Fashion imposes trends and it establishes what is in fashion and what is out of fashion. The term comprises a historical evolution that has shaped the fashion industry as we know it today, through cultural interaction and scientific and technological development. Luxury fashion is not a basic need of the society, but a requirement for defining the social classes, the refinement and sophistication, or a statement of uniqueness, of avant – garde, of defying the mainstream fashion.
Key Words: fashion, luxury fashion, social classes, refinement, avant – garde, mainstream fashion.
Luxury Fashion Industry Report
1.1 Fashion Industry (about industry, some historical facts etc.)
As Mark Twain said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society” (“Fashion”, 2012, p. 1). With this, the writer synthesizes the significance of fashion on people’s everyday life. More than a basic need, fashion has become an industry, serving people’s tastes and imposing trends. In fact, the concept of fashion itself implies trends and refers to change, determining what is “in fashion” or “out of fashion” (Pratt, Barrione, Lavanga & D’Ovidio, 2012, p. 2), being a complex value system that define the cultural and social emergencies of societies, but also people’s socio – economic status and their likes and dislikes in terms of fashion.
The history of fashion goes way back in prehistory, when Cro – Magnon man designed clothing from animal skins, tree components or foliage to protect himself from cold (around 50.000 BCE); from the BCE era were also discovered signs of fashion in Northern Russia, where a male skeleton dating from 26.000 – 20.000 BCE was found wearing intensely decorated beaded garments or in Mesopotamia (3500 – 75 BCE), where are indications of luxury fashion, employing linen and wool as a form of expressing the aristocratic status; the ancient Greeks had a great significance on fashion, by perfecting the three dimensional garment; later on, the Roman Empire set the trends in fashion, influencing the fashion of Italian Renaissance or of Chinese Tang Dynasty; in the Middle Eve, however, the Byzantine Empire imposed its style on the Western Europe’s fashion, while discovery of new territory facilitated the exchange of clothes, among other goods; around 1400 Burgundy and Italy became the centers of fashion, but the taste for fashion expanded from country to country through travels or imitation, from the kings and queens to simple people; history, science and industrialization played a huge role on fashion evolution, making it an industry, wherein factories were producing clothing in mass because of the technological advancement. The luxury fashion emerged around 1700 in European cities; later on, in 1867 appeared the first fashion dedicated magazine – Harper’s Bazaar, published in New York and Paris; the sizing appeared as a fashion requirement around 1880 and later on, in 1895 the accessories became considered fashion, when Swarovski was founded. In the 18th century the first luxury brands emerge (Paul Poiret, Louis Fancios Cartier, Mariano Fortuny, Doucet, Prada, Coco Channel, etc.); along time new materials and innovative cuttings or couture were designed to complement people’s bodies or hide their imperfections and to fit their activities (Sterlacci & Arbucke, 2008, p. 15 - 35).
Nowadays, the emergence of the shopping centers and of internet has leaded the world in a consumerism era, where fashion is a statement of social class, of socio – economic status and of personal style, ranging from low price to mainstream and luxury fashion.
1.2 Vision/mission statement
The current paper aims to produce a report about the fashion industry, highlighting the luxury fashion, while discussing about trends, players on this market, the economic climate on the market in UK and while creating a SWOT analysis and a Porter five forces analysis. The fashion industry will be also addressed as potential employer and from this perspective there will be discussed the responsibilities and the suitability for working in this industry. The paper will also treat the gap analysis, focusing on experience and results weakness and on visual merchandising experience.
1.3 Economic Climate on the market in UK
UK’s economy is very much influenced by the global economy, because of its economic international relationships at a global level. Nevertheless, United Kingdom’s economy manages to remain outside the European crisis, because it is not part of the Eurozone, not being pressured by the economic strategies that the European powers apply in order to escape the economic and debt crisis, such as increasing the debts and the interest rates or creating political unions for developing mutual monetary policy that might have different impacts on the participant countries’ economies (Warner, 2013).
The austerity that hit Europe and did not avoid UK allowed for the increase of the services sector to reboot its economy because of its consecutively eight – month increase in April 2013. The services sector, which encompasses three quarters if the country’s economy, leads UK to a stabilization of the economy, which is sustained also by the manufacturing and construction segments, which also give signs of recovery and stability (Clancy, 2013).
Nevertheless, UK’s employees are in precarious employment, which means that their employers maintain their jobs, although they are under-utilized, making it a risk for 2.3 million English employees to lose their jobs (Hurley, 2013).
This economic context gives mixed signs of recovery, making UK’s people careful wit their spending. In terms of fashion, however, an increase in the mainstream segment is visible. Therefore, the precaution has driven consumers more closely to the mainstream brands while redirecting them from luxurious fashion brands. As such Primark registered 44% profits in the last six months until March (Sembphy, 2013) but this does not imply that luxurious fashion is unreachable. The big houses luxury fashion (Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Goccu, Louis Vuiton, etc.) reported high sales and profits because of the emerging markets, especially China (Neate, 2013). Nevertheless, the recession does show a general decline of the luxury market and the UK luxury fashion companies adopt an attitude of caution and a certain concern that the economy will not be supportive until the end of 2014 (Santi, 2013).
1.4 Market Share, Competitors in UK
Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, John Galliano, Paul Smith or Vivienne Westwood are just few of the most famous UK fashion luxury brands and designers. Although the luxury fashion brands are very en – vogue and impose trends, the literature is still very poor on this subject. These are the main domestic players in the British luxury fashion, but they share the luxury market with international luxury brands such as Armani, Versace, YSL, Gucci, Prada to name a few.
The avant – garde, houte couture, nonconformist trends, sophistication, refinement, fine tatses, describe the luxury brands and a sense of challenging the fashion. In the current period, the UK luxury shoppers are orienting more towards the young designers, as Jonathan Saunders or Henry Holland, preferring the feminine, floaty couture, which seems to define the British designers’ collections. A luxury fashion report, however, indicates a descendant trend in luxury shoppers to spend on luxury brands, down with 14% in 2011 (“2011 Spends Sights”), although the iconic British brands (Mulberry, Alexander McQueen or Burberry) reported “storming sales”, being “recession proof” (“Luxury Shopping, 2012”). Although a worldwide luxury fashion trend consists in the fact that half of this market’s enthusiasts are men, sharing the consumerism crown with the ladies, more experienced in fashioning, the UK luxury market exhibits a 31 % downfall of men’s luxury fashion enthusiast and men seem to decrease their spending on casual wearing also, with 17 % in 2011 (“2011 Spend Sights”).
1.6 SWOT Analysis
The strength of the luxury market is that it imposes nouveau styles, breaking the limitations of the mainstream fashion, which captures followers who want to be different, to be trend setters and to tell the others something about their economic status and also about their original style. However, the prices of the luxurious fashion brands seem to be the biggest weakness of this market, but in fact is not actually a weakness, because this market targets a certain category of customers (end – shoppers, fashion elitist), who afford the high prices of being ahead of the fashion. The prices, however, currently represent a weakness for the luxury designers, because the actual economic context (economic and debt crisis) affect this market, which is visible through the drop down of their profits. The luxury designers and fashion houses have the opportunity to develop research in this period, in order to predict what the customers would like, so that after the economic recession to give them what they did not know that they desired, surprising them with the irresistible fashion lines, which will become more affordable, once the crisis will end. The threat of the mainstream brands is the main cause of concern for the luxury brands. This recession period allows the shift of former luxury brands shoppers to mainstream brands, which are gaining more field and market share in the fashion land.
1.7 Porter's 5 forces
Customer’s bargaining power, the threat of new entrants, the threat of substitute products, the supplier’s bargaining power and the competitive rivalry are Porter’s five forces that describe the competition within an industry (Porter, 1998, p. 6).
In the luxury fashion industry, the customer bargaining power will decide on what brand to choose; the suppliers force might challenge the luxury brands with their demands for the primary goods required for the haute couture designs; currently, the force of substitute products is evident, as the mainstream fashion takes from the luxury’s fashion market share; likewise, new entrants on the luxury market trigger luxury shoppers’ curiosity and they are a threat for the existent luxury brand, as their market share will diminish once a new competitors enter a market; the luxury brand is highly competitive and the existent rivalry is obvious, with international, and local UK brands fighting over market share, making consumers stronger as they have more options to choose from;
2. Groups of preference
2.1 Job description (what Luxury Brand management do and responsible for what?)
Luxury brand management implies an understanding of the luxury fashion market and the ability to quickly respond to this market’s needs. It implies profound knowledge of sophisticated and refined tastes, of the aristocratic lifestyle, which refers to knowing the targeted market. Luxury brand managers must be well informed about their target audience lifestyle, in order to be able to predict what outfits they would require, for what kind of activity and through planning, requiring certain clothes and accessories, harmonizing the lines and analyzing what it will sell and what will not sell (Chevallier & Mazzalovo, 2012, p 58).
2.2 Suitability (Why you think you are suitable?)
I consider that my passion for luxury fashion and my continuous interest on this market (which implies analyzing the luxury fashion trends, going to fashion shows, or reading the magazines and), but also my ability to understand the market from the socio – economic context, plus the fact that I have been studying for three years the luxury fashion branding in an academic context, makes me suitable for working in this industry. I would be an asset as a brand manager in luxury fashion, because of the ability to read in the global and domestic socio – economic environment and to forecast the trends in fashion, predicting what the luxury brands’ clients would need, for what events, depending on the macro – economic context.
3.1 Experience and Results
While applying for luxury fashion employment, a big focus for me and for the potential employers is on experience and the results obtained while working in this industry. The industry is looking for experienced professionals with continuous demonstrated interest in this segment. The fact that I have not been yet employed as a luxury fashion brand manager does raise certain challenges for me to obtain such a position in a luxury fashion brand. For answering this challenge, I prepare elaborated strategies and action plans for the employers, demonstrating that although I have no working experience as luxury brand manager, I can gain it easily and obtain impressive results for the company.
3.2 Visual Merchandise experience
In addition to my critical analysis and brand management abilities, another plus for me to be working in the luxury fashion is my previous experience as visual merchandising. In this position, I have learned the significance of visual displays for attracting the customers and for stimulating the sales. I emphasized the brand that I was working for, through shelving strategies (moving merchandise, applying fixtures, designing attractive signs with a permanent focus on the quality of the exposed visual elements). I have also developed inventory management skills, which will be an asset for the planning role that a brand manager must accomplish in the luxury fashion.
This paper has elaborated on the history of fashion, on the current trends and economic environment that influence the UK luxury fashion market, on the competitors in the UK luxury fashion as well as it developed a SWOT and the Porter’s five forces analysis of the luxury fashion from UK. The paper has combined the information about the UK market with the personal career prospects in luxury fashion, as brand manager. The paper revealed that although luxury fashion passes through a slight decrease in UK because of the still felt economic crises, the interest and the passion for luxury brands is classic and the shoppers will not loose their sophisticated, apart tastes for fashion and in this context there will be a permanent need of competitive professionals prepared to boost this market.
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