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High Fashion is getting tangible. How trends differ from fashion is the most crucial question for those trying to understand the contemporary development in the fashion industry in the hope that they can predict the future of fashion.
This is especially true since high-end fashion is not untouchable anymore. It constantly surrounds us due to hundreds of online fashion retailers such as my favourite Net-A-Porter. Any style invented in any part of the world can be seen instantly. Fashion is not a matter of location anymore. Contemporary fashion is accessible all over the globe whether you are living in a major city or somewhere out in the sticks. That’s one of the huge changes the industry has to struggle with. Whilst it is certainly a countless blessing for the consumer, how does it affect fashion designers?
Having been online and involved in creative projects with young fashion designers, it is clear that they are the ones benefiting from these change in fashion. Despite catering for the masses, these developments don’t necessarily make it easier for industry workers. Fast fashion retailers on our high streets force designers to be very quick in designing and conceiving the garments. The workflow in designing clothes in a seasonal cycle becomes diluted and sometimes the designer brands can get lost by offering to the mass market. Designers have to produce more styles and looks in less time than what they are used to. This obviously leads to the point that industry peers have to tighten up their creative process to serve the frame of time.
In order to do that, the basic design process becomes an assembly line. This demands the question: does a tighter time frame lack quality? Yes, correct – it does. And no it doesn’t, dependent on what the industry is going to project from this change. It is possible to provide a certain quality, even if you have to deal with a narrow time frame and less of a budget. You just have to tweak the approach. If you are not willing to take that chance – and it is definitely a chance, especially for young fresh designers – I personally believe you really cannot compete in this industry anymore. It is simply survival of the fittest.
When more fashion retailers serve a broader audience, the price of the items can decrease, and lower retail prices mean that not so good labour is introduced. The naked truth is: Fashion designers all over the world have to produce more designs in less time for lower prices. That’s the challenge.
Our buying behaviour has dramatically changed. The industry has to deal with well informed and interested clients who play a key role in the development of contemporary fashion. The customer’s personal opinion is already part of the designer’s finding-process, which is key in the process of designing. The growth of the internet and the social media development has been a major movement and certainly contributes to that change, as it is the minors making the change in fashion now, as quirky street style, not the major publications try to implement the changes on the media side of the brands we wear today.
There is room for both high street fashion and high end fashion. We have to face the fact that fashion is part of our accelerating world and therefore evolves more quickly than history shows us it did years ago. The huge demand on expensive and exclusive luxury goods still exists. We all know that fashion isn’t dead, but it is now in the company of something we can call ‘fast fashion’. Something that caters to the idea of fashion with one exception: quality. Therefore fast fashion can only be a substitute for those who can’t afford high end fashion, or actually aren’t interested in quality products. Different clients of high street retailers have different needs.
The fact of the matter is that the majority of the world’s fashion consumers belong to the middle and upper middle income of class. Consumers are fashion conscious and price sensitive at the same time. Due to the unprecedented changes, the fashion industry has to respond to both market changes and consumer preferences. The undoubted pioneer of that fast fashion process concept is European clothing retailer Zara, with its thousands of stores across 77 countries. Their new lines are being shipped into the stores more than 3 times a month, which ensures that customers always find new fashion items every time they visit. That’s the reason why fast fashion has simultaneously become incredibly attractive and essential; an aggressive must have for the public (and bloody great for chains like Zara too). But while the middle class is on the hunt for reasonable, fast and fashionable offers, there still remains a huge demand for expensive and exclusive luxury goods in more affluent parts of our society.
The bottom line is: fast fashion has not killed couture and never will. Fashion is not dead at all. Rather than focus on what worked better in the past, we should look to see what we can gain from the future. Harmless as it is, fashion was what it was in the olden days, is what it is today, and will be something different in the future. And quite frankly, isn’t that exactly what we are looking for?