On Brand

How Lilly Pulitzer Broke Target

The power of prep meant long lines and empty racks at stores on Sunday.

By Julia Davila April 23, 2015

The Target on Westheimer in the Memorial area was cleaned out by 8:01 a.m.

Kim Kardashian’s Paper Magazine cover – yes, you know the one I’m referring to –“broke the internet.” But that's nothing compared to Sunday’s debut of the Lilly Pulitzer for Target capsule collection, which seemed to break open a fault line in our collective style consciousness, as well as taking down the Target website in the wee hours of the morning.

Target’s chief merchandising and supply chain officer Kathee Tesija told Fortune that the company had planned to offer the 250-item, limited-time collection for weeks. Instead the collaboration lasted mere hours in stores—even minutes, in some locations. One Houston shopper posted a picture of decimated Lilly for Target racks at 8:01 a.m.—literally moments after the store opened. Even before customers started lining up outside physical stores, Target's online collection was sold out in minutes when it was released at 3 a.m. EST, despite high demand pulling the site offline temporarily.

Of all Target's 150-plus designer collaborations since 2006, the only other line to create a similar frenzy was the store's collaboration with high-end Italian brand Missoni in 2011. Items with the brand's signature zigzag print were sold out on the day the collection was released.

In some respects its surprising that the Lilly Pulitzer for Target launch was so successful. When the collection was announced in January, certain Lilly fans were not happy and took to social media with their frustration about their favorite brand being cheapened by the mass-market retailer, calling the collection "fake." Still, in the week leading up to the launch, my Instagram feed and Twitter timeline were bombarded with posts relating to everything #LillyForTarget.

Bella Thorne, Emmy Rossum, Kate Bosworth and Ellie Kemper in Lilly for Target at the collection launch in New York.

Buyers lined up for the launch party at the Target pop-up shop in New York City’s Bryant Park in advance of the release. Actress and style icon Kate Bosworth attended the launch party wearing one of the collection’s shift dresses. Other stars like Emmy Rossum, Bella Thorne, Camila Alves and Ellie Kemper were also seen walking the red carpet in Pulitzer’s infamous pastels.

Those who weren't quick enough to grab some of the collection in stores can still snag some of the designs online. Facebook groups have sprung up offering members a chance to buy, sell or trade, and the same #LillyforTarget hashtag that was stirring up excitement before the launch is now used on Instagram to sell the pieces. On eBay, of course, those who filled up carts are unloading some of the goods at two to three times the original Target price. 

It's all kind of nuts, especially since, as Washington Post’s fashion critic Robin Givhan points out, Lilly for Target isn't even that great of a deal.

"Today, a simple Lilly Pulitzer dress is about $200. A Target version is about $40. That’s a bargain, for sure, but not that exceptional. One might expect to find nearly as good a deal by waiting for a sale at Neiman Marcus," Givhan writes. "Time, after all, is not of the essence. Lilly Pulitzer is classic. It is always hanging on a rack somewhere, everywhere, in all of its pineapple-print, feel-good, preppy psychedelia."


Show Comments