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Apparel Logistics and Fashion Fickleness - Goodbye Casual Fridays?

vintage-formal-friday.jpgThe trickiest aspects of the apparel business, of course, are the ever-changing whims of consumers. This is true in every industry, of course, but it's magnified quite a bit when you consider all the factors affecting fashion tastes: freshness, trendiness, social and professional acceptance, seasonality, obscurity, fickle personal preferences, and so forth.

Compare clothes to, say cell phones: There are certain differences from one phone to another that different customers may prefer, but the products are standard and few enough that you can generally get broad agreement about which three or four phones are the best available on the market. Try getting a hundred critics to agree on which three or four t-shirts are the best in any given year. Apparel simply plays too large of a role in a consumer's image, expression and sense of self to be reviewed and promoted like most products.

For example, The Wall Street Journal picked up on a sartorial shift going on in many workplaces:

There's a new trend afoot, as reported by The Wall Street Journal: For Fridays, traditional flip-flops and hoodies and jeans are out, apparently — people are eschewing casual wardrobes and dressing like, well ... people from the 1920s (or maybe just hipsters), top hats and all.

It is true, writes Andy Jordan, reporting from San Francisco. Among foosball tables and whiskey and bicycles — the "artifacts of Silicon Valley culture" — he found employees in bow-ties and fancy suits, looking more like extras from a movie about Old Hollywood gangsters than schlubby tech types. They are matching their socks to their watches. They are behaving very strangely, all in a bid for ironic hipness. Formal Fridays aren't just for Silicon Valley tech startups, or The Barbarian Group, the New York digital marketing and creative agency where, in 2004, people stopped being polite and starting dressing up on Fridays. They're cropping up in other places, too. When something hip and trendy begins at a tech startup, it is sure to soon be co-opted by others!

This example highlights an enduring challenge for apparel companies. In addition to the fleeting fads set by the whims of runway fashionistas in New York, Paris and Milan, apparel companies apparently should also be on the lookout for subtle shifts in, er, let's call it "artisanal ironic hipness." The problem is that such trends tend not to conform to typical apparel industry seasons or production schedules, and they aren't set by industry oligarchs. Trendsetters are instead likely to be less famous folks with "indie" cred — artists, musicians, and so forth. Trends also seem more likely to simply bubble up from various bars or coffee shops than to be set, say, by a Pantone panel. And the emphasis tends to be more on the obscure, the throwback or what can be found in gold mines such as mom's closet or estate sales. Indeed, its hard to be visibly ironic when wearing something available to millions of others in nationwide chain stores.

Of course, this environment poses serious fashion logistics challenges to companies who want to target the young creative class — which is indeed a demographic worth targeting. It doesn't only consist of irony-obsessed in urban hipster enclaves such as Williamsburg or Silver Lake. Most such consumers are happy to be near, but only near, the cutting edge, and don't mind a little bit of mass-market tinge to their sartorial choices in exchange for a little bit of convenience and affordability.

Apparel companies just need to stay in tune with what trends are sprouting up from the grassroots and stay nimble enough (especially when it comes to apparel supply chain management) to respond quickly and cost-effectively. At The Apparel Logistics Group, our third party apparel design and merchandising capabilities can keep your company flexible, profitable and free to focus on the aspects of fashion that it does best.

Posted: 1/14/2013 2:27:38 PM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments


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