If I were to ask you where I could find cheap and trendy women’s clothing what are some of the stores you would think of? Most likely Forever 21, Windsor, H&M, and Foreign Exchange (for those so-cal residents) come to mind. The introduction of Forever 21 completely changed the direction of retailers. This new idea of providing trendy clothing at low prices enticed many women to move from jeans and t-shirts to dresses and blazers. These companies are successful in quickly producing the latest trends and constantly offering new products. This environment of low priced products with a limited life span creates a “buy now” attitude for consumers, what’s $20 dollars anyway? These new retailers are competing and crushing companies like Billabong and Rock and Republic who were flying high selling their products in a once stable economy and now struggling to reestablish their markets.
What I always wonder is what are these retailers portraying to consumers through their products? Well known name brands like Vera Wang and Calvin Klein may provide discounted clothing, like Vera Wang’s Kohls collection,but under a brand name that screams “high quality”. Is it the actual brand name that provides the perception of quality or is it the store at which it is sold? My prior image of Kohls was an unfashionable discount retailer but that concept is changing with the increasing number of well known names they have attached to their store. These include Lauren Conrad, Vera Wang, Candies, Nike, DC and Vans. When looking to stores like Forever 21 and H&M their brand has positioned themselves as a low price retailer that would seemingly have lower margins. But is the perception of their products good considering all their products are tied to their retail name? Do consumers look at a $5 blouse and think they are getting a good deal for a quality product or seeing a cheaply made product that will probably be ruined after its first wash.
Most people see low prices as lower quality, and an entire store that prides itself on the low cost of goods can usually only provide this perception. So far it hasn’t weakened their image considering Forever 21 earned 2.6 billion in 2011. I suspect most of this income comes from young, fashionable, low-income individuals looking for what is trendy in the here and now. The epitome of American thought, only thinking about the present and not much in the long run. But is this such a bad way to be seen? At this point I think most people just prefer low prices over ANYTHING, even if it comes with frugal return policies and cheaply made products. Companies like Vans and Nike take advantage of this newfound industry of price sensitive buyers. Offering lower priced products within stores like Kohls give them the ability to reach a whole new market but with the perception that the quality is good since it is a “name brand”. In the fashion world we all have our key pieces that we will splurge on and to look fashionable on a budget you have to make some sacrifices right?
On one of my usual shopping expeditions a few days ago I entered into a store called Charlotte Russe to look for some garments for a halloween costume. To my avail they didn’t have what I was looking for, but something else occurred while I was there. An employee bounced up to me and informed me that if I had my student ID present with me I would get 10% off my purchase. If I didn’t happen to have my ID on me that was no problem either, if I had a smart phone I could get the coupon sent to me via text for the same amount. Wow, talk about tailoring to the student.
For clothing retailers this is a somewhat new marketing tactic. Retailers like Apple and Amazon have already had discounts for students since a lot of their products are useful to the typical “freshman”. (Laptops, Televisions, DVD players, electronics, etc.) Stores like Topshop have begun this tactic of student discounts both in-store and online while Urban Outfitters will provide the discount on select dates. Looks to me like student ID’s should be in wallets at ALL TIMES. This is the question that then comes to mind, why would retailers begin to take on this type of marketing?
To me, the reach that students have is TREMENDOUS. Just consider your own high school and/or college you have/are attending. Trends are easily found and created in schools. Being in close contact with your classmates 5 out of 7 days in the week can create a big influence on students. What better way to promote your clothing than to have students wearing it for some 4,000 kids to see. (Basing off of my high school student population) Not only do students have reach in person, but also online. It is almost a requirement for students to be active on social media whether it be a blog, Facebook, or Twitter. Lookbook has become a power house for retailers as free marketing and publicity. For the more popular Lookbook accounts and fashion bloggers it is common to see designers and retailers sending out clothes in hopes of them being photographed and seen by the huge amount of Lookbook users. These users not only hold immense power within the states but the demographics of users stretches over countless countries. Hey, these clothes could even go international!
I say this is a great incentive to bring in more traffic and purchases into retailers. Stereotyping college and high school students as with limited income as well as a craving desire to fit in with the trends you have a recipe for success. Remember kids, don’t leave your student ID’s at home, who knows when you can get some additional money off of those new boots you are drooling over for this fall season.
Celebrities have branded themselves as actors/actresses, philanthropists, musicians, and authors. Many of them are successful in one or two of those items listed, many actors/actresses can dabble in music or end up writing a book. Their vast experiences, networks and reach allow them to easily gain attention once they decide to dive into a new field of work. Just look at Justin Timberlake, in my opinion not only was his group and solo music careers successful but he has made a name for himself as an actor as well. More recently he has jumped into the fashion industry with one of his good friends which earned them about 50 million a year in sales! While we all have our hesitations when a celebrity changes direction many times it can be a good thing. One industry I have been struggling in to accept however is celebrities who begin fashion lines.
There are so many creative individuals in the world (I know more than a few) who given the opportunity could deliver amazing looks and trends into the world. Unfortunately, sometimes it is all about who you know and really pushing yourself into what looks like a bottomless pit of little hope. There are many celebrities who have branded themselves as designers and made a huge impact from it. Take for example, the Olson twins. Their realization that fashion was what they intended to focus on drove them to enroll in college as well as completely leave acting behind, putting their efforts into their new passion. Leaving behind the bitterness of knowing their childhood acting careers made them billionaires consumers can still see the success of their three fashion lines. Olsonboye for kids, Elizabeth and James for mid-market as well The Row which is a high end line. Another great example is Lauren Conrad. Using her past experiences she wrote a successful novel (Not to say that it was a masterpiece) and began a reasonably priced clothing line through Kohl’s retailers as well as a more high end fashion line called Paper Crown.
There are plenty of other names that could come to mind when thinking of popular designers for example; Gwen Stefani, Nicole Richie, and Jessica Simpson. They have branded themselves as serious designers who have taken grasp of their target market and produced products that identify themselves along with their market. Often times it is celebrities that pave the road in creating fashion trends so why not be able to pass that on through their products to consumers? Just because you have the ability to reach people doesn’t always mean you should move forward in creating a fashion line. Let’s take a look at the Kardashian sisters. With their mother’s attraction to any new business opportunity, it wasn’t long before she scooped up the opportunity to bring sears back on its feet through a Kardashian “Klothing” line. Unfortunately, Sears hasn’t even begun to see improvements in sales from this venture. Many products had to be removed based on copyright infringement and consumers were unable to connect with the products since they seemed so far fetched from what the Kardashians would actually put on their own bodies. People need to believe that these clothing items are made for their best interest, to make THEM beautiful and to have their favorite celebrities backing their product 100%. This line seems as unbelievable as their reality television series.
When celebrities take on the role of a designer they need to keep some things in mind:
1. Create a line that is believable: that is, you can connect the goal of the line with who made it.
2. Focus on one market: is your line low, mid or high end? Is it a complete line with both clothing and accessories? Does it all flow together with the same target market?
3. Have the passion: people can see when your line is quickly done and made just because you can. Don’t let money and reach guide you, let your passion.
4. Know your stuff: if you aren’t aware of what people will be buying you shouldn’t go this path alone. Many celebrities partner with retailers or other designers to create unique fashion lines with lessened risk. Having someone who already knows the industry to help guide you can be a good start to branding yourself as a successful designer.
Sources: 10 Most Successful Celebrity Fashion Lines
Let’s face it, even if you aren’t a fashionable person you can still be aware of the trends surrounding you. Just take a look around at the mall or a busy downtown area. If you grew up in the 70s and 80s you’ll easily see items that make you think, “didn’t I give that to the Goodwill a couple years ago?”. Fashion is frequently regurgitating itself (pardon the disturbing image in your heads) through old trends getting subtle face lifts. While there are only a few people who enjoy digging through musty old clothes in dimly lit Goodwill and thrift stores, it is becoming easier to find reasonably priced vintage items in popular retail stores.
One example would be Urban Outfitters which offers what it calls “Urban Renewal” clothing items. Vintage clothing are altered to be more attractive towards current buyers. Some items include high waisted Levi’s cut into distressed shorts or old band tee’s cut up into loose fitting tank tops. In the quest to be “different” it isn’t always easy. It can be difficult for a lot of individuals to see a diamond in the rough. Stores like American Vintage or Wasteland provide some of the digging for you. What I would call an upscale thrift store, these retailers are picky with their purchases from walk-ins. Buyers have the difficult task of visualizing old used items that could be transformed into everyday fashion wear.
Vintage finds are in the eye of the beholder and it isn’t always an easy task to find something you will like. Some people just seem to have the ability to see a shoulder padded, cropped and bedazzled top as a perfect match to high waisted black denim jeans and neon wedges in their closet. With the ease of finding vintage clothing there also comes a price increase.
A few months ago I traveled to Arizona for my cousins baseball tournament. Amongst all of the nothingness to do we decided to make a quick trip to the local Goodwill hoping to find some cheap golf clubs. As I normally do, I instead made a b-line for the denim section of the store. Usually there is no luck finding high waisted jeans in my size at the local thrift stores of Orange County but to my dismay this Arizona Goodwill was a gold mine. I immediately found two pairs of jeans and ran to the fitting rooms. While it is hard to see the beauty of what most consider “mom jeans” I knew once they had been cut and distressed, they would be just as good as those $50 finds at Urban Outfitters. Ten dollars later I am one happy camper.
For those hardcore thrift shoppers I’m sure it is difficult to see good thrift finds thrown into overpriced retailers, but it does show how easy it is for trends to pick up once they are placed in well lit areas. A huge chain like Urban Outfitters and American Apparel which offer a limited variety of vintage clothing gives off the signal to consumers that THIS is what is in right now. It is interesting to see how much of a reliance many have on local retailers for their fashion know how. While some can find it from the Internet or local thrift shops, shopping is much easier and less risky when you can purchase from a well known retailer. For those who don’t have the luxury of living in downtown urban areas it is near impossible to spot new trends on the street. Suburban areas tend to stick to what they know, and that is, what retailers in your local shopping center or mall provide. There aren’t many trend setters in the world and most trends don’t catch on until these trend setters have found something new to follow.
My question that then comes to mind is this, is it really vintage if you are getting it from a current retailer? Is it simply convenience shopping or someone just following the bread crumbs retailers are leaving them? The world may never know.
London Fashion Week just finished up this past Tuesday September 18th. One of the biggest names and impact made this year is Topshop. I came across this marvelous store when cruising the Internet a few years ago. At that point, stores that I knew of had only been located in London, New York City and Chicago. Normally I am extremely hesitant on actually following through with online purchases but in this case I was immediately drawn to Topshop’s unique style that was a refreshing change from U.S. based retailers. To my excitement a store launched in Las Vegas this past Spring and my life has never been the same. (Going broke from Vegas shopping sprees) This year Topshop offered an interactive experience for their followers on their social media outlets.
Topshop broadcasted their show through their website as well as on Twitter. Live video steam on their website allowed participants to take screenshots and video clips of their favorite looks, browse color options, view clothes and accessories as they came down the runway and the best part, share all of this with your friends on Facebook! Now if that isn’t interactive I don’t know what is. Some looks sold out within an hour of the feed becoming live and some even before the show ended!
Competition is immense for designers to get a grip of the social media world. Previously it was left up to bloggers and celebrities in the audience to build a hype around a designer but fashion editors and journalists are fighting back to claim their portion of media coverage. Fashion trends are short lived, those who are interested in fashion want to be on the cutting edge of what is the latest and greatest. Social media is quick, simple, and informative. Its easier than ever for someone in the U.S. to know every inch of runway gold that is strutting on London’s catwalks.
It is refreshing for me to see a company like Topshop reaping the benefits of successfully utilizing social media. Not only were fans informed on the latest updates in regards to fashion week but they were able to directly interact with each look, providing a personal shopping experience without ever leaving home.
(Louise Gray, Topshop showspace)
Sources: Tweet, blog, stream and flog fashion on social media catwalk
Millions Watch Online Video of Topshop London Fashion Week Show
I wanted to take a different approach today and share a story with you. My sister is one of the most talented and creative individuals I know. As a kid I acquired an interest in drawing and art through her, not to mention my dabbling in photoshop and web design. Recently one of our favorite bands announced a come back show. Some of you may know them, their name, Phantom Planet. Best known for their song “California” which still plays every time an episode of the OC comes on TV. None the less, my sister has been in the social media world for a long time and has used her fan girl and artistic ways to reach out to some of her favorite celebrities.
(Please excuse the poor quality of this photo, the lighting wasn’t very good and iPhone’s can only do so much, it captured her excitement at least.)
In this instance, Phantom Planet’s impromptu show sparked inspiration in my sisters brain. She created a beautiful poster for the band’s show. Her artwork of course was based on their last album “Do the Panic” and focused on imagery from their music video for their song with the same name. As a way to showcase her work, she posted the image up on Facebook and tagged the band in it, she also tweeted the picture directly to the band’s Twitter accounts expressing excitement for their show. To her surprise the bassist tweeted her back with gratitude for the beautiful artwork and insisted that they print copies of her poster to sell at their show. Well… my sister could have died happy at that moment and she quickly scrambled back and forth via email to figure out a plan to make this dream a reality.
Unfortunately the time crunch made it too expensive to rush prints of the posters in the quality the band required. They didn’t leave my sister hanging to dry however, they passed on an invitation for her and a guest (myself) to hang around while they did their sound check! Sam (the bassist) welcomed my sister with a printed poster of her artwork and signed it for her. A couple of the other members signed it as well and gave her kudos on how well the piece came out. Sam assured her that he was going to print out copies for each band member and have them framed.
Now isn’t that just a tale of happily ever after? The moral of the story? It is possible to be noticed on social media sites. I know it is a scary thought considering just how many people participate in Twitter and Facebook but your voice counts just as much as the next guy, even with his 100k following. Showing passion, interest and love for something can easily be seen in the social media world. Keep yourself involved.
We all know that Instagram has taken over a huge portion of the social media world. If you aren’t already aware of Instagram here is a quick recap. This application was first created for iPhones as a way to share pictures. When it first appeared on the social media scene many considered the app as a watered down Facebook or a flip flopped version of Foursquare. No one would guess that it would have over 80 million users by August 2012. The ability to add filters to photographs allowed even the least experienced photographers to have a taste of being “artistic”. As its popularity increased companies began to consider the vast reach it could gain by creating accounts. While posting pictures doesn’t apply for all businesses (e.g. B2B or industrial retailers) it has made a huge impact in the retail industry. I’m not talking strictly about big names here. I’ve seen it’s greatest impact in smaller retailers.
Brandy Melville is a Southern California based retailer that I recently came across on a trip to Fashion Island in Newport, CA a few months ago. It’s simplistic beach front look includes worn wooden tables. white picket fence detailing and delicate floral lace hangers that help display the sheer, flowy, feminine clothing that makes the brand.
Instagram has become a place to market yourself, whether it be photography, style, or cooking. Small retailers like Brandy have used Instagram to reach users in a new way. As they say, pictures are worth a thousand words, and for retailers your main goal is to sell your look onto consumers. The impact that it has on users is immense. With 300k followers and product images receiving up to 20,000 likes, it’s easy to see how a companies website can be impacted.
Smaller boutiques are reaping the benefits as well. The utilization of hash tags can direct those who aren’t followers towards your page. Bella Bleu Boutique in Costa Mesa, CA is also known for updating customers about new shipments of clothing and accessories through Instagram.
The fashion industry relies on imagery for promotion and branding. By posting pictures of models wearing their clothing, style inspiration, or even the companies home office and employees you can show consumers what your brand is about while directing traffic to your website.
For as long as I can remember its been “cool” to be different. To stand out amongst your peers whether it be having the latest technologies, knowing how to draw, or having a one of a kind t-shirt. One company that I have been following for the past six years really caught my attention for their use of limited edition products and special events to draw in attention for their products and create an almost cult like popularity for the company. The use of word of mouth and social media marketing which were seemingly unorthodox at the time have helped shoot this company to the top. Johnny Cupcakes is the name and clever graphic t-shirts is the game.
Events like the one pictured above consist of daily exclusives and actual sweet treats like ice cream or cupcakes! The whole premise of the company was worked around an image of a cupcake with crossbones underneath. Just as opposite as those two may seem to be, this company is far from what you’d normally see in terms of retail. Each of their products is considered limited edition. This means products are only made in certain quantities and once they are sold out they are gone for good! With this mentality it is easy to see why customers will often re-visit the site waiting for the next cool graphic to get their hands on. In blatant terms, if you snooze, you lose.
Holidays are especially hectic for this company with limited edition Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas tees released during special events that incorporate Johnny himself interacting with his customers. Lines to purchase one of his tees can stretch around blocks and patrons will wait days in advance to ensure they will be one of the few to rock one of the 500 or so tees that are printed. How can so much hype surround a company that many don’t even know exist? Well Twitter and Facebook seem to play a huge role in spreading the word, along with the blog Johnny frequently updates on his website. Twitter is useful for those who wish to participate in some of the fun events JC holds. Times and locations are often held secret until mere hours before the event is being held. The excitement and uncertainty lead many customers to avidly check Twitter or Facebook for the latest update. Johnny’s blog is what I find the most intriguing. Pictures of new products, events, new store openings and employees give customers a look into who Johnny Cupcakes is and lets you feel a personal connection to the company. Not to mention the fact that Johnny personally updates the blog posts himself.
With a company like this it is necessary to utilize social media. Unlike other clothing brands, JC can be unorthodox in how they distribute new products, some might be scheduled into seasons while others can pop up in a moment of inspiration! You just never know with this company. To keep up with products you are required to be active on social media sites and the company hasn’t missed a beat in keeping customers entertained, stressed out, or even ecstatic over new products being released. With a limited number of brick and mortar store locations online marketing is the only way to reach the vast niche market that JC strives for. This is one company that I believe utilizes social media to its fullest extent and really used it as a gateway into reaching its target market and making it a requirement for participation within the company.