Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Outsourcing: Don't Make Me Ralph

If a business outsources its core functions, is it still a business? This is what I pondered after spending time today on Ralph Lauren's site. You can now either buy clothes that Ralph actually designed or click through to "Create your Own Gift Collection", where you can design your own versions. Simply: (a) select the clothing item (shirt! tie! hoodie!), (b) choose your colours (Chatham Blue! Vermont Brown! Newport Navy!), (c) choose your pony or monogram, and (d) "make it your own"(add a vintage year!) Why pay a premium for the design vision of Ralph Lauren when you can pay the same premium for the design vision of, well, you?

Outsourcing design seems like an odd choice for a designer to make. I can't get my husband to select socks that match his suits; why on earth would I let him choose what horse galloped across his pectoral muscles? And why is displaying the year on a piece of clothing significant for men's fashion? Do we have to cellar some shirts for a few years before wearing them? Will they be collected like baseball cards at some point? I'm very confused....

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