Once upon a time, the store brand was a fixture of American retail: Department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bonwit Teller would slap their own tags on the latest creations by the best European designers, whose patterns they licensed season in, season out. Want to find some reasonably-priced, vintage Yves Saint Laurent on eBay? Do a search under “Neiman Marcus.” It might take a while, but you’ll score.
The emergence of the mega-brand in the early ‘80s helped to diminish the importance of the house label. They still exist – Barneys’, for example, is quite good – but the glamour has gone. Until lately, that is: The house label is coming back in a big way, courtesy of a somewhat unlikely source. Small, forward-looking boutiques such as Opening Ceremony, Kid Robot and Nom de Guerre are leading a resurgence of the store brand, with L.A.’s Scout and Brooklyn’s In God We Trust following hot on their heels with spot-on looks in luxe fabrics at surprisingly decent prices. The boutiques have a built-in advantage as they create their clothes – their salespeople are focus-grouping on the floor every day. They know what sells. These days, style is on the house.