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Lands’ End Moves Upmarket

Tone-on-tone made dressing easy. What goes with black? More black! You can't go wrong. Or can you?

Tone-on-tone made dressing easy. What goes with black? More black! You can’t go wrong. Or can you?

Sears bought Lands’ End back in 2002, part of a season of spastic acquisitions which included my high-school favorite mall clothing brand Structure, the menswear branch of clothing retailer Express. I loved their tone-on-tone suit / shirt / tie combinations, popularized by Regis Philbin during his tenure as host of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. Boy I hope no pictures of me from that time survived. But I digress…

Lands’ End was one of the best things Sears had going – one of their only profitable divisions, but it still languished under Sears management. It was a relief when Sears spun the company off in 2013 for under $900 million, a decade after purchasing it for $1.9 billion in cash. It made it off that sinking ship!

Frederica Marchionni, new president of Lands' End

Frederica Marchionni, new president of Lands’ End

On February of this year they appointed a new chief executive with an unlikely CV – Frederica Marchionni’s last job was a three year stint as president of luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana. I doubt she had even seen the Softer Side of Sears before taking the job.

Since then they’ve shown every sign of wanting to move upmarket – advertorials in Vogue, a new sans-serif logo (!), and a wider range of price points. Which is to say, they have more expensive stuff now.

I guess I could settle for this $249 sportcoat instead. Just kidding, I can't afford that either.

I guess I could settle for this $249 sportcoat instead. Just kidding, I can’t afford that either.

I’ve got to admit I find it a little jarring to be scrolling past a bunch of $49 sweaters and suddenly see a $395 sportcoat. To their credit, I want that sportcoat. I loved Lands’ End Canvas, and now it seems like the entire brand wants to be what the Canvas collection was. But it’ll take more than hiding the school uniforms behind a link called “Lands’ End Classic” and introducing a handful of new expensive items to change public perception of the brand.

If they follow J Crew and other brands who’ve successfully made this move’s lead, get ready for fragrances, more jewelry and accessories, and collaborations with heritage brands – Lands’ End x Hudson Bay, Lands’ End x PF Flyer – to get a little cool by association. ‘Accessible luxury’ is a huge buzzword in the fashion world, largely because of the success of companies like J Crew and Michael Kors. It’s a status symbol, but everyone can afford at least some of it.

What do you think? Would you buy a $300 cashmere sweater from Lands’ End? Can they succeed in doing what J Crew did – slowly increasing the prices of their items over years until they become an American luxury brand?