Mass Market Fashion - Think Tank Article written by Apparel Search

Fashion Think Tank 

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Recently I received a question from an Apparel Search viewer about mass market fashion.  When submitting their comments, the viewer had unfortunately forgotten to list their e-mail address.  Therefore, I will write a response in the form of a Think Tank article.  Hopefully, this viewer will return to the Think Tank section and find my response below...

Comments from Jill (Jill with no e-mail address ...)

"What is your opinion about mass market fashion? We've all bought the 'disposable' items time and time again but is the feeling now that the consumer wants quality over quantity? Are people opting for classic investment pieces rather than fashion fads that seem to go out of fashion almost as soon as you get them home? Let me know what you think. Jill x"

My response ...

My official opinion is that the world is diverse...  Some consumers are concerned with quality, some with classic design, some with price and some with all of the above.  Mass merchants try to appeal to the masses (the majority), and the fashion boutiques attempt to appeal to the taste level of the fringe.  Specialty shops are typically smaller scale and have the ability to focus on the specific needs of each individual shopper.  Mass merchants on the other hand, are faced with the ever changing fashion landscape.  As you have stated, fashion fads seem to go out of fashion almost as soon as you get your clothing home.  Therefore, how is it possible for a fashion boutique or a mass merchant to maintain stock levels of the most "current" fashion?  It is only current for approximately 3 minutes... Note: In my opinion, consumers should purchase clothing every five minutes in order to stay in fashion (I only say this because it is important for Apparel Search that the fashion industry does well...)

My unofficial response ...

The modern world is one filled with disposable "everything".  From the products we purchase to relationships that we build.  It is evident that society has been trained that disposability is acceptable.  If it is fair for couples to end their marriages before death do they part, why shouldn't fashion cycles end equally as fast?  Although I like to think that fashion is the most important element in the universe, I must be practical and understand that clothing will be treated in the same regard as most other products.  When consumers are throwing out expensive cell phones because this months model has a snazzy new ring tone, I image that they are equally prone to trashing their "coffee bean colored" t-shirt for this months darker shade of "mocha coffee bean colored" t-shirt.  In regard to the quality of the shirt, it is debatable whether or not the consumer cares.  The age-old question remains, is the consumer purchasing the silk blouse due to the hand of the fabric, garment color, stitch quality, or the silhouette?  It is hard to calculate what is going thru the consumers mind (unless you do a survey, which many retailers wisely do...)  

As a clothing manufacturer, is it possible for me to sell shirts to Wal-mart for a few dollars and sell a similar shirt with a designer brand label to a fashion boutique for several times the price?  The answer is yes absolutely.  Is it possible, that I am using the same yarn count of ringspun combed cotton for both shirts?  The answer again is absolutely yes absolutely.  Can the fabric be the same weight?  The answer is yes absolutely.  Is it possible that the colors are the same?  The answer is yes.  If that is the case, why the price difference?  Well, consumers of clothing are human.  People do in fact get caught up in fashion fads, designer labels, peer pressure, you name it...

To get back to the original question, I am not sure if consumers are really looking for quality over mass production.  In reality, it is really hard to differentiate between the two.  I can honestly tell you that I have seen amazingly high quality garments in Wal-mart (mass produced) and have seen a lower quality in very expensive fashion boutiques (limited production runs).  As a consumer, one must find one's own balance between quality, fashion fad, and price.  My personal opinion, buy product that you enjoy based on your own perception of fashion... Do not buy because a particular designer put their stamp on it. 

Old jeans here, old shoes there...  Oh, I have a smudge on my shirt.  I better toss it in the garbage and buy a new one.  Well, if I have a new shirt, I most certainly need new pants and a belt.  And you better not expect me to buy those Tommy Hilfiger jeans because that was so last year...

Article written May 2006

If you have thought provoking ideas that are relevant to apparel or textiles, please share your ideas with the Apparel Search Think Tank.

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