The merging of fashion and image creates the look, but
consumers are bloated by luxury and now expect nothing less than luxury when
they even seek ordinary.
High street retail by necessity has risen to the challenge and consequently
it is the middle section of retailers who are losing ground as consumers opt
for cheap and cheerful or top end designer goods.
Fashion one upmanship today, relates to savvy
fashionista consumers having the knowledge and ability to find a better bargain than
a friend through using cheapskate clothing stores.
Copying the look and styling of one celebrity is now outmoded. The
look to achieve is the look of individuality and this is being achieved by
mixing high and low end clothing in the same outfit.
acceptance of low cost retailers as fashion forward enterprises has led to
the rising popularity of UK based stores such as Primark, Matalan and New
Look who provide the lowest of low cost retail clothes shopping and
very often to consumers who can easily afford to pay a lot more.
The sleeping tigers of the east awake and surge forward in the thrall of the
new century. Both China and India flood the western market with well crafted
goods that tempt consumers by their often high quality and low cost. This has
ultimately driven down profits for old high street suppliers. Consumers are
mixing low cost fashion items with luxury top of the range goods. It’s not
unusual in the UK now to see a woman sporting a cheapskate jacket or skirt
(items often under £12) accessorized by a very expensive recognizable, but
exclusive ‘brand label’ handbag at around £500 to £600.
Shopping has become much less precious, yet is also now a competitive activity with waiting lists for
have items. As long as the consumer can find what
they want and actually like it, they will buy a low cost item if it fulfils
their criteria then splurge the
balance of cash on an item they see worthy of long term use.
For example a good handbag often gets that long term daily use and so when
the price is divided by the number of outings the item has it may well work
out far less costly than a pastel suede designer jacket worn only on a
minimum number of occasions. Using the concept of 'wear for wear', the bag may have cost more, but if
at £500 it gets a year of daily wear the purchaser can self justify that it is more valid to spend lots of cash on
the bag purchase than an evening top that is likely to have no more than
half a dozen wearings if that. Bags are
also instantly recognisable so it can be meaningful even to anonymous
According to the Consumer Price Index, in 2005 clothing in UK is now 40%
less costly than it was a decade ago. I've been telling my husband
this for several years!!!
At the turn of the millennium, designer bags were almost
always for the elite with plenty of cash flow. Now it's
commonplace for a woman to own a top range bag such as this popular Dior
detective Bag and wear it with a high
The middle retailers like Monsoon, Laura Ashley, Marks and Spencer and
others are feeling the pinch, but the sales in low cost UK shops and supermarkets
such as Asda (George brand), Tesco (Florence and Fred), TK Maxx, Peacocks,
Primark and New Look are all flourishing.
Compared to the turn of the century in
2000 the low cost sector has jumped a massive 5% to account now for some 20%
of the UK clothing market. This particular clothing market is almost
Many view items bought in such stores as disposable
throwaway fashion. The last time this attitude was popular was
back in the 1960s. Although no longer now active in the UK since May 2001,
then C&A, in the sixties, sold dresses for £3 or so and frankly if it
flopped into a limp rag when it was washed when all the dressing and
starches left it an insignificant worthless textile - the attitude then was
'so what' as long as
it had one good night out.
How do consumers of fast fashion goods see it? Well an item might cost
as little as £10. Rather
than return it if they change their mind many consumers now weigh up wearing
the item a couple of
times if only around the house with the comparative cost involved in time and effort to return an item.
Time is money. It's
virtually impossible to go into your local town without spending at least £5-£10 by the time you have a coffee and pay a car park
or pay for a taxi. Result - £10 is not seen as
a huge mistake, but a £100 item, a 'considered purchase', would warrant a
return journey if the item was only so, so.
It's not only adult fashion sales that Primark in UK are
winning, but also children's wear purchases. Primark is expected to
gain a market share in 2005 along with Next and others. Next is now
the UK market leader in children's wear. Marks and Spencer now sells
less children's wear than Woolworths. Even so the quality and value of
Marks and Spencer children's wear is still outstanding.
Competition for this market is strong among Asda, Tesco,
Next, and Woolworths. Other substantial players include Primark, New
Look, BHS and Peacocks. By its very nature there is an element of
throwaway fashion in the purchase of a garment for a child who as we know
grows rapidly. So purchasing for children at low cost and then the
child wearing it a lot when new, to a couple of weeks later moving onto a
fresh fashion item is important to fashion aware children too. Primark
is wisely making inroads into this market as well as getting a good name for
low cost adult fashion.
In the same way as Topshop has been a long term leader at
creating hot off the catwalk inspired fashion, Primark has suddenly become
great at copying designer catwalk looks.
Sales really made their mark when Vogue featured a snappy
little neat cropped military jacket in the May issue. The jacket that cost
£12 was featured amid designer items that looked rather similar, but at many
multiples of the £12. Now its happening in a wide range of fashion
magazines. Expensive sits next to inexpensive and is given equal
So less expensive, but quirkily stylish items from Primark
the fast cheap fashion shop of the moment, are often mixed with more pocket emptying purchases from
Burberry et al. Primark is a national chain started up in 1969. Last year
sales took off beyond expectations. Primark all but changes
fashion items daily. Associated British Foods the owner of Primark has bought 120
stores that were part of the old Littlewoods cohort. It plans to convert 30 of them into Primark
outlets, increasing by 50% current high street presence.
The fact is most individuals no longer hang on to clothes they don’t want.
Internet image planning advice pages, female forums and also image makeover
shows like What Not to Wear have educated women into clearing out their
wardrobes more frequently, all in an effort to hopefully look younger by
thinking and dressing more youthfully. Only limited numbers of people can recall the clothing rationing of the
1940s and even those who can, hope to never see that happen again.
According to Churchill home insurance the average UK
woman spends more than £31,000 on shoes during her lifetime with most owning
25 pairs in their wardrobe at any one time. Many women claim to own over 30
pairs, but if those women are like me, rather than Imelda Marcos, they wear to death the same few pairs they
love for their comfort as well as appearance.
Owning 10 handbags is the norm for 6 out of 10 women and
some women own more than 25 bags. I did a quick count about my house and found 13,
but frankly I tend to rotate only 4. I’m not sure why I keep the others –
maybe just in case….
One in 5 women are said to keep their purchases hidden
from their partner and just as many lie about their spending. Hmmm I can
believe that fact!
They are certainly economical with the truth and I
have been told by shop assistants more than once, that women will frequently
pay for half a higher priced item with cash and the rest by card. Have
you ever done this?
Creative accounting is alive and well among women everywhere.
changing the way many shop. I'm sure the handbag figures above have
soared as a direct result of internet shopping and eBay auction purchases! The formerly hard to obtain
handbag is now accessible to many no matter where they reside even if it does mean
going on a waiting list.
The Chav Dynamic has also affected consumer purchases in UK. Many women do not wish to follow fashions adopted by Chavs. Nor do many wish to look like the characters in
Footballer's Wives in manners, dress or appearance. The new style icons do NOT include Victoria Beckham, but favour Gwen Stefani and Kate Moss. These latter 2 women have been the fashion role models of young women in UK
for the past year. Aping already jaded pop stars such as Britney or Victoria is considered quite passé.
It has become quite clear to me in the past year on my forum
that Gwen Stefani is much admired for her pleasing inventive fashion sense
and that the 'now viewed as' vulgar fashions worn by some celebrities, really offends many
individuals who feel they have moved on from baring their all. Mischa Barton from the OC is also
fancied as the next media style icon. Desperate Housewives lead in the new style stakes for the Ms 40 something fashion role models.
It may seem hard for some to believe, but since she
married Prince Charles the heir to the British throne earlier this summer, the new
Duchess of Cornwall’s wardrobe has been attracting attention from a variety
of fashion editors.
Since she and the Prince of Wales visit the United States
for their first official foreign trip in fall 2005 the bet is on that she
will wow her audience with some understated, but stunning autumnal ensembles. Her
favourite hat designer is the renowned Philip Treacy.
Now that fashion is many faceted with so many choices there is a look for
everyone. Stylish women know that beauty is nothing compared to impact. Think of women
who have stunned in the past and you will soon realise how likely the Duchess of
Cornwall will slortly have a flock of fashion followers just as the former
Princess of Wales, Diana did.
Thongs now thought to be strongly associated with chavs have become instantly passé as sales have fallen by a whopping 20% in the last year. Being associated with chav tendencies is
the last thing someone aspiring to appear classy wants. Only a small group of women mainly 25-35 year olds now favour them and younger teens and older women consider them naff.
One major factor here is
that many women have simply found them far too uncomfortable for long term
wear and larger boy shorts have found new fans. Many women disregard others
and have simply continued to adore their Bridget Jones knickers. Men
may not much like them, but after all who wears the
pants – the man or the woman.
As an aside to that, women purchase feel
good luxury lace underwear especially for the bedroom. Balconette
uplift bras are frequently referred to as the 5 minute bra by those who sell
them, because that is about how long most stay on. Now the trend to
move to more ladylike wear is also being noticed in the abandoning of over
the top literally push up bras with everyday ordinary clothes, when they are
intended to draw attention rather than give the right type of foundation
line to the top clothing.
And belly buttons are now not even passé, but totally
beyond the pale as the more ladylike look emerges. Crop tops are now
equally taboo. Tans are also out of fashion.
Autumn has a beatnik air and for this you need pastel pale make up. Should you decide to wear the beatnik look you
will spoil the dramatic effect of ghostliness intended.
No need to be a slave to fashion concentrate on looks that you like and that
suit you and you’ll be comfortable with yourself whilst not looking
ridiculous. There is nothing worse than adopting a new fashion fad simply
because everyone else does. Think function and personal suitability for 80%
of your wardrobe and just think of the rest as experimental now fashion
pieces that add a twist you can manipulate to your own sense of style.
Those that don't clear their wardrobes can adopt the attitude of shopping from
their own clothing racks.
staples like exquisite cashmere knits or a great basic white top and
well cut trousers or jeans and a snappy this season jacket are important because these are often the items
your hand reaches for when you open the wardrobe door.
Invest now at the start of autumn in a really good classic suit of the new
season. It will be pain free dressing and make it a winner in black, or
choose other dark colours like navy, greyed claret, pewter or olive green.
All are practical and suit urban life. If the suit feels easy and good
on, you'll soon find it pays for itself wear for wear. Look carefully
at the 1950s and 1960s collar styling on jackets and coats. Mandarin
collars are this season's choice as are oversized revers and fur trims.
Belted coats and jackets are also currently fashionable so
look out for the great short kimono wool coat with wrap belt Marks and
Spencer has in its Limited
Collection at just £80.
Belted coats are great if you have a waist, but if you are like me and don't
like your thicker waistline you’ll
probably leave that belt off or just leave it hanging. How often do you
really do up a jacket anyway. The dress with bracelet sleeve jacket
is a tour de force and remember wearing Cashmere over silk underwear means the
wearer exudes quiet confidence.
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