In 2010, I wrote about a Wall Street Journal story by Christina Binkley called “The Problem With Being a Trendsetter.” It was about how small designers’ products get ripped off by companies that can afford to mass-manufacture cheap versions of signature designs. (Two years later, this would happen to me with Topshop.)
Binkley’s story mentioned Elle Sakellis, the designer of Otrera evil-eye scarves, which were originally carried by the celeb-friendly story Kitson until Kitson switched to a cheaper knockoff from a company called Raj Imports.
Fraser Ross, the owner of Kitson, told Binkley that carrying the Raj copy was no different from carrying a diffusion line. (Wrong. A diffusion line is a specific designer’s less expensive line, not a copy produced by a random factory.) Ross said of the higher-priced originals, “I’m always telling these designers, ‘Knock yourself off. They’re knocking you off, so do it yourself.'”
That was an idiotic thing to say because — as I’ve explained — it’s expensive to produce inexpensive goods. To get a low price per unit, you must make a lot of units, and producing QUANTITY can require a much larger investment than producing QUALITY.
When I read that quote from Ross, I thought, “I’m never getting in touch with that place again.” Because, before that, I had reached out to Kitson, only to find Kitson was one of those retailers that wouldn’t tell you the jewelry buyer’s name. Someone on the phone would just snap, “Address your linesheet to ‘buyer!'” before hanging up. That way there was no hope of following up with an actual human being to discuss a sale.
The reason that I’m reminiscing about this is because Kitson is going out of business. The Los Angeles Times reports that the chain is closing all 17 locations (who knew that there was more than one?!) and its website. Fraser Ross wasn’t available for comment, the L.A. Times said. Too bad, because I’m sure he’d have a two-sentence business plan that would sum up exactly what he should have done.
As the highlarious Michael K of Dlisted said, “RIP Kitson. You’ll always be a major part of the simpler times when Kim Kartrashian was known as ‘Paris Hilton’s assistant.'”
UPDATED TO ADD: Elle Sakellis’s original site for Otrera scarves no longer exists, unfortunately.