In the last few weeks, the fashion industry has imploded with news of high profile firings, and store closures. From the termination of Frida Giannini at Gucci, to Rebekka Bay at the Gap, brands on all ends of the spectrum are panicking. Last week the Gap announced the pending closure of it’s Piperlime division, Kate Spade is abandoning their Saturdays and Jack Spade divisions, and Jones New York, an iconic giant in the moderate market decided to give up the fight. All on the heels of C. Wonder shutting down the week before. What does it mean, when the big players decide to pack it in and call it quits?
Throughout the last several years, we have lived in a difficult economy. Retailers blamed poor economic conditions for the state of their business, when not blaming the designer. Anything, to avoid taking responsibility for their own failings. As the financial landscape has improved and consumer confidence has risen, it’s harder and harder to make excuses. Especially multi-million dollar ones. Investors are running out of patience and rescources.
It’s easy to blame the designer, who most think decide what ends up on the racks. In a large retail environment, the buyers, or the merchants in fact call the final shots. The best designed and concieved collection can be rendered unsuccessful when bought incorrectly, or edited and tweaked to the point of losing it’s integrity.
Yes, designers do concieve the creative vision, and execute the product to that end. But once the people with check books get ahold of it, it can often go astray. Analysis paralysis sets in. The mentality tends to be that if we sold a zillion green turtlenecks this year, we should offer 10 green turtlenecks next year. That 78% of the assortment should be in pants, even if it’s a skirt or dress year. We can’t sell blank:(fill in a color or style here.) I could go on and on for days, or perhaps start a Twitter account entitled “S*@t merchants say.”
Dont’ get me wrong. It’s not always their fault, and designers do often design plenty of unsaleable merchandise. Playing the blame game doesn’t solve the problem. What does however, is acknowleging that now, more than ever, it’s time to throw the excuses out the window and forge ahead exploring new ideas and new processes.
The consumer has changed. They are savvier than ever, more exposed to fashion and culture, and things are accessible to people across the globe, all thanks to the wonderful world of the technology. If a drone can deliver to a remote location in the western plains, fast fashion is available to anyone, anywhere.
So what does that mean for the industry?
Perhaps it’s time to think small, and execute big. Ask yourself some hard questions, and think like a start up. What does the consumer want that nobody else is giving them? Where do you fit into the retail landscape where you can be best in class? Find your passion again, and do something with it. Be original and authentic, rather than a “me too.” Dare to follow your gut instinct and have some conviction. Someone once told me that if you didn’t have a little bit of stomach ache when making big decisions, you were probably not making the right ones. During the most successful and fruitful years of my fashion career, I ingested an awful lot of Maalox, and made some pretty damn good decisions to boot. Sadly, that is another brand that rode silently off into the sunset too.
I truly believe that now is the time to embrace an entreprenuerial spirit, and to try to think differently. Those that can do that, will be the big success stories of coming years.
In the meantime, I’ll just set out to change the world, one s’more at a time.
photo: Glasshouse Images
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Tags: C Wonder, change, designers, fashion, fashion industry, Frida Giannini, Gap, going out of business, gucci, Jack Spade, Kate Spade, merchants, Piperlime, Rebekka Bay, retail, Saturdays, the blame game, think small