After four centuries, the fashion realm has descended from the top of the pyramid to embrace the 99 percent. And the 99 percent’s taste is sure to have a tighter focus on the “everyday.”
Business of Fashion magazine founder Imran Amed set the tone for the new year in the magazine’s special “The New World Order” edition with his statement that “2016 will be the year of creative destruction in fashion. We need to destroy what we have in order to reset, refocus and rebuild.”
Amed saw a “broken” fashion industry facing a host of issues, including major shows hanging in the balance, designers’ creativity running dry, and the sudden departures of prominent designers; excessively long apparel production cycles also opened up opportunities for fast fashion, on-line and off-line consolidation retail strategies, sewing doubts about the sustainability of the supply chain environment as the global economy remains mired in sluggishness.
Industry insiders vie to be heard, yet widely agree that the fashion industry, which was built on the foundation of Western lifestyle aesthetics, has not been in such a state of disarray since the birth of ready-to-wear apparel in the 1960s. Still, the greatest rift now exists because consumers have changed.
Youthful fashion more self-centered
Millennials raised in the era of the rapid advancement of the Internet now comprise the mainstream of fashion consumers, whose lifestyles, habits, and consumption patterns differ starkly from those of the previous generation. Accordingly, the characteristic top-to-bottom, dominant communication style that fashion brands are accustomed to adopting has been rendered ineffective.
Reports from the Condé Naste International Luxury Conference held in Seoul, Korea this year indicate that the fashion and beauty industry faces the reality of sluggish consumption, while the young consumer segment’s close connections to technology presents new opportunities.
Chief among the concerns is knowing how to strengthen social connections with consumers via the Internet and mobile devices.
In contrast to conventional luxury brands, the young generation of designers knows how to use social media to communicate directly with their customers – sharing real life moments, personal views, or explaining the concepts behind their works via such tools as Instagram and Snapchat.
Eva Chen, head of fashion partnerships at Instagram, relates that “democracy” is the future of fashion, and that social media provides an ideal opportunity for designer brands and users to share with each other. Chen, an American of Taiwanese heritage, became the youngest member of the Internet generation to head a U.S. fashion media outlet when she became editor-in-chief of Lucky magazine (now defunct) at the age of 33.
The ways in which fashion designers and users can engage in direct dialogue today would have boggled the mind even five years ago.
John C. Jay, Fast Retailing’s president of global creative, relates that the ground-up approach to communication is changing both the face and the hierarchy of the apparel industry, breaking apart a fashion realm once exclusively the property of the wealthy. Now, he says, the time is ripe for fashion to democratize.
China’s consumers pursuing taste
“The day and age in which Asian people accept Western fashion whole cloth is turning around,” remarks fashion observer Kevin Lee, CEO at WE – WestEast Cultural Creativity Groups. From his Taipei office, Lee leads a team of young people collaborating with China’s Tencent to present Kevin’s WestEast Fashion channel. He seeks to see fashion from a Chinese perspective. “People in China are talking about what happens after consumption is elevated and people have the money and capacity. Everyone starts to wonder where the “taste” is, causing massive changes across life and fashion,” he says.
Technology, the Internet and social media have not only changed our lives, but have also completely reshaped the fashion industry. Between the extremes of über exclusivity and popularity, 99 percent of the public comprises the dominant voice in the fashion realm.
The Asia Pacific region is projected to account for 54 percent of the world’s middle class by 2020. With US$14.8 trillion (approximately NT$469.2 trillion) in total consumption as estimated by the Brookings Institute, it is the world’s largest middle-class consumer market.
A report by the McKinsey Global Institute noted that middle class consumption can be found largely across home decoration, clothing and shoes, and food, along with service items driven by consumption power, including food and beverages, hotels and lodging, entertainment, culture, education, and healthcare.
One can imagine how such enormous everyday living business opportunities could change the face of the lifestyle and fashion worlds. And the real living has just begun.
These days, rather than having designers tell them what boutique items to wear, amid the revolution from below, people voice their values and propositions for daily life – and that’s everyday fashion.