In the fashion business, it seems, everybody wants to be Ralph Lauren. The company epitomizes the so-called aspirational lifestyle brand, able to book huge sales at premium prices for everything from clothing to furniture to dinnerware. Kate Spade, another designer-inspired company, dreamed of following that path. In 2008 it recruited Craig Leavitt, a Ralph Lauren executive, as its chief executive officer. But while shoppers continue to fawn over its colorful totes, satchels, and clutches—sales were up more than 40 percent in 2014—the company is learning that creating a buzzy lifestyle brand is more difficult than it seems.
In late January, Kate Spade announced the closing of all 19 of its neon-yellow Kate Spade Saturday stores, ending two years of experimentation with its offshoot brand. A sassier, cheaper alternative to Kate Spade New York, Saturday served up striking styles in vivid colors: cotton jerseys in dazzling red and hot-pink zigzag card cases. At about half the price of its grown-up sister brand, merchandise was meant to introduce younger women to the Kate Spade lifestyle.