There are so many words thrown around in the fashion industry that it can be hard to keep track of them all. If you’re not sure about the use of the word “contemporary” while shopping, no worries. You’re probably more familiar with it than you may think. Like many segments of fashion, brands that are considered contemporary are defined by factors such as their price point and consumers.
Clothing Category Basics
We’re all familiar with luxury brands like Chanel, Prada and Fendi, which create highly coveted, finely crafted and very expensive pieces. Just as luxury refers to a very high-end class of brands, contemporary refers to a segment of designer brands. It falls below luxury and along the same level as bridge, which is a segment that features secondary, lower-priced lines by luxury designers using lower-priced fabrics. From there lies the moderate category, which includes lines like Levi’s, and budget, which consists of mass market brands like Forever 21 and H&M. Lastly, you have the off-price category, which includes discounted pieces, off-season fashion and close-out pieces from retailers like Loehmann’s.
In general, the contemporary price point is significantly lower than a luxury brand price point. This doesn’t, however, mean that contemporary brands are too terribly affordable for the average gal. Contemporary pieces run, on average, somewhere between $150 to $800 depending on the item. While these prices are still high, they’re much less expensive than luxury brands, which can run upwards of $4000 to $5000 depending on the product.
Contemporary brands generally target consumers in their 20s and 30s, therefore, their aesthetics represent the tastes and trends that appeal to a younger consumer. You’ll see flirty dresses, bright colors and prints, fitted pieces, crop tops, and styles that are considered trendy and fashion forward. Not all contemporary pieces are casual, but they all do generally have a youthful twist. Contemporary pieces are often made with higher-quality fabrics than lower-priced lines, which attributes to their cost. Detail and fabric quality won’t be as high as luxury lines, but expect pieces from contemporary brands to be fairly well made.
There is a great deal of designers that consider themselves contemporary brands, and more are entering the marketplace every year. As fashion becomes more accessible — think Jason Wu for Target and Rachel Roy’s line for Macy’s — the contemporary category has developed an increasing fan base. Designers such as Diane von Furstenberg, Alexander Wang and Phillip Lim are practically household names thanks to girls who love fashion but can’t afford pieces from Alaia or Dolce & Gabbana. Contemporary allows consumers to still get a piece of the fashion pie without spending thousands of dollars. The category is so strong, in fact, that many luxury designers have created second lower-price lines in order to expand their fan base. Marc Jacobs has his Marc for Marc Jacobs line, which is hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars cheaper than his signature collection. Even Chanel’s creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, has introduced his Karl Lagerfeld line, with pieces ranging from $100 to $500 on average, which starkly contrasts with Chanel’s thousand-dollar price tags.
References and ResourcesHuffington Post: 'The Sourcebook of Contemporary Fashion Design" by Marta Hidalgo Reveals Sketches From Betsey Johnson, Yigal Azrouel And Barbara Bui
Saks Fifth Avenue: Contemporary
Style.com: Going Haute, Staying Contemporary
Lucky Mag: Marchesa Is Launching a Lower-Priced Line Called Marchesa Voyage