Dockers is a curious brand. Years ago their parent company, Levi’s, started the Slates brand in an attempt to work as a bridge between the rugged look popularized through the Dockers brand and the upscale, metrosexual look popularized in the last decade. That experiment did not work though, but attempts at creating a more luxurious and polished look were simply absorbed into the core Dockers brand, so in all theory Slates never truly went away.
These days Dockers is trying a different approach, the latest offerings, through designer Steven Alan, is an attempt at bringing about a look that is more luxurious than Dockers, but not exactly one that is entirely different. It is less of a jump than Slates (less synthetic fibers, monochromatic) and more of a high end rugged wear, think Dockers meets Abercrombie and Fitch. In fact much of what is offered on the Docker’s website from Steven Alan, and Steven Alan’s own website.
A few things intrigue me about the Steven Alan for Dockers collection. One is that Steven Alan does not compromise or cut any corners, as what he creates for Dockers is sold at the same price point that he sells clothing at for his own label. That speaks volumes about Dockers for having the courage to offer upscale rugged clothing without compromising the integrity of them or Steven Alan and the designer himself, for not refusing to settle for the mediocrity of most bridge labels, such as those that sell at Target.
It also shows us the eternal battle of Levi’s to enhance their image from a mere utilitarian, reliable brand into one that can be taken seriously. Slates failed to make the Dockers brand sexy, but Steven Alan may be able to at least make it a bit more interesting. Dockers have always sold for around $48, but in recent years they have been working with khakis that are softer with a better finish that easily sell for $65. They also offer khakis that are a slim fit (think skinny jeans, but just khakis instead of denim) that go for as much as $185, which is actually more than what they are charging for their Steven Alan collection.
One reason why Levi’s can get away with charging so much for pants is that they have always been very fair with respect to the products they offer to their consumers. They have a straight forward, no nonsense product that was always about pants that have a great fit, and a product whose materials and construction was of a quality that was equal if not greater than that their competition. In other words, if you pay $185, you will get your money’s worth. You won’t get a $50 pair of pants that have been marked up, but you will get what actually should sell for $185.
The problem with Dockers, and all of the Levi’s brands, is twofold. The first fundamental problem they have is that they continue to flood the market and oversaturate stores with entirely too much product. Their second problem, which is about as essential as their first, is that they have entirely too many different product lines that are difficult to differentiate from one another. To be completely honest, if you are looking to get Steve Alan for cheap the Dockers line is probably going to be your best option.
Some fashion labels never seem to “get” the fact that being too accessible is a big part of why consumers never take them seriously. Every label has inventory that does not sell, but the less inventory you have the more respect that people have for your label. Earlier I wrote about how T.J. Maxx had Dolce and Gabbana for sale. That is a label that is well known, but one that is also obscure for those who do not live in the top ten metropolitan areas of the United States. Finding Dolce and Gabbana on sale is a very big deal, particularly in a closeout store which is the last place you would expect to see it.
For labels like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Sean Jean and Rocawear intentionally designing items that purists would not be interested in and having them sell in closeout stores is probably a very good thing. This allows them to extend an olive branch to those that are not willing to pay full price for their attire and get in “for cheap” in hopes that they will inevitably pay full price. Even for those that adamantly refuse to do so, and continue to shop in stores like T.J. Maxx these same individuals are actively promoting the brand because people see the logos and are intrigued.
The Dockers brand never utilized cheesy logos, and rely on the idea of making what they wear accessible to the masses. You can buy a decent pair of Levi’s jeans for a decent price, and so you buy them for that reason. Dockers is always in your face when you are looking for a deal, and while few may go out of their way to purchase a pair of Dockers it is hard to ignore them once you have their pants in your hand. If I see a pair of Dockers between $5 and $10, which I typically do at closeout stores, there is little reason not to buy them.
If you are wondering if Steven Alan can sell a $200 pair of Dickies the answer is yes, he can, and you may want to pick up a pair for yourself while they are still in stock. If anything, I don’t think you will see Steven Alan flood the marketplace with his plaid shirts. The fact that their website also sells clothing from other labels, such as Dickies, that they do not seem to be collaborating with is interesting. It is a definite departure from the isolationism of fashion brands that was typical of the nineties, and a promising sign of things to come …