Since I’m based in New York City, most of my access to the five year old Chicago luxury boutique Jake has been via their fairly comprehensive website. They have a wonderful mix of established, up-and-coming, and somewhat alternative brands – so it has always been a popular online shopping destination for me. A few months ago, however, I was first made aware (via an article in the Style Section of The New York Times) that not all was well with the popular boutique.
While the recession has hit big businesses from the low to the high-end, it’s the small high-end boutiques that carry smaller labels that seem to be hit the hardest. The effect of the trouble facing these stores is then compounded by its effect on the small designer business that rely on them.
Jake, for months now, has not been able to keep-up with its mounting bills, and now 28 designers are coming together to take legal action to settle their unpaid bills. Among the designers are Phillip Lim, Lutz & Patmos, Behnaz Sarafpour, Chris Benz, Band of Outsiders, Costello Tagliapietra, Erin Fetherston, and Loeffler Randall. The 28 designers are looking to settle a total of $516,000 in debt (ranging from $860 to $48,000 per individual). It remains to be seen how the co-founders of Jake, who claim to have lost a substantial amount of their personal wealth, could feasibly pay the designers.
But it’s not all about money. There was an interesting article in WWD about this lawsuit which pointed out that for a number of the designers involved in the suit, it’s also about solidarity and feeling like you’re not alone weathering tough times. In the end, the economy will go up and down, and it’s reassuring to see that designers are coming together to figure out the direction the industry should take. Whether it be showing in season, not lending out clothing to celebrities till the pieces are in stores so that people can actually go out and buy them, or some other change in the industry; it all starts with conversation. Perhaps it took this horrid economy to bring about the change we need.
Images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.