LONDON, United Kingdom and NEW YORK, United States - Are London fashionistas living in a bubble?
There was no sign of global economic turmoil last night as party-goers let loose after a busy day of shows during an even busier night of events. Following strong showings by Giles and Christopher Kane, there was the opening of the fabulous new Dunhill flagship (see here for our review of the sister store in Tokyo), an exhibition of stunning fashion photography by Mary McCartney, and the biggest party of London Fashion Week hosted by Giles Deacon and Swarovski (with a huge Giles cartoon ghost made completely of flowers, pictured above).
The mood is certainly more sombre across the pond in New York. And, if there was any remaining doubt as to whether the U.S.A. is entering (or is already in) a recession, that doubt has been erased just as quickly as the market capitalisation of some of the world's most famous investment banks.
So, while many expert observers don't know what is going to happen next, The Business of Fashion caught up with noted futurist Faith Popcorn of the Faith Popcorn Brain Reserve to get the lowdown on 'recession culture', coping with the downturn, and the winners and losers.
BoF: What is the recession culture and why has it become pervasive in the minds of American consumers? How long will it last?
Recession Culture, A Mindset of Making Do With Less: Economists haven’t yet declared that we’re in an actual recession, but Americans certainly feel like they are and are living that way. We’re shifting from bling and flash to no-logo apparel and accessories; from having the latest and greatest of everything to learning to live a Simple Life. We’re scrimping and saving where and when we can.
The End of Recession Culture, The Big Question: How long this recession culture will last is what people are asking themselves and each other. There seems to be no light at the end of this tunnel. And we may not have an end-date until we see who is elected President and what that person’s first priorities are once he’s in office.
BoF: Given that fashion and luxury products are more of a "want", than a "need" (well, for most people anyway) how do you think this recession mentality will affect the purchases of fashion and apparel?
People will have to prioritize their spending, choosing the heating oil bill over the “it” bag, filling the gas tank over filling their closets.
They will still want to look their best, and shopping will still make them feel better in this tough time. (Small Indulgences) But when they do make fashion purchases, they will be more careful, selecting apparel and accessories that can be worn multiple ways for multiple seasons and/or items that are extra-special.
BoF: Can fashion companies do anything to combat this mentality?
Offer Sustainable Luxury: The muted logo-free look is widely regarded as the standard-bearer for a new kind of luxury: subtle and with longevity. Luxury consumers don’t want fashion that screams luxury; it’s ‘irresponsible’ during a recession, but they want something durable and worth the splurge.
Offer the Right Price Point: Or A Very Special Garment: People still want to look their best and make themselves feel better especially in bad times. (Small Indulgences) The right price point is essential, if you can offer a ‘special’ garment at a competitive price great, but if you can’t, then the garment needs to be that much more ‘special’ (EGOnomics).
Offer Online Purchase and Return Options: The high gas prices are changing the way people shop. Consumers will want to save gas and buying online is the best way to do that.
Offer Exceptional Customer Service: If and when people choose to venture to the store, customer service is key – especially if price points are on the high side.
BoF: Who will be the winners in this kind of situation?
Exceptional customer service
· Nordstrom continues to be known as a retailer focused on providing the best customer service.
Online shopping options
· Retailers like J.Crew allow customers to return items purchased online at the stores.
· Shoe e-tailer Zappos offers customers free returns.
Customization or special store experiences
· Fashionology in LA is a retail experience for tweens where they can make their own clothes in a fun studio
· Steve Madden’s DIY Shoes, consumers visit the site and can design their own shoes at about a 25-30% higher mark-up
Value price points
· Stores like TopShop, Zara, and H&M offer unique clothing and accessories at value prices.
Logo-free apparel and accessories
· Bottega Veneta: The brand’s signature look is sustainable luxury and has transformed the once-ailing fashion house into one of Europe’s top selling luxury brands with annual sales of more than $500m worldwide