A quick look at the technical side of fashion.
When I hear fashion discussed in Kenyan pop culture fashion is often referred to as something superficial. The inconsequential thing ‘stylish’ people do with clothes, runway shows and make up. In addition fashion is exclusive and not for everyone. Which is incorrect; provided you wear clothes (even ugly ones) you are part of the fashion industry.
Now, of course fashion means different things to different people. And everyone takes on a different role. There are people who drive the fashion engine and for the purpose of this article we will refer to them as fashion experts. These experts go beyond the pretty models, PR people and style bloggers that visit your timelines. The contributors to fashion are numerous, but can be categorized by what they contribute to the industry as a whole.
The core business of a fashion magazine is editorial product – meaning they are the ones that absorb the trends buzzing around, distill and and distribute to the general public. Fashion magazines depend on their creative director and editor in chief to release the best issue they can (every single time). Like every thing else magazines have a hierarchy, with the most sought after sitting at the top.
The designs the magazines place in their editorial spreads significantly contribute to the success of the designer’s new looks. In a way the editorial spread can be looked at as a mass marketing opportunity as well as validation for the designer.
It is important to note that traditions are changing, and there are more voices and activities in fashion – affectionately dubbed fashiontainment (post on fashiontainment coming soon). Therefore there are more voices in fashion that are giving opinions on trends. However, those voices still rely (and thus give ultimate authority to) the seasoned experts at fashion magazines.
Clothing stores have retail buyers, in summary the job of a retail buyer is to analyze markets, learning how to balance inventory and keep accurate records. In fashion analyzing the market requires the buyer to have an intimate understanding of the direction of trends in order to have an edge when predicting what will sell next week, next month and next year.
Negotiation for the retail buyer is not just getting the best deal with the designer but beating other buyers and doing so fast in enough to have it in the store they represent.
So where the magazine gives you the editorial spread that makes you lust after a trend, the buyer is responsible for makings sure you can access that trend.
Obviously they make the clothes. Sounds simple but, it is a strenuous balancing act. In commercial fashion a designer must create clothes that maintain a creative vantage point but also appeal to a big audience and are sensible for mass production. When the pieces are complete they are responsible for putting on a great runway show to display their creations.
In addition, the designers brand has become just as important as their clothing. Therefore, designers must be just as concerned with maintaining their public image as they are with developing their aesthetic.
You get to validate all the choices these people have made every time you walk into a shop and purchase apparel. Your buying power is what lets the fashion experts know if they are on the right track.
It would be naive to deny fashion’s superficial side, but it is not fashion’s only side. Fashion is a multi billion dollar industry that has dedicated participants from artisans to passionate critics; the fashion world stretches further than the pretty models and style bloggers that visit your timelines.
Stay Fashionable XoXo