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If fashion were a novel, 2016 marks the start of a new chapter for designers, bloggers, and industry members alike. Whether you’re in Florence at Pitti or back in New York planning for Fashion Week (don’t forget, the schedule for IMG is officially up) there’s excitement in the air. Here’s a list of ideas and stories you should be tracking as 2016 unfolds:
1. High-End Designers Move Downmarket
As Vera Wang announced her decision last week to completely reposition her brand and focus more on the upper-middle tier of consumers instead of luxury shoppers, more and more designers are trying to increase the accessibility of their brand as a means to gain market share. The traditional mode to accomplish this without damaging brand image is to create a diffusion line in-house or collaborate with a mass-market retailer (but more on the latter in the next section). Diffusion lines are an excellent way for designers to expand their growth, but not all of them are successful such as Burberry’s Thomas Burberry (right, even ever heard of it?) Recently joined or soon-to-join the ranks of diffusion labels such as 3.1 Phillip Lim, T by Alexander Wang, DRKSHDW, and DKNY are the likes of the following:
- Thakoon’s Thakoon Addition
- Derek Lam’s 10 Crosby
- Karl Lagerfeld’s Karl
- Victoria Beckham’s Victoria
- Matthew Williamson’s MW by Matthew Williamson
- Balmain’s Pierre Balmain
- Marni’s Marni Denim
- Hussein Chalayan’s Chalayan Grey
Of course, other brands may accomplish this by adding more aspirational and replenishment inventory to their product inventory. Aspirational (or for our purposes what many brands call replenishment items) are accessories and other products that tend to be accessible to a wider range of consumers due to their branded or lower cost nature – think purses and perfumes. For example, Louis Vuitton monogram bags are aspirational because many shoppers who would otherwise never be able to afford a Louis Vuitton piece will still save up to be able to buy a LV bag due to its highly aspirational nature. In business, we call these items replenishment because they don’t change much from season to season. In fact, some styles remain the exact same so designers simply “replenish” those items every season. Brands like to keep these items across seasons because they are tried and true pieces and appeal to a wider demographic, thereby enabling the brand to become accessible to a larger market.
2. Fast Fashion Tries to Move Upmarket
Designer collaborations with the likes of Uniqlo, H&M, and Macy’s made big news last year and it seems over the past couple of seasons more and more designers are trying to get a piece of the collaboration scene. Last year’s big names were Missoni for Target and Versace for H&M collections but let’s not forget Karl Lagerfeld for Macy’s and Giambattista Valli for Macy’s. Up and coming is Marni at H&M, another Versace collaboration at H&M, and Jason Wu for Target.
From a business perspective, a collaboration makes sense for smaller designers who may not have the manufacturing and distribution resources of a larger retailer like H&M or Target. As designers increasingly favor the use of collaboration lines and as more and more retailers offer to work with designers (would love to see AllSaints come in here), I’m both excited and scared to hear about what new lines await us as matchmaking intensifies between retailers and designers.
3. Entertainment Tries To Move Somewhere with Fashion
Well, while fashion is moving all over the place this year, entertainment is trying to also cash in on fashion. From Project Runway’s All Stars to Joe Zee’s All on the Line, Americans are loving the rise of “fashion entertainment”. This is a lovely trend indeed for most fashion icons, because trying to get more popular exposure seems to be second nature (present company not necessarily excluded). Designers and fashion icons seeking ways to get involved in Hollywood fret not. Already we have or will soon be watching Lifetime’s 24 Hour Catwalk (hosted by Derek Blasberg and Cynthia Rowley), NBC’s Fashion Star, ABC’s Jane by Design, and Bravo’s It’s a Brad, Brad World.
Maybe it will be the evolution of fashion’s street style. Could you imagine reality TV around the lives of fashion bloggers?
4. Stealth Wealth & Subdued Product Design
Occupy Wall Street reminded us of issues facing our society vis-a-vis income inequality and wealth distribution. In politically sensitive times, consumers are more conscientious of how they present themselves in the face of their social circles and the public. In an era of online shopping where many consumers already indicate that they prefer shopping from the privacy of their homes and as American markets become increasingly sophisticated in their fashion taste (moving away from branded replenishment accessories to actual fashion pieces) the fashion world will need to pay increasingly attention to shopper preferences for product design. Consumers will turn away from ostentatious display of wealth, instead opting for more unbranded items and pieces that to the untrained eye will not appear to come from any designer.
5. Continuing Expansion in China
China continues to represent one of the fastest growing markets in world across industries but especially for fashion. As China’s wealth grows, so does demand for access to luxury. And when Chinese cultural norms make it acceptable and even important for both men and women to carry bags as a status symbol, fashion labels are completely enamored with the China market. Of course, rapid expansion has its own problems and as brands venture to a new country, poor planing, miscommunication, and cultural misunderstandings are common obstacles.
Brands are still trying to perfect their China strategy but in the meantime we can learn from the mistakes of other brands – some more obvious than others.
6. While Thinking More about Brazil
Brazil, while not getting as much attention in the global market as China, is also part of the Big Four. While fashion media has focused its attention primarily on China, we should not forget the huge market opportunities in Brazil as well. Indeed, over 30 brands are already set to open news stores in Brazil including Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and Fendi.
Of course, just like in China, expanding to a new country has great upside but also has its own pitfalls. Among other potential problems, brands must be cognizant of the dangers of licensing as a means to expand to new markets, localization issues, and cultural differences.
7. Private Sales Model Evolution
While Gilt Groupe’s success continues to enthrall business professional across industries as an amazing success story, they are still not profitable. And with more and more start ups going the private sales route, the increasing saturation of Gilt Groupe copycats does not necessarily bode well for anyone with a similar business model. Even more problematic is that brands are tightening inventory thanks to better supply chain planning. As the economy improves and overstock decreases even more, private sales sites will need to evolve their model to accomodate changing market conditions.
8. Fashion Bloggers & SOPA
SOPA, the bill that will definitely censor and restrict the way you can access the internet, will have a very real impact on fashion bloggers and social media if it passes. Hopefully, we will be able to update this list in the future with a giant cross-out on this item, but for now SOPA threatens to force fashion bloggers to be more cognizant of where their images and content comes from as they now risk an entire site shutdown if a copyright holder complains.
Even barring passing of the bill, SOPA has reminded the industry of the increasingly difficult nature to track copyright and protect it. Fashion digital content is no different. As the blogging phenomenon is made more accessible with sites like Pinterest and Tubmlr, fashion copyright seems like an extinct creature in the 21st Century. However, bills like SOPA are attempts to address copyright violations. How will the fashion industry follow suit? Will sites that make money by publishing fashion images like Style.com and spend money buying rights to the images try to restrict content being taken from its site?
9. Traditional Media Integrating With Social & Digital Media
As traditional print media continues to decline in both readers and ad revenues, fashion magazines must continue to innovate their business model in order to stay relevant. Fashion magazines reluctantly inserted themselves into the digital world, but now appear to be embracing the trend. Last year, we saw more and more magazines establishing a presence in social media, creating a digital version of their magazine (with online-only content), and even introducing iPad applications for their publication. More creative ideas include 3-D content, fashion films, and moving fashion images.
This year will be no exception to the trend, as more magazines strengthen their digital position, but also be on the lookout for continued business innovation. Magazines are looking to collaborate with the entertainment industry as well as incorporate an element of e-commerce to boost their revenue through new streams.
10. Will Dior Ever Make a Choice?
But seriously… will they?