Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Azzedine Alaia - Arts of Fashion Foundation Hyeres

Yes yes yes I know I have been way to occupied on other things to write up more but hopefully this week provides some relief in being able to pay attention to my blog.
Been an interesting week all round betwixt catching up with much needed sleep and the latest SS 2009 collections it has been interesting looking at the way we trade in a recession (oops I said that darn word) and the way we adapt (or die) in this exceptionally cold retail climate.

Anyone who tells me that fashion retail is doing exceptionally well is either under the influence of some cheap intoxicant or firmly messed up by their own sense of distorted reality. For those of us that have retail outlets I think we are all finding it hard to sell to clients who are tightening up their budgets akin to Alaia dresses.The only people that seem to find our prices acceptable and reasonable seem to be the foreign guests in our city. Even some of these foreigners seem to think shopping in Cape Town is similar to the haggling that goes on in Bangkok or Hong Kong.......whilst some of us may have to resought to this I find it condescending in the extreme and choose not to be a participant of this type of transaction..........

There are great things that I find have come out of this slump........I think that the average consumer is being far more discerning and that they are shopping around for value for money. I find more consumers are becoming hooked on quality as opposed to buying something which is not manufactured well or priced reasonably. Trust me even my local gals are impressing me by knowing the difference of silk based fabrics and bias cut dresses so that's a great start. Those who peddle polyester dresses under the guise of being 100% silk beware! Having a label in one's garment is not good enough.....it must stand the test of time by living up to the values and qualities it espouses. This is the time for differentiation and taking the time to improve one's marketing and retail skills. Whilst the rest complain and drink endless coffees lamenting the current state of affairs I think it is better spent on finding suitable avenues of revenue which complement one's existing business. This might also mean that this is a good time to explore international distribution as long as you can deliver a product which is unique, well made and well priced. More importantly I think this is the time that one should get out of the office and hit the streets to find out what's really happening out there.

Often as designers we sit back and work in the safe confines of our studios without an understanding of the reality out 'there'. I am not sure we are able to identify our potential market or the future customers if we don't get to know their needs. Getting to grips with the current market slump is important as it equips us with dealing with situations like this in the future and will possibly assist in adapting to market needs in the prevailing conditions. Maybe too many silk chiffon dresses are not what people are looking for out there? Maybe the gingham shirt shirt will not be the most wanted item in this season's wardrobe.........maybe those origami detailed dresses are going to end up in smoke......? Consumer feedback is important and more then that will assist in building your customer profile which enables you to design product that caters for them rather then alienate them.
This is the time to balance creativity with astute commercial sense......its necessary and a must to survive the months ahead.............there is no shame in cutting back or trying to prevent loss of income - rather that then complete ruin.
I find myself consulting to many brands who overlook minor elements of their business that can assist in generating revenue.........my advice to all those writing to me is think laterally and think smart.......sometimes its not the big changes but the minor one's that have the biggest impact in your business...................hang in there we all in it together!

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