Updated: Aug 22, 2022
What is Fashion?
In the words of Oscar Wilde ‘a fashion is merely a form of ugliness so absolutely unbearable that we have to alter it every month’!
Collins dictionary describes Fashion as ‘a style of clothing or way of behaving that is popular at a particular time’.
What are the Principles of Fashion?
How do I decide my fashion business inventory?
How to decide what to stock in my store/boutique?
Fashion follows a pattern, it moves through cycles and repeats itself: We find fashions repeating themselves every 10-15 years. The wide-legged pants of 2021 find resemblance in the bell-bottoms of 80s, parallel pants of 2000s & Culottes of 2015s. Although there are always variations in additional features like waistlines, colours and coordinates; you can not miss the similarities in the silhouettes.
Fashion is evolutionary in nature and very rarely revolutionary: Most recent example would be the straight leg denims in 2017 that evolved into the slim lines of 2018/19, finally culminating into skinny and super skinny in 2020. Similarly, we have seen the trends intensifying every year in asymmetrical styles starting from side plackets a few years back to contrast legs in 2021. So a fashion feature keeps evolving season after season, till it reaches a stage where it can no longer be manifested into wearable clothing and then goes into oblivion for a few seasons.
Fashion ends in excess: We have all been there at some point of time where we spent a whole day commuting the length of the city, fighting traffic & fatigue to buy that one piece of clothing that was only available at a select store, in a select location; only to find it hanging in every store in your neighbourhood market, couple of years later…..and yes at quarter of the price you bought it for! Of course, you don’t want to wear it any more!
Prices , sales promotions….. Cannot change the direction of fashion: I am sure no one can make you buy a ‘pale pink’ tunic in 2021 even if it is made in the best of fabrics, delicate lace edgings and selling at half of last year’s price. Unless you have reasons to work-from-home this year as well OR you can tactfully hide it under your new striped jumper. Once a trend for a particular colour or silhouette is gone...well, it is gone. No one would be interested in it, even if you were painfully saving up for the same last season!
Customers dictate styles by accepting or rejecting what is offered: Not everything that is suggested on the ramp sells well. Of all the styling features predicted for the next season; some become an instant hit, while few are outrightly rejected by the customers. While pleated skirts and silk/satin tops became a religion in 2019, popcorn sweaters could not gain attention as expected. So. It's always a bit of a lottery for the retailers. While they stock, whatever is forecasted; there's always a possibility of dead-inventory at the end of the season.
What will be in Fashion this / next season?
Fashion is forecasted almost 2 years ahead of the season
So if spring-summer 21’ styles are selling in stores at the moment….
Autumn-winter 21’ inventory is being shipped to warehouses…
Production houses in Asia are already busy cutting and sewing for spring-summer 22’...
Design houses are already decoding autumn-winter 22’ styles…
… and fashion leaders are busy putting together forecasts for spring-summer 23’!
Fashion forecasting is a well-laid out process in the industry. Fashion & colour forecasts are produced regularly by industry leaders like Vogue & Dupont. While these documents are available only to paid members 2 years in advance (because that is when production houses need them & of course they pay for it); they are made available to the general public at least 6 months to one year ahead of the season. Retailers should take cues from these forecasts available online and take informed decisions about the colors, styles and silhouettes to be stocked. This can go a long way in reducing dead-stock / unsold inventory that accumulates business losses.
What should I consider to be in the Business of Fashion?
Want to be in the Business of Fashion? Think about….
Product/services- market assessment, forecast fit, catalogue/collection, sizing standardisation: What are the product or services you want to offer? While retailing clothes and accessories remains the biggest slice in the fashion business pie, the clothing industry offers a variety of other business opportunities. Apart from the famous design & styling services, the fashion industry runs on a host of other services like alterations & fittings, drape stylists, recycling & upcycling products, wardrobe curation, virtual wardrobes, wardrobe warehousing, heirloom management to name a few. So look into your strengths and skills and find your niche. Once you have made up your mind about what you want to sell, think of the next steps!
Additionally, you will need to keep a keen eye on what is expected to sell in the upcoming season and map the forecast with your customer’s requirements in terms of sizing and other practical limitations. So, while the forecast is aggressive about fur coats, you could not possibly invest your money in this inventory if your target customers usually look for low-maintenance clothing. Also, there is no point stocking the right inventory in the wrong sizes. So make an advance survey of your prospective customers and get educated about their size requirements.
Business structure- point of sale, exclusive online store, marketplaces, social selling, omnichannel: Now that you have decided what you want to sell, decide upon the business structure. You could be direct selling (point of sale), launch your online store / e-commerce Website, sell @ marketplaces like Amazon or sell at social media channels. Remember, there is no single right or wrong answer here. You could choose any of these channels depending upon the feasibility of your product / service that you want to sell…..or even better, go Omnichannel! Most businesses today operate from more than one structure, rather create their presence online as well as offline through the above-mentioned mediums.
Marketing and sales - branding and positioning, pricing structure, marketing strategy: After deciding the first two, you need to have a well-laid out marketing plan for your proposed business. While brand building is the first step, you will have to position your brand in the right way so that you can connect with relevant audiences. Also, you will have to decide your pricing strategy, taking into consideration your USP and the prevailing trends in the industry. So make detailed notes about
Who is your end customer?
How do you reach out to her/him?
What are her/his demographics & psychographics?
Make a detailed marketing plan, once you have answers to all these questions.
Order Fulfillment Cycle Time: It is the time taken to supply product/ service to the customer, measured from the moment the customer places the order hence providing an insight into internal efficiency and supply chain effectiveness. This can be a crucial factor to ensure that a customer comes back to you for a repeat purchase. While it is more relevant in terms of online stores, speedy and accurate deliveries are the crux of customer service today.
Inventory management: Refers to the process of ordering, storing, using, and selling a company's inventory. This includes the management of raw materials, components, and finished products, as well as warehousing and processing of such items. So choosing the right inventory that is relevant to your target customers, displaying it right and storing it in a manner that there is maximum sale and minimum losses.
Record keeping- keeping track of expenses, orders, profits and losses
Compliances- when financial reports are prepared and adhere to standard accounting principles
Competition management- keeping an eye on the competition and their tactics and progress
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that fashion is this tightrope where you have to be consistent but inconsistent. You need the connective thread but at the same time you need a sense of surprise. - Michael Kors, Honorary Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Michael Kors Holdings, Limited.