Target is having a fashion identity crisis. But there are signs of hope

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Key points

  • Target last week launched a new campaign, shot on the NSW South Coast.
  • The company says it is “working really hard on apparel”.
  • The new range includes $100 suits, and accessories inspired by European brands.

Unless you’ve been under a social media rock over the weekend, you’ve probably seen images of models walking a winding red carpet through undulating fields, wearing linen suiting in shades of lavender and celery.

Dropping in the middle of fashion month, you would be forgiven for thinking the footage was from a European house – especially as its aesthetic borrowed heavily from Jacquemus’ 2019 runway, set in a lavender field in the French countryside.

New view … Target’s summer 2023 digital runway.

But, no, it was for Target – or “Tarjay”, as my mother’s generation likes to call it, tongue firmly planted in cheek.

The 97-year-old discount chain is in the midst of a “product reset” and this lavish campaign shoot, which starred some of the country’s top models and influencers, was an obvious play for the price-conscious fashion customer. By all accounts, the campaign has been a hit, receiving more than three million views combined across social media in the first few days, and praise for the diverse casting (a post featuring model Onella Muralidharan, who has the skin condition vitiligo, has had 350,000 views alone).

Speaking at Target owner Wesfarmers’ results briefing earlier this month, Kmart Group boss Ian Bailey hinted at the glow-up: “We’re working really hard on apparel in both Kmart and Target, and we’re seeing some good results because we feel like we’re delivering better value than the majority of players in the market.”

A nice sentiment, sure, but how will Target’s customers respond to the latest collection, including the campaign, which looks more Provence than Parramatta? In a cost-of-living crunch, can Target win over middle Australia with a $100 linen blend suit, complete with “skort”?

There’s only one way to find out.

Target has been praised for the diverse casting in the runway.

On a visit to my local Target flagship, some new pieces were displayed prominently, but others required a hunt – past racks of band logo T-shirts and $12 boob tubes – to locate. It seemed a missed opportunity after spending buckets on the runway, featuring models Montana Cox and Jessica Gomes (who, incidentally, both used to work for David Jones), to then merchandise in a way that did not feel the least bit elevated (crammed and on cheap, plastic hangers).

The fitting-room experience was slightly better. The $60 oversized blazer did what it said on the tin – the shoulders fit nicely, and it had the European-style double vent at the back, as a teeny nod to luxury. But the fabric let it down.

Still, I pictured myself being a mum needing a suit for a job interview after maternity leave. My body is still changing, and I don’t have a lot of cash to burn after being out of the workforce for an extended period. Could you make the $110 suit look decent? Potentially, especially in a lighter colour, which generally conceals quality compromises better than black.

Famous faces (from left) Montana Cox, Hanan Ibrahim, Sarah Ellen, Jessica Gomes.

There was a toffee-coloured jersey dress ($60) that was cut nicely and could have made a reliable office wear staple. If someone had told me it was from Swedish chain COS (owned by the H&M group) or Cue, I’d have believed them.

Having heard Target’s denim punched above its weight, I had to try its ‘90s-style wide-leg jeans. They didn’t make me feel like Cindy Crawford but, to my astonishment, they felt great, fit perfectly and were only $40. I’d owned jeans that cost 10 times more that didn’t fit this well.

But not everything I tried lived up to the premium feel of the campaign, which was shot at Dovecote, a luxury hotel on the NSW South Coast where rooms start from $1150 a night. A printed shirt and pants set ($75) promised Australian luxury resort label Matteau, but felt thin and scratchy on the body. And the accessories – an area I was told Target had invested in heavily – still had a long way to go. Also, why do discount stores think everyone wants to wear cheap copies of Bottega Veneta’s braided mules and Hermes’ Oran slides?

Still, as I perused the shoe department, one woman commented, to no one in particular, as she examined the sky-blue Bottega copies: “Not bad for Target.”

Inspiration … Jacquemus’ spring-summer 2020 runway.Credit: Getty

As Target pushes the message that it’s a destination for fashion, while at the same time taking in more of the popular Anko range (Kmart’s home brand), it’s fair to argue it’s suffering an identity crisis. The question will be whether it keeps pushing its fashion to new heights, or settles at “not bad”.

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