times. In this economic climate, we’re emphasizing the ‘Pay Less’ part.”

Whether Kaleidoscopic marks the official return to “Expect More” remains to be seen. Kaleidoscopic is a way of making the guest experience richer, Gensch said. “We’re giving it a special edge and creating a moment that elevates the individual brands.”

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