Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Principles of Fashion

This is my first attempt at blogging. My plans are to post important tips about the business of fashion and related topics of clothing, apparel, and textiles. I'll start with the Principles of Fashion. These should be memorized and applied to fashion business decisions.

Fashion marketers use fashion principles as guides on which to base business decisions. When marketers understand the important principles of fashion, they make educated and profitable decisions. Since crystal balls do not really exist and it is impossible to know what the future holds, fashion forecasters rely on guiding principles to identify the designs most likely to succeed among the targeted consumers. Students of fashion should commit these fashion principles to memory. They are unique to this industry, yet they have a broad application that reaches to just about any product that has an element of fashion. The following section presents a detailed discussion of each principle.
• Fashion is not related to price.
• The consumer is king or queen and decides what will or won’t become a fashion.
• Sales promotion cannot reverse the decline in popularity of a fashion.
• All fashions end in excess.
• Fashion requires imitation of style or look.
• Fashion change moves in a cyclical pattern.
• Fashion change is usually evolutionary; it is rarely revolutionary.
• Fashion is a reflection of the way of life at a given time.
Fashion Is Not a Price
Consumers can purchase a similar fashion look at any price point, regardless of their budgets. True fashion is available to persons from most income levels and being fashionable does not require consumers to spend a great deal of money on clothing. Because of mass media and mass production, consumers can view and purchase similar styles of clothing manufactured at prices to fit their budgets.
The Consumer Is King or Queen
The runways of Paris, Milan, and New York are often the birth and death of some styles; never to be mass produced. A runway designer may introduce a unique style in the hopes that it might become the starting point of a new fashion. But fashion is not a synthetic creation of a powerful designer, a famous celebrity, or a large retailer. They can only introduce it as a worthwhile style, but its ultimate popularity depends on the public’s discretion. Unless a majority of a given group wears a style, the style never becomes a fashion; it simply remains a style. Consumers and their pocketbooks have the final say-so in the success or failure of a fashion.
Sales Promotion Cannot Reverse a Fashion’s Decline
Once a fashion begins the downward slope of its life cycle, it is soon on its way to obsolescence. Marketers cannot change this direction, no matter how much they advertise, display, markdown, or otherwise promote the fashion. They might be able to extend the life cycle if they add new colors, fabrics, or prints to the line before sales begin to decline. However, the downturn in sales generally signals the ultimate demise of the fashion, and marketers should focus the limited resources of the promotional budget on the newer fashions.
All Fashions End in Excess
This statement made by the famous 1920s Paris couturier, Paul Poiret refers to the reason why a fashion declines in popularity and is ultimately discarded by consumers. The term, excess means overdone; too much or too many; or a saturated market. For example, when marketers first introduce skirts above the knee, they are short, but not excessively short. As time progresses, they gradually get shorter. As the fashion gains popularity, the style becomes more extreme—in this case, shorter and shorter, until it is excessively short and the fashion ends due to indecent exposure. Marketers introduce the slightly lower hemlines near the end of the miniskirt life cycle. These skirts gain in popularity as the micro mini wanes in popularity.
A second example of eventual excess or overdone fashion is the introduction of embroidery on clothing. The fashion begins with just a little embroidery on an item, but as time passes, the designs become increasingly ornamented and the excessive embroidery becomes the focal point for the garment. The excessive applied design gets tiresome, so consumers discard the fashion in favor of a new look. A third interpretation of this principle is the notion that when everyone that wants a particular fashion has it, then the market is saturated—that is, an excessive number of people are wearing the fashion. Therefore, the fashion leaders discard the fashion in favor of a newer and more exclusive fashion. Using the idea of excess, fashions die when they become excessively: short, long, wide, narrow, embellished, plain, and excessively adopted.
Fashion Is a Form of Social Imitation
A style requires group acceptance to become a fashion. A fashion begins when the fashion leader’s style is copied. If imitation does not occur, the style remains a personal style, but is not called a fashion.
Fashion Is Cyclical
Fashion tends to run in cycles. Companies introduce a style and then it becomes popular, fades in popularity, and disappears for a while. After a few seasons or years of being out of fashion, the style is reintroduced. Consumers gradually popularize a style and continue to wear the fashion for a time, ranging from months to years. As a fashion declines in popularity and slips into obsolescence, it remains in hibernation, until a new generation of consumers, or some other renewed interest brings it back into focus. Marketers may not be able to predict the exact date a style or trend will become popular, but a close analysis of previous fashions will give some indication of the likelihood of popularity.
Fashion Change Is Usually Evolutionary; It Is Rarely Revolutionary
Consumers simply cannot afford to completely change their wardrobes each season. From a psychological standpoint, although consumers like change each season, they do not like too much change. They prefer something new and slightly different from last seasons’ fashions, but not radically different. The gradual change is likened to a slow pendulum swinging. The pendulum represents the changing fashion as it moves toward one direction. When it moves as far as it can to one side, it represents the fashion as an extreme. When this happens, the fashion changes move back toward the middle or a more moderate appearance. As the pendulum swings toward the opposite side, it represents a movement toward a different extreme. Each point on the pendulum swing continuum represents a fashion that is similar to the fashion at the points on either side. Historical continuity refers to the notion that new fashions evolve from the most recent fashions. They are most valued if the fashions slightly vary from the previous mode and only if they fit into a sequential pattern that includes both the fashions that have come and gone, and the fashions yet to come. This means that the most current fashion is really just a derivative of the past fashion.
Fashion Is a Reflection of the Way of Life at a Given Time
Fashion recurs, but never in exactly the same way, because each era has its own unique characteristics. Retrospectively, a student can look at the clothing for a previous decade and it seems perfectly appropriate for its time. If a designer attempted to exactly recreate that same apparel style for contemporary times, the result would probably be unsuccessful because of the differing environmental conditions between the eras. Successful fashion designers, product developers, and marketers learn to interpret the cultural signals and create fashions that are exclusive to the current era and not a duplication of the bygone eras.
Fashion is an embodiment of Zeitgeist and reflects the environmental factors that shape a culture’s current values and beliefs. Students of fashion can identify a fashion mix of colors, prints, fabrics, details, and styles as belonging to a specific era. Even if one or two of the fashion mix variables, such as style and print, are line for line copies of a style and print from a previous decade, the other variables in the mix will represent contemporary life.

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