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Branching Out

September 2011

By Quentin Clarke, London

In straitened economic times, luxury brands are often the only brands which flourish. Perhaps, with the London riots fresh in everybody’s minds, it reflects the widening gap between the global rich and the local struggling middle classes. Take Barbour, established in 1894, the latest in a long line of musty old British heritage brands to reboot as a must-have label (see Burberry, Mulberry, Pringle). As the former deeply unfashionable gear of country gentry, Barbour was sported ironically by a few rock-star children types while quietly expanding their range beyond the traditional wax jacket; a couple of years down the line, Barbour is everywhere. If there was a concerted marketing drive it appeared very laid back (no fashion shows or celebrity models, limited advertising): they look like they’ve coasted on the back of a wave of nostalgia for the traditional to become the most unlikely fashion revival. That said, this season will see Barbour launch a cutting-edge range of Steve McQueen biker jackets.

Meanwhile, Sky TV, previously known for sport and movies, focused aggressively on the middle classes. The new Sky Atlantic channel has an exclusive deal to screen HBO content and they’re also offering a [heavily loss-leading] High Arts channel, Sky Arts, that broadcasts opera and the like. Cynics thought this new blend of classy drama and public service content a smokescreen, fuelled by parent company News International’s bid to buy a larger share of the British TV market; but who can argue with the HBO back-catalog? The bid was foiled by corruption scandals in the company’s newspapers, so it’ll be fascinating to see if the company retains any interest in its new highbrow audience.

With over 20% of teenagers unemployed, PlayStation also looks to be targeting more “cultured” consumers. Sony’s newest game, Resistance 3, was launched in collaboration with arty theatre group Punchdrunk – certainly a trendy outfit but off the radar of their usual customer base. Tickets for the four-day event – an immersive horror survival game that takes place in tunnels under Waterloo station – sold out in mere minutes.

Entertainment & Gaming
Fashion & Style

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