In fashion, just as she was in politics, Margaret Thatcher was consistent and conservative: blue skirt suits, pearls and black purses designed by Launer, a British handbag company that’s seen a big business boost since Thatcher’s death on April 8.
Launer reported sales of the Bellini and Adagio, two of Thatcher’s favorite styles, rose 53% following her death, with the biggest spikes happening on the evening of her passing and the morning of her April 17 funeral. Last June, a Launer Asprey handbag that Thatcher owned for more than 30 years fetched nearly $40,000 at a Christie’s charity auction in London.
Thatcher didn’t champion young designers, mix couture with street fashion or cause garments to sell out simply by appearing them—characteristics that define many modern day fashion icons. So why is the late politician influencing fashion retail? “The consumer looks at these products as collectibles, like the way we look at art,” says Marshal Cohen, a retail analyst at the NPD Group, a market research firm. “Instead of purchasing for instant gratification, they’re buying something that has a great story and will age like a fine wine.” Cohen says it’s this purchasing instinct that explains the post-mortem retail influence of another unlikely fashion icon: Steve Jobs. In October 2011, St. Croix, the company behind Jobs’ famous black turtlenecks, reported “almost 100% increase in sales” in the 24 hours after the Apple co-founder’s death.
Consumers in want of Jobs and Thatcher’s signature looks differ from those behind the copycat phenomenons seen with Kate Middleton and Michelle Obama, both of whom have caused select items to sell out within hours of their public appearances in them. Cohen says that in these situations, shoppers are buying to be in the moment—they want to own something on trend that they might toss out a season later. It’s good news, then, that their style influencers favor cheap and chic brands, such as Reiss and J. Crew.
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