Fashion’s Shifting Paradigm | A Farewell to Lazy Merchants, Irrelevant Offerings & Bloated Markups

live beyond your means

Sorry Antonio– this image is too good, I had to borrow it.  The irony is incredible– “Live Beyond Your Means” on the window of a store that went under.  Says a lot about the retail climate we’re experiencing.

There’s a lot of reactionary “strategy” in motion right now by apparel retailers & wholesalers who are desperately trying to stop the bleeding.  Slash prices, cut inventory levels, homogenize the product, reduce the workforce, cut expenses, close stores– but what’s the long term answer?  The industry is facing unprecedented times– but this didn’t happen overnight, and we only have ourselves to blame.  The industry is finally paying the price for years of over-saturating the retail landscape with too many stores, an excess of irrelevant “me too” brands & products, and in many cases– undeservedly fat markups.  

“The consumer is so well-informed today, they don’t want to be told how to buy and they feel conned and manipulated by big flagship stores, and by the disproportionate margins the brands are making,” Inacio Ribeiro said. “However, the consumer will welcome suggestions, and that is the way forward.”

Fashion’s reliance on ever-lower prices failed last fall, as sale signs shouting 60, 70 and 80 percent off attested. Value is making a comeback across the price spectrum.  –WWD

In short– we got fat, lazy & greedy, as the consumer became more sophisticated and savvy.  Now they are deciding with lethal force who will survive and who will die– and quite honestly, a lot of us deserve to die.

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Ralph Lauren | WWD 2002 Retrospective

 

Having worked at Polo Ralph Lauren from 1997-2001, I am filled with great memories of all the incredibly talented people, the magic of the 650 Madison offices, and most of all– the power of the brand.  Never before or since have I even come close to experiencing anything like it.  When you work for Ralph, you’re definitely part of something much bigger than yourself.  And it’s very true what they say– working for Ralph is like attending Polo University.  It trains your eye and taste level like no other place, and is considered the one of best “finishing schools” in the industry.  Just be strong enough to maintain your own sense of individuality and point of view–  

If everyone has the same exact tastes & opinions– someone is obsolete.

I stumbled across this old May 14th, 2002 WWD Milestones issue that celebrates Ralph Lauren’s history, career & contributions– and thoroughly enjoyed the little trip down memory lane. At the time that it came out I had a much different reaction though. It was not long after I had left Ralph and still struggling with whether I had done the right thing or not– seeing this larger-than-life article was like a punch in the stomach. I remember thinking– what did I do.  Life is good, I’m happy, can’t complain. But I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I had never left. No regrets though. I strongly believe everything happens for a reason, and I truly appreciate all the experiences that I’ve had and the people I’ve worked with– and there’s a lot of good stuff still ahead.

 

WWD Polo Ralph Lauren 1

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DESIGNER or MERCHANDISER?

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I have to be honest, I’m always more than a little dubious when someone coming from a Fashion Director or Merchandise Manager-type post throws his hat into the design ring.  As a Fashion Director at somewhere special like Bergdorf Goodman, you have access to the best menswear labels and goods that the world has to offer, and your playground is one of the tastiest retail environments going.  It’s hard not to look good with those kind of resources at your fingertips.  The question is– can you truly create your own vision?

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michael-bastian

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Fall 2009 Menswear “Inspirations”

So, WWD posted menswear designer’s “inspiration” behind the fashion that’s being/been presented for Fall 2009.  I have to say- yes, some of it is really inspired, some of it is derivative dribble about rock ‘n’ roll, rebels & authentic workwear yada, yada– and some of it is pretty telling in other ways if you read between the lines– something I probably do too much of.  Some of my initial thoughts on the inspirations alone–

Fantasy Fashion League

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