In the world of retail, brands are just about everything. That holds true whether a company is a brand itself, or spends its time compiling and selling other brands to its customers.
J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP), for one, is banking part of its turnaround on branded in-store shops featuring names like Martha Stewart (NYSE:MSO) and Levi’s.
And TJ Companies’ (NYSE:TJX) TJ Maxx and Marshalls stores have banked their success on offering fashionable brand names — from Coach (NYSE:COH) accessories to American Eagle (NYSE:AEO) tees — at an appealing discount.
Even retailer Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) worked hard to build a unique brand appealing to rebellious kids who wanted to see scantily clad models while browsing the mall … although that one hasn’t really been working out so well after all.
But you get the point. Brands are key.
What many people forget, though, is that behind every brand is a designer. And many of those designers get discovered — then continue to get showcased — at New York Fashion Week, which took place these past few days.
In fact, the highly anticipated event is really, as The Wall Street Journal aptly put it, “just a glammed up trade show.”
For some names, of course, this is far from surprising. Ralph Lauren of Ralph Lauren Corp. (NYSE:RL) — a man whose brand has become such a household name that many (or at least I) tend to forget that it’s someone’s actual name — kicked off the final day, and Calvin Klein — a brand you undoubtedly encounter when browsing the local Macy’s (NYSE:M) or Dillard’s (NYSE:DDS) store — came soon after.
Even names you might not have heard of contribute to the sales of companies you’re surely familiar with. Proenza Schouler sent models down the runway, for one, displaying fashions that could soon be seen at a Saks (NYSE:SKS) store near you.
Reed Krakoff, whose designs can be found at Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN), also showcased a new line. So did up-and-coming designer Jason Wu; his fashions will join Krakoff’s in Nordstrom this spring, and also were sold at Target (NYSE:TGT) starting at the beginning of the year.
And while the glitz, glam, sometimes-too-skinny models, oftentimes outrageous fashions and countless big-name celebrities (Katie Holmes also debuted a line) might make New York Fashion Week feel a world apart, it’s not. At the end of the day, it makes its presence felt through the stores you shop in and the stocks behind them.
Many of those stocks — especially those in the luxury sector — are starting to feel the global economic pinch, just as everyday Americans are. A few subpar earnings reports from companies in the sector, including Tiffany & Co (NYSE:TIF) and Coach, have many wondering whether even the high end is immune to the global slowdown after all.
Not that all luxury companies are a cause for concern. For one, Michael Kors — another name behind the name, this time of Michael Kors Holdings (NASDAQ:KORS) — has the best of both worlds. He not only was a star at New York Fashion Week, but continues to bask in the success of his company’s recent IPO. KORS stock has more than doubled since going public late last year, as profits and sales have exploded.
New York Fashion Week is coming to an end. Now, it remains to be seen what — or who — is next.
This week could have set the stage for the next big brand to take not just the runway, but retailers near you, by storm. Or even better, it could give way to the next Michael Kors, who also took Wall Street by storm.
Because in the end, beyond the high heels and high fashion, it’s the brands that make the business.
As of this writing, Alyssa Oursler did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.