February 23, 2012

The Changing Landscape

As we have discussed before in our blog. “Once Upon A Boutique,” there is a rapid shift driven by technology and cultural change developing as newness, excitement, uniqueness, and digital progress revolutionize. Without a doubt, the fashion industry has definitely begun to step out from behind the shadows of other industries and acknowledge this change in societal standards. From traditional catalogs and shopping malls to a digital age of online shopping, apps, reality television and innovative store concepts, it’s time to move forward but what’s next?

Collaborations with designers have become modus operandi since H&M first exposed the retail sector to this new approach to merchandising. Target remains a huge leader in the industry as it continually experiments with new concepts including its Go International program not to mention numerous standalone designer collaborations including the likes of Jason Wu and Missoni. A few weeks ago, we discussed in our February MBF Picks how Target has announced the introduction of Apple centers in some of its stores later this year as well as the launch of "The Shops at Target" starting sometime in May.

photo via wwd.com

Major department stores have jumped on the collaboration bandwagon as well by teaming up with contemporary labels to create exclusivity, opportunity and appeal in an over-saturated market. Most recently to launch is Bloomingdale’s with ABC Family's series Jane by Design, Alberta Ferretti for Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Nanette Lepore and Lord & Taylor who is offering a selection of capsule collections by designers such as Yoana Baraschi and the label Z Spoke. What's most interesting is, both Bloomingdale's and J.C. Penney are strategically reaching out to a teenage market that is typically more label pretentious to help gain marketshare.

video via yotube.com

Speaking of collaborations, Macy's, H&M, and Saks seem to be following directly in suit as NBC's new show, Fashion Star debuts next month. The reality based competition takes contestants comprised of boutique owners and designers alike and presents them to buyers from the three fashion companies to choose as the next major fashion brand. Sound familiar? Well remember imitation is flattery Target, so keep up the good work!

From paper to platform, both Urban Outfitters and Gap are integrating technology into traditional print services to help drive sales. While Urban Outfitters continues to send catalogs via the mail, this February's edition experiments with QR codes located on each page that can be scanned by cellphones to watch a behind the scenes making of the catalog. Meanwhile in an effort to attract style points, Gap partners up with AKQA to promote the digital catalog, Styld.by, where fashion experts from FabSugar, Lookbook.nu, and Refinery29 are featured incorporating Gap's clothing into their own personal style.

As streetwear and personal style blogs take over the online fashion universe, who doesn't love to shop the streets? Well, with the new app, Kaleidoscope, which partners with modelinia.com, you now can! Using your smartphone you can literally shop both editorials and street style blogs and purchase whatever you fancy! While the app has only been released to Android users, iPhone and iPad versions are expected to be released soon!

photo via The NY Times

Mall culture is drastically vanishing into the unknown as more and more stores empty out of these mass retail communities. What once was a common place for compulsive shoppers and the latest and greatest goodies, has turned into a retail nightmare of bankruptcy and vacant real estate. In an effort to survive, new tenants have moved in to rent out space that range in everything from schools to medical clinics, government centers, aquariums, casinos, and even churches. Some malls which have such little traffic are being reconstructed into more useful commodities like vegetable gardens, golf courses, housing, or even town squares as people seek to shop in less overwhelming environments.

photo via WWD.com

While the mall community may be disappearing, a few companies do have some solutions on how to revitalize it as independent shops sprout up across the U.S. J.Crew has the idea as they launch their Ludlow Shop this month inspired from their ever popular Ludlow men's suit. The hair salon, Fringe, located on the Lower East Side has had major success compared to the copious amount of mega-salons across the city by offering individualized services, hair savvy advice, and an international product range. Hope is on the horizon, just in a smaller dosages!

photo via Shag-xia.com

So where are all these retailers going? Why moving out West towards the Asian market of course! From high to low, everyone from Gap to Esprit, Alexander Wang, Piazza Sempione, and Elie Saab have already made efforts to expand later this year. Not to mention Sonia Rykiel was just bought out by Hong Kong based Fung Brands and Hermes' Chinese luxury brand Shang Xia plans to open its first store in Paris towards the end of this year.

As the traditional catalog is reinvented, groundbreaking collaborations ensue between Apple and Target among many others, fashion game shows grow in popularity, new apps develop, future malls get a makeover and retailers emphasize on building stronger relations with Asian markets, it's not only about what we sell but how. The mid-market is definitely showing signs of being shaken up as an onset of a new generation, a new consumer, and new demands infiltrate the marketplace. From newness to nowness, everything is at our fingertips and it's all happening NOW. Life isn’t like it used to be as unpredictable weather, an unstable economy, and an ambiguous future loom, but maybe it’s for the best. It’s about time we all get a little change of scenery, don't you think?

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