Today nobody questions the role and importance of fashion, and everybody’s continuous engagement with it as natural fashion consumers. It has become and integrated and important part of our lives, and just during the last 10 years much has happened mainly thanks to media. Most of us take dressing according to our tastes and values for granted, and it’s a clear sign that we have our basic needs covered, and have reached the top level of Self-actualization in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Because this is exactly what fashion is about: self-realisation, and self-expression, which are directly linked to our identity, and especially to young fashion consumers, this is something ultra important. It’s also the epitome of why fashion isn’t superficial – identity never can be.
During our lives, our relationship to fashion changes. When we’re kids, we pay less attention to fashion, a part from some very strong desires rooted in us about especially what colours and types of garments, we want to wear. From the age of 3-4, little girls want to wear pink, red, and purple dresses and skirts, and only a couple of years after also make-up and high heels. This may be different in other cultures with other traditions and role models, but it’s an example about how strongly we feel about, what we put on our bodies.
For Tweens, Teenagers and 20-year-olds, this self-expression becomes even more pronounced. It’s during these 10 years or so that our interest in our own style is at its maximum level, and after that, it probably decreases slowly and at a steady pace during the rest of our lives, or stays at a stabile level. By then, people will have found their own personal style, and mainly wish to maintain a good wardrobe and continue to dress according to their rooted values. When major things happen in their lives, people – especially women – will be inclined to change hairstyle or colour or dress slightly different.
Two years ago, the supercool company, The Future Laboratory, wrote a report about the luxury market, and how peoples’ taste and aspiration change, as we become more sophisticated (educated, cultivated, wealthy), and I would add also older. Stage 1 starts as the least sophisticated with more obvious brands as Gucci, LV and Bvlgari and the logo-mania that comes with them. As we move throughout the stages increasing in sophistication, less and less actual fashion brands find their way into the list, and we end up having mainly Edun, Aesop and quality wine.
If we conclude that the group of consumers most eager to consume fashion are the 11 – 25-year-olds, the young fashion consumers, which is a period of life, where most people study, then why is much of the fashion we see so expensive? To this there are many related reasons:
- New designers face two issues; first of all, it’s expensive for them to produce small quantities, and secondly they don’t want to be perceived as less valuable than established premium brands. In consequence, many new brands aren’t cheap.
- Established premium and luxury brands have budgets to pay for much media coverage, and this make it seem like they’re everywhere. They collaborate with IT-girls, brand ambassadors and bloggers, which amplify the effect of being everywhere.
- Premium and luxury brands need their high-end ranges of goods in order to sell less expensive items such as sunglasses, perfume and make-up, which make up most of the revenue for most luxury brands. In fashion, this is called the Trickle-down effect, when you aspire to something, and buy the small part of the dream, which you can afford.
- With the media craze of social communities and image sharing, it seems like everybody are constantly at fashion week in Paris and always wearing expensive and new designer goods. This is not the case; some people do get more coverage, which isn’t the ‘New Normal’. The Internet also gives a more glamourous version of reality, and not everything you see on Instagram is real – from peoples’ retouched abdominals to fake designer bags.
Not too long ago, a 20-year-old friend of mine told me, how she found most of the upcoming designers too expensive for her budget. Only once had she experienced a new designer launching a range of t-shirts at a relatively low price, and she had instantly bought one, as an exciting alternative to the high-street brands, she usually wore. As breaking through as a new designer is not very easy, this could be an opportunity. First of all, you position yourself differently from most other newer brands, and secondly you target a consumer group so eager to spend on fashion. Perhaps this is not a bad strategy for upcoming designers?