June 9, 2010

In a Democratic Fashion...

Suzy Menkes, Head Fashion Editor of the International Herald Tribune, said it best: "The world changed when fashion instead of being a monologue, became a conversation." Whether we like it or not, the explosion of blogs and social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace has changed the fashion industry forever. As everything is accessible right in front of one's own personal computer screen, anyone around the world has access to what is happening in fashion, and everyone gets a say.

Just less than ten years ago, the ins and outs of fashion was dictated solely by industry professionals made up of a handful of magazine editors, stylists, and buyers. However, the times of today has shifted the reigns of power from a few fashion elitists to a wider, younger, Internet savvy audience.

Because blogs are less about dictating and rather more about sharing and encouraging people to voice their opinion, people have become much more used to this outspoken culture, albeit online. Unlike traditional fashion magazines, the unique option of the comment section of blogs creates dialogue between readers and the writer, and are as much part of a blog post than the actual post itself.

We have mentioned before about the new role of bloggers and the whole deal about bloggers versus editors in our earlier post, but we now see that this online community is also slowly changing the attitude of today's customer and thus affecting the role of designers as well.

Makers of Threadless Featured in Inc. via: Think Faest!

With the popularity of blogs and recent rise of online shopping, new types of Internet shopping have emerged in response. Although Threadless.com has been around for over ten years, there are many new similar sites gaining much attention. For those who are unfamiliar with Threadless, it is a site where artists and designers are encouraged to submit their artwork for silkscreened t-shirts and hoodies. The online community votes on their favorite and the winning designs are produced in limited quantities and sold in their online shop. In return, the artist or designer is awarded with a monetary prize of $2,500.

snapshot of one of the current products via: UsTrendy

In a world where everything is a bit more participatory and a free-for-all, websites like UsTrendy.com, Infectious.com, and FashionStake.com are making it easier for designers to get their foot in the door, giving them an online platform to promote and sell work. UsTrendy allows designers to upload their portfolio, gain feedback, and a chance to win money towards production, exposure to fashion week and retailers, and free viral brand marketing. At the same time, fashion enthusiasts are encouraged to vote on their favorite designs and the top choices are developed for production and online sale. Infectious is a similar concept, focusing more on artists to design electronic skins, art prints, t-shirts, and decals.

The FashionStake website is still currently under construction, but their blog describes their site as a "crowdfunding platform for fashion designers." After one logs in to their site, he or she buys a "FashionStake" of $50 toward their favorite designer and in return get free clothes and cash when their designer sells their collection on the site. Their "fan-funded" approach turns customers into supporters, eliminating the need for buyers and retailers.

Sites like these are appealing to both fashion enthusiasts and aspiring fashion designers. From the perspective of a designer, it is a chance for them to showcase their work in a global marketplace without the hefty financial burden. Showing their work on a site supported by fans, they also receive direct criticism and product review, helping them to see what does and doesn't sell. In return, customers feel a sense of power as they help decide what designs are produced. They also have the option to purchase unique items that are not replicated by the masses.

We see a new era in which there is a role reversal of customers directing the next trends instead of the designers. Although we are supportive of these new ideas of shopping, at the same time, we do have a few precautions. Living in a society like today where online tools make it easy for companies and designers to engage with their customers, we believe it is absolutely necessary for customers to have some power in their shopping choices. However, there needs to be a manageable balance between the customer and designer where the power is not too weighed down upon by either side. If customers have too much say, the designers are not being true to their creativity and inspirations, but rather just meeting the demands of their customers. Furthermore, although these sites argue that there is no need for fashion industry experts because the customers choose what they want, we firmly believe that the creativity and innovative ideas of fashion experts cannot be replaced by anonymous individuals. While it is true that today's customers are much more educated than before, it is still a long way ahead till the fashion industry experts are recognized as obsolete.

It is also interesting to note that all of these new online shopping sites are geared toward the younger generation in their teens to late twenties. Because this generation grew up with the Internet at a young age, they are comfortable with it and have learned to excel in it far beyond their parents' generation. Unlike before where trends start from the high end market and trickle down, today's time reveal that it is now this young, Internet savvy generation being the real influencers of technology and innovation. Perhaps Proctor & Gamble should take a hint and look to this younger group for advice concerning their recent uproar in regards to one of their latest baby products caused by unmonitored social networking.

We live in an exciting time where we can nostalgically look back to the times before the Internet while also looking forward to the future as technology continues to drive our culture. More and more, the Internet is creating a shift in lifestyles and changing our industries. What we have highlighted in our blog today is only a small glimpse of where fashion is heading, as the years ahead will surely bring about more new ways of how the industry will move and develop.

1 comment:

  1. Great article ... thanks ... again!


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