Chic on the cheap

Fashion on “Target” from GO! International

The concept of a superstore is so genuinely all-American, and no store satisfies our urge to spend in such an aesthetically pleasing manner as Target does. Their advertisements depict sharply dressed, clean-cut individuals frolicking about their daily chores to clever reworkings of Beatles classics. (“Hello goodbuy” says it all.) Target slyly encourages its customers to shell out a few dollars for that stylish Michael Graves ironing board. Target is paving the way for the superstore chain, setting a sterling example to its imitators. Whereas the thought of Wal-Mart often leaves a bad taste in your mouth, a Target store is clean, bright and welcoming.

The Minneapolis-based retail giant is becoming more and more influential in the fashion world, too. Since the inception of its wildly successful GO! International line in February 2006, with fabulously quirky British fashion designer Luella Bartley at the helm, Target has had both rabid fashionistas from the heartland to the big city as well as up-and-coming designers knocking down its door for more, more, more!

But what is GO! International? According to Target’s press statement regarding the line, it is “a program of limited-edition women’s fashion collections from internationally renowned designers, each in stores for 60-90 days.”

“We look for designers with a design aesthetic similar to ours,” says Target spokesperson Joshua Thomas. And the limited-time-only concept, he says, “keeps guests coming in.”

It’s also the best way for the often-unattainable fashion world to plant itself securely in middle-class America.

Target gives its designers the freedom to create a capsule creation that sums up their aesthetic and fashion-forward vision for the general public who might not be able to afford their work in a department store like Neiman Marcus – see the babydoll dresses from Erin Fetherston’s winter 2007 line, the earthy beach hippie looks from Patrick Robinson (now working wonders at Gap), and the English rose romanticism from Alice Temperley.

“Each collection has met a standard within our program, and each has a standout piece,” Thomas said.

The designers often take pieces that sold well for their primary, ready-to-wear runway line, like Proenza Schouler’s signature bustier tops, and modify it to appeal both visually and monetarily to their “Target” audience. Pieces range from $7.99 accessories to $129.99 jackets, so no matter your budget, GO! International’s got you covered.

H&M has also adopted this trend, giving Chanel head honcho Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and Viktor & Rolf the opportunity to create offshoot lines for their stores.

By incorporating the GO! International program into their stores, the Target company has created a well-dressed monster. When “Vogue” gives you a shout-out and “Elle” mixes your clothing and accessories into its pricey fashion editorials, you’re doing something right. The most highly-anticipated GO! collections have an enormous buildup among fashionphiles and certain pieces are impossible to find in stores.

The line’s 10th guest spot has gone to California-based designers Jovovich-Hawk (yes, Milla Jovovich is also a fashion designer!) and their bohemian-influenced lookbook showcasing the collection has been getting raves from the fashion-conscious.

This sartorial setup has also nabbed the attention of other designers. Loeffler Randall, known for luxurious shoes and handbags, is now showcasing cute flats and clutches from $19.99 to $49.99 while jeweler-to-the-stars Dominique Cohen’s capsule collection of dark, heavy metal pearls and frosted black cameo rings is just nearing the end of its run. Even Converse has joined in on the fun; now you can get sequined sneakers and distressed jackets for a fraction of their regular price.

Of course, all of these names follow in the footsteps of exceptionally respected fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, who joined the Target team in 2003 and whipped up hundreds of great stylish basics for the career woman’s wardrobe without costing her an entire paycheck. (Mizrahi will depart this year to work as creative director for a brand probably more familiar to your mother than to you, Liz Claiborne.)

Giving these well-known designers the ability to concoct a Target diffusion line also plays into the American love of conspicuous consumption, with a twist. Sure, the Proenza Schouler for Target skirt you grabbed on clearance retailed for very much less than a Proenza Schouler skirt would at Barney’s, but the name is on the tag. And if someone asks you where you got it, it’s a breeze to say, “Oh, it’s Proenza! Do you like it?” It’s stylish, it’s fashionable, it’s fun – and you didn’t break the bank buying it.

What Target is doing, says Thomas, is “delivering the latest styles to customers at prices they can afford.” And with that credo delivered to you through all of Target’s clever mediums, you can feel a lot less guilty about filling up that red fire engine of a shopping cart with a new pair of flip-flops, a couple picture frames, a coffeepot, new mascara, some DVDs and a spring break-ready bikini.