There is no denying the fact that most of the popular brands have experienced a revolution whereby they have virtually transformed themselves from setting the foundation for the popularity of the high street towards catering to the luxury aspirations of the increasing percentage of the elite. Majority of the brands that existed on the high streets have been investing heavily in establishing themselves in the emerging luxury markets, not only in the developed countries but also in emerging economies such as those of China, India and other Asian countries. This paper will examine and analyze the manner in which the change has taken place from the high street to luxury while outlining the transformation from the past to the present. A picture will be outlined in keeping with the future prospects of the luxury sector in the light of current patterns and future scope. The entire analysis will make a literature review on the subject while corroborating theory with real life examples in the luxury sector across the world.
There is no doubt that most of the popular brands have experienced a transformation whereby they have virtually transformed themselves from setting the foundation for the popularity of the high street towards catering to the luxury aspirations of the increasing percentage of the rich. Majority of the brands that existed on the high streets have been investing heavily in establishing themselves in the emerging luxury markets, not only in the developed countries but also in emerging economies such as those of China, India and other Asian countries. Flagship stores that are more extravagant than those that were built previously have come up in the fashion centers of Paris, New York, Tokyo and Beijing. The design parameters of these stores have been singularly focused to showcase exclusive range of products in an environment that communicates a sensitively created image for high end consumers that are increasing
The debate and analysis of cultural association with fashion has been in existence for quite some time. Social scientists, dominated by sociologists as well as anthropologists, have literally associated the fashion issue with the existing nature of relationship between the groups, citing the inherent similarities and differences. Significantly, the concept of culture and fashion has been revolving around the notion that exists in the society that some cultures are more superior to others, or have superior value than others. This subsequently leads us to the concept of stratification, which has been historically applied in the art and fashion industry to reproduce and sell the same in a different format. In other words, usually low fashion copies the trends of high fashion to produce in mass every season with the sole motive, making a kill in profits.
Fashion plays a vital role in the fast changing patterns towards the aspiration for luxurious goods and services. Fashion is indicative of styles, customs and trends prevalent during a given time period. Fashion is increasingly being used by individuals as a means to articulate and to expand individuality. It is mostly the designers that influence in deciding what is in by working up concepts and then engaging the services of celebrities to portray their personalities amongst the brand personalities as revealed in advertisement campaigns. Thereby new fashion statements are created and in associating themselves with the brand personality as depicted in marketing campaigns, more and more consumers get lured into buying the luxury goods. Most of the world’s luxury fashion centers are located in Hong Kong, Toronto, Los Angeles, London and Sao Paolo.
Luxury brands have already invested hundreds of thousands of square footage in retail space during the last few years which make it all the more important for them to safeguard their investments and returns. Brands now strive to provide shoppers with a gripping reason to do to stores and spend heir money. Luxury retail spaces around the world are now very well placed in exploiting the new mandate. In having invested huge amounts on upscale properties, the present retail centers have set their course to induce emotional responses amongst consumers. They have left the glass counters behind and begun to invite customers in exploring and creating their personal journeys to make them ready to participate in enabling a new brand culture.
It is well established that the buying behaviors of consumers are greatly impacted by celebrities and famous personalities. Marketing experts have begun to utilize associative learning concepts by analyzing the lifestyles of celebrities so as to effectively associate them with brands which can portray the same effectively. The appeal, sense of fashion, fame, awareness and public image of celebrities are carefully reviewed in associating them with the products. In the context of the current patterns of the changing environment in fashion and consumer aspirations, attempts will be made in this paper to analyze the transformation of branding from high street to luxury by comparing the past with the present and the implications that they have for the future.
Art and Fashion in the Past
A renowned sociologist Herbert Gans subdivides cultures into tastes, which is determined by high culture. According to him, taste is a product of ‘high’ culture, and the participants of ‘low’ culture will do everything to ensure they look like ‘high’ culture participants. He divides taste cultures into five broad different categories, by mostly associating the differences in terms of the disciplines (literature, art, consumer pattern etc) and leisure like hobbies. But, despite the fact that this categorization lies in the differences, they belong to the same category. However, several studies have shown that the way people place value on different cultures is not the same, thus leading to a stratified subdivision of high and low culture.
DeNora observes that the low and high cultural valuation has an historical perspective, where several nations have had their share of different kinds of maintenance through all kinds of practices at an institutional level. However, a critical look at the two categories of this stratification shows that they are arbitrarily the same since they both entail several types of material possession in the form of goods or art, recycled to portray an imagined difference. Actually the only distinction is in the specific types of the perceived tastes found in the categories. High culture explicitly draws interest among a group of people because of its association with classical music and fine art for example, contrary to low culture that falls outside these specific preferences.
The high value placed on high culture pose several advantages to the participants, especially the ones who intend to take advantage of its economic value. Bourdieu (1977) says that mere involvement in the high culture can be beneficial because of its potentiality to generate profits. DiMaggo (1982) supports Bourdieu’s claim but within a different setting, when he says that even the system of schooling favors the high culture groups of children, who ends up with better performance as compared to those from low culture. In essence this point of arguments may be backed by a common knowledge that pupils in high cultures achieve higher status in the society due to more educational opportunities.
The existing correlation between cultural capital and socioeconomic status has created a sense of class with its own demand for the fashion rejuvenation. In fact, since the cultural possession is a product of socialization, background of the family and community will strongly determine the ability to get opportunities for the increase of capital base through fashion rejuvenation and redesigning Gans. Practically, the families or communities with minimal income will not have a guaranteed access to fashion in the high cultural setting. On the other hand, the families or group of families endowed with the cultural capital are able to adopt the high cultural lifestyle that comes with the “benefits” of consumption and production. This level of cultural attainment is associated with the individual’s occupation, certain level of educational achievement since this will determine the medium with which the information about fashion is transmitted.
This concept draws out the idea of ethnic fashion, and high and low culture. Many ethnic communities may define their fashion in order to obtain cultural capital. According to Boourdieu, taste serves social distinction; it is a means in which social group wields power, which is expressed in a form of a ‘legitimate’ culture that sets itself apart from ‘legitimable’ and ‘illegitimate’ cultural forms. He therefore assumes the existence of a cultural center whose backbone is the educational system while at the same time acknowledging the cultural field dynamic that allows for up and down-market movements. According to Dick Hebdige, as cited in Varnedoe & Gopnik, fashion designers have decided to adopt the aesthetic version of art, which is a duplication of the original art but with little quality and low value. In actual sense the ongoing changes in our everyday life of fashion simply implies that pure aesthetic transformation is as a result of the easy accessibility of the cultural exploitation. In essence, the ethnic orientation between the low and high cultural membership are based on the assumption of the context of regional disintegration. Europeans and the Americans took the high culture to belong to them while the other parts of the world, mostly in Asia and African took the low culture ladde. This kind of ethnic division has been accused of fostering the negative aspect of fashion in the form of discrimination. According to Ostrower & DiMaggio, some of the practices in the high fashion industry left out the African Americans, who resorted to the alternative low cultural activities.
The other thing is the taste that comes with participation in specific cultural groups varies. The participants with the commercial motive would recreate the old cultural practices or reproduce for commercial purposes hence generating the so called ‘new style’. In essence, this means that low fashion has been known to copy high fashion in an attempt to reproduce in mass against the quality and originality. In fact, Bourdieu asserts that in 1977, the fundamental elements of the modern society are just a historical shift towards the placement of economic benefits to more significance, i.e. from being a ‘thing in itself’ the economy becomes a ‘thing for itself’.
In the world of fashion and clothing, the present art transformation is important to note. Fashion and clothing has presented very curious and ambiguous profiles, with one side showing the profiles of the fashioned clothing that looks very attractive in nature, while the other side is full of conservative designs with the past linkage.
“News agents’ shelves groan under the weight of style and fashion magazines, which offer glossy vise….on what to look like and how to look like it”. Barnard (Fashion as Communication, 2002, p.1)
In the modern fashion industry, a walk down the high street one will not miss noticing malls that are filled with highly valued fashion items, with all the necessary assistance from the shop attendants, who are strategically placed to offer advice on the best fit to match your figure and color. To increase the speed at which the reproduced high fashion products reach the market, the fashion companies have adopted new technology; seen in the increased use of online version of sales. This has generated a kind of easy accessibility to not only the segmented sections of the society but virtually every corner of the world. These companies have adopted the technological craze by making their potential clients face their “virtual self” in order to increase sales.
The luxury industry is presently witnessing a marked evolution in being strongly driven by digital technologies and the internet. The sector has been little slack in adopting e-commerce strategies primarily due to the contradicting forces that apply in regard to exclusivity of luxury goods and the mass accessibility rendered by the internet. Additionally, the conventional management procedures of majority of the luxury firms and the current business processes of the internet tend to be running parallel to each other without any indication of meeting together. Moreover, majority of the luxury consumers drive their participation through web platforms such as social networking and blogs while being in control of most of the blogging world and having expectations that luxury brands should meet their aspirations online.
The transformation from the popularity of the high street to luxury is aptly demonstrated by luxury retailer Debenhams that is spread across several countries. The research company Verdict Research has revealed that premium and luxury retailers are now significantly assisting in driving up the growth of the multi billion dollar department store sectors in the UK and the USA as also a number of developing countries. For instance, the Debenham store on Oxford Street in London provides a never before experience of five floors of fragrance and luxury designer clothes. The store is especially favored in having dresses designed by renowned British designers such as Julien Macdonald, Matthew Williamson, Betty Jackson and Frost French, all under a single roof.
Henry Holland, the Fashion Week designer from London who is renowned for his slogan T shirts has been recently added to the retailer’s portfolio of collaborations. Dorma, a home ware designer and a favorite with customers is also a part of the retailer’s network of designer partners. According to Verdict Research the top three luxury operators in the UK are Harrods, Harvey Nicholas and Selfridges. These three have together been the fastest in terms of growth amongst departmental stores. John Lewis and Marks & Spencer take the next two places (UTalk Marketing, 2009).
The shift towards luxury is evident from the manner in which more and more designer labels are entering the market. UK artist Tracey Amin has recently partnered with the French Leather goods house Longchamp in showcasing and selling her renowned autobiographical art installations while including the theme of travel and finding international love, in enhancing the feel of luxury. Artist and designer Julie Verhoeven has created a special collection for Mulberry in making British eccentricity come to the fore through her collaboration with the firm. Julie is famous for the collage of figure artistry that is characteristic of erotic and quirky styles. Indeed, it is true that the collaboration that Mulberry has entered into with Julie will make people to reconsider the phrase “Classic British”.
In his book Culture and Consumption, Grant McCracken has examined the theories of consumption and concluded that they are all flawed. This conclusion is in stark contradiction to the reasoning given by theorists and scholars about patterns of consumer behavior. In essence, the shift towards luxury goods is better explained in terms of the reasoning given by McCracken. According to him human culture follows specific consumption patterns and by reviewing the consumption patterns through history he depicted a lineal progression that explains the mass misunderstanding that is characteristic of today’s markets. He explained how consumption patterns and culture are strongly interconnected which also have a strong bearing on future consumption patterns as well (McCracken, 1990).
Nancy Troy has offered a new concept on how fashion and art have been associated together in the 20th century. In focusing upon Paul Poiret, a leader in the French fashion industry, she uncovered a logical basis for the rising tensions amongst reproduction and originality that has a direct bearing on the historical issues of art throughout the world. She reveals how this tension has ingrained itself within haute couture in saying that although it was supposed to cater to the interests of the rich class; it also came to be adopted for sale in retail stores and other outlets which cater to a wider section of the consumer markets. Troy has examined the relationship amongst elitist and popular cultures, theater and fashion shows as also the supposed divergence amongst classical and oriental sensibilities (Troy, 2002).
However the present recession has made a dent in the expectations of luxury brands due to the sudden economic strains on the consumer’s pocket. Though temporary in nature, the shift has resulted in demanding more of less expensive and less exclusive goods as revealed by Retail Forward and Price Waterhouse Coopers. The spending is said to be curtailed because of lesser availability of credit as observed by Retail Forward, “The nature of credit availability will be fundamentally different when we come out of this, and there could be an impact on high-end fashion, electronics, home remodeling. It’s an equal-opportunity problem — even among the affluent” (Seckler, 2009). The recession has made consumers to reduce consumption in about forty different categories of goods and services which are almost double as compared to the period before the economic downturn.
Most luxury brands use celebrity endorsements and with each product a different image of the celebrity is projected to consumers. This is because the interest of consumers is maintained if there is a different personality projected each time, although firms try their best to ensure that the identities do not conflict with each other. This is evident from the example of David Beckham who has endorsed several products. When he was depicted in the Gillette advertisement his preference for hairstyle was revealed while he himself appeared bald. During the campaign for Police he appeared wearing a lot of jewelry in expressing his passion for fashion. Top celebrities and fashion and luxury chains have forged long term associations and this is now accepted as a trend that is fully established, refusing to be diluted in any way. The practice was started by Debenhams when it set off a revolution in the retailing world with the endorsements of its diffusion collection by celebrity designer Jasper Conran and millionaire Philip Treacy. The fashionable trend for luxury brands to tie up with celebrities is still going strong.
Designers too have entered the fray in acting as brand ambassadors for different products. A case in point is that of Stella McCartney who is herself a designer and is not only expanding the reach of her own brand but also that of Gap Kids and Baby Gap. Her full children’s wear collection has been now done in collaboration with the brand and is slated to be launched at Gap stores across several countries including Japan, France, UK, Canada and the USA. The seventy piece line has been inspired by the design signatures of McCartney as also from her real life experience of being a mother of three kids. She has created special collection for girls and boys from the ages of 6 months to 12 years which feature her specific signature styles including soft color palettes, her proverbial silhouettes and her special mix of unique designs that create impressions which are in keeping with her exclusive visions. Her designs interpreted with the Gap brand will add strength to both while consistently serving the purpose of the designs.
Stella McCartney had introduced her own brand under her name as also a fashion house in partnership with the Gucci Group in 2001. She is a strict vegetarian and her luxury brands include women’s garments, fragrances, bags, shoes, accessories and skin care products. Gap Inc is seen as an expanding company and is established as a luxury retailer for several items including personal care products, accessories and clothes for babies, children, women and men under the brand names Gap, Athleta, Piperlime, Old navy and Banana Republic which are all renowned luxury brands with an expanding consumer base.
The rapid growth in Asia and descending of economic in Europe and Northern America change the global need of fashion. Inferior style of fashion is prevail in Asia but the need for high fashion is desired n. Investment of fashion in Asia is a main target to each western enterprise. In order to fit the style of Asian people, the fashion is unlikely copy the style of the west , and target to the tastes of Asian consumers. The mixture of Asian and Western style are more welcome in Asia. The weather condition in Asia is fairly different from Europe and North America. It is hot and wet in most of the Asian countries, winter kinds of fashion cannot be adopted. However, some rich Asian people chase the high fashion of western style and act as the major consumers. They are the true buyers for high fashioned products
The descending of economic in western countries was happened since last year. The low income and unemployed people are hardly afford their living. The trend of fashion are almost kept no progress. Low cost of fashioned products are most popular in the west.
Media fraternity has not been left out in this strategy. The use of artwork to advertise fashion products on the television screens is one way of emphasizing the aesthetic nature of the products to be sold. The daily newspapers have a whole coverage of what the people in fashion industry have to say as concerns the fashion designs and the modeling criteria. Some of these models, presenters, and journalists end up as household names, thus offering their endorsements to the products which have become household names in themselves. To elaborate on this point, it is important to highlight one of the modern fashion personalities, Lily Allen, and her progress in clothing and accessories.
Lily Allen: Lily Loves fashion line
Lily Allen, the musician and an actress is the name behind clothing and accessories with the brand “Lily loves” (The Sunday Times, 2007, p.1). She was hired by the head designer and Director, Karl Lagerfeld to be photographed so that her famous self could be used to promote a luxury line of handbags. Under her achievements, Allen was awarded with the respected Glamour Woman of the Year Awards from the Editor Special Award; and she got named number nine under the category of the best style role model by the Look magazine. In many occasions, the reason why Allen was preferred by Lagerfeld to grace such honor of marketing this line of brand is that her style is seen as simple, and not overly trendy in the category of fashion choices as compared to other traditional channel models. But did Lagerfeld get is right, considering Lily Allen’s image?
In his own words, Lagerfeld (2009, www.twitter.com) says, “Fashion’s life is short. It’s six months, six months, six months. It’s not something you do for a great future”.
In a micro-research done in May 2009 to find out the branding position that had been taken by Lagerfeld and its implication (Slideshare, 2009), the findings were rather interesting. The image of the channel was perceived differently according to age groups: women of age group between 18 and 25 acknowledged that it was an exclusively unique brand but was more of older women brand than their age group; women of ages 25-39 agreed that the brand was good, especially on the side of cosmetics and accessories, but the price was a critical issue that concerns them; women over the age of 40 however believed that the brand presented a positive image and that the channel was actually ideal for women. However, the involvement of Allen revealed some other interesting scenario. Even though younger women of the age 18 to 25 did not change their opinions, the middle aged women (25-39) believed the brand had been rejuvenated while over 40 age groups thought the brand had become more for a younger generation since it became more informal, hence they appear younger unlike before. The report in Slideshare showed that Allen portrays an image of younger generation, especially for those who read the gossip columns of the magazines but virtually unknown among the group of women who do not read the gossip columns, classified as high class. The group of women who do not read the gossip column are on the other hand classified as middle class and their choices are always influenced by what they read, on the other hand women who do not read gossip (mostly 40years and above), are observed to have a better image perception of her. Probably Lagerfeld had the younger generation in his mind, to cut into this volatile generation’s niche market, and probably unknowingly drifting away from its products’ traditional market niche (high class over 40). This could inform his idea from the statement he made in twitter.com, quoted in the first line of this paragraph. The other reason that was given for incorporating Allen is because of her perceived simple personality, thus the company would no be overshadowed by the celebrity life as it tries to market itself.
This approach is not in line with the theory of high-class vs. low class purchasing power. Furthermore, according to Taylor in 2002, Lagerfeld’s initial collaboration with the Swedish fashion brand H&M to market some of the Lagerfeld’s clothing brands for both women and men was so successful that come the end of two days only, the limited products offered were all sold out. Lagerfeld had even expressed his negative perception of the lower market end, claiming it will taint his image. This perception is against his last decision to choose Lily Allen to represent his brand.
However, the Lagerfeld’s strategy is not even in line with the theories of production and consumption in the lower and upper market, as presented by the modern art market.
Bourdieu (1977,p.489), “The denial of economic interest …finds its favorite refuge in the domain of art and culture the site of [a] pure [form of] consumption, of money, of course, but also of time convertible into money”.
The exchange of goods and labor that produced mass production no longer exists and has largely been replaced by the production of circulation commodity, which has been largely enclosed in the latest isolated art. In this enclosure, the value of the commodity is enclosed and that high volumes of sales do not bring any significant benefit and have no measure of an aesthetic value. This implies that art in itself has defied the trend of mass production and instead adopted the profound attraction to money, through its transformation into the destination to few selected ‘high’ markets with the ability and willingness to purchase the value and not the mass.
Again, there is a sudden concept in the art and fashion industry that has puzzled sociologists as well as fashion marketers. To the sociologists, this is not a noble idea. To the fashion marketers, it is the catch that was yet to come in the past, but has now landed in real time and period. What am I talking about? The increasingly common mass perception that views artists with more added values is critical.
Fowler (1997, p.124), “the hagiographic approach to the artist as ‘saint’ is with us, and with it, any attempt to analyze art and its social relation through scientific study is immaterial and will be viewed and dismissed as “reductionist’s” attempt to kill art”.
However, this approach to scientific view is seen as a revolutionary for the economic success of fashion and art players since it reflects the modernism in capitalism. The phenomenon is seen in the way modern cultural product has designed to fit the modern market trend, which in essence, is just but a reaction to the criticism of the modern art. Cramphorn emphasize this when he says that the appearance of cultural production specially designed for the market is partly in reaction against production original works. In fact, art has been a subject of division where the objective is to have the two directions, with help of economic age (longevity) as the basis of classification. The first form is the long life art as an undertaking which is identified as risky while the second one is short-term art, considered less risk with shorter lifespan and quick commercial benefits.
How can this classification be a boom to the fashion personalities like Lagerfeld and artists in terms of taste? Bourdieu elaborates his critical observations in relation to the taste and preference for the artwork in form of disintegration and money power, where art as a symbolic good is not drawn from other artists, but is a symbolic possession for the patrician families with ‘old money’, often the educated members of the society or professionals. The role of the leading critic or the prominent personality basically to approve the aesthetic value of the fashion product, while the role of the artist is to confirm the value of this product, thus giving the public the necessary confidence they year for in an attempt to purchase. In this sense, culture confirms the legitimacy of the product as to be identified with a specifically stratified target consumers rather than the formerly less systematic mass productions. If Lagerfeld has to change, then it should be under the main theme of this aristocrats taste and not taste of the middle class who may have the desire but lack the capacity t o purchase. Furthermore, artistic reputations no longer have to wait for ‘posthumous’ recognition as with middle class.
The long term investment in artistic works has proved to be a successful catch in the modern fashion industry. The contemporary artist should therefore look for the longevity of the art project and not short term gains that Lagerfeld is trying to adopt. Aaker & Joachimsthaler observes that long-term efforts to investment in the art market has been boosted by fact that it has received recognition far much better than the traditional mass market. What is important for the artist is to present his skills in a manner that suggests he or she is not interested in money to build reputation with the fans or the customers or the fashion goers.
Art and Fashion Future Prospects
The impact from Asian style of fashion is more apparent and more important in next decade of year. The rich people shall be more widely distributed in each corner of the world. They are the most important group of people to desire the high fashion. In the past , most of the best fashion designers and wealthy people were concentrated in Western countries but on the contrary , more and more fashion designers shall be found in Asia in next decade of year. The main stream of future fashion shall be the mixture of Western and Asian style in Asia. Another change in Asia in future shall be
- more educated people
- more better income.
The better living are desired by the most of the Asian people. The economic transfer from west to east is evolved gradually and shall be more mature. This transfer gives the Asian people better life and a different kind of fashion shall gradually be set up. The next generation of Asian people are educated , young and wealthy. A new era of fashion may be started in Asia.
The rehabilitation of economic in the west shall give the momentum to new style of fashion.. There shall be a good chance for the west to regain the leadership in next decade of year. The development of fashion in the west may not be the same as Asia.
We look forward a simple , environmental and elegant style of fashion to be dominated in the coming future.
Even though many would agree with the likes of Bourdieu, and their concrete criticism of the high fashion culture, it is apparent that their criticism is beneficial to the fashion fiestas, which thrives in controversy in an attempt to get publicity. Harald Gruendl calls it “the death of fashion”, where the commodity fetish (the commodity organization) is generally eased by enacting symbolic sacrifice of the commodity. The consumers are therefore incorporated into the ritual of the sales strategy and they accept this form of incorporation by products that are only meant for publicity and short term sale.
Naomi Klein has produced one of the most sought after material that logically focuses on the future and what is needed to redeem the image of fashion (Klein, 2002). In the book: No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs, Klein outlines the four sections of the book in a logical manner, explaining the future of fashion with concepts such as the America’s sweatshops and the Asia’s cultural hamming, corporate censorship and reclaim the streets, highlighting the attentions on the ups and downs of such renown brands such as McDonalds and Nike. However, even though all the sections of the book offers critical observation on production, the last section, No logo, is more important in this context as it highlights the emerging culture on the consumers’ sides that deals in the springing up of the different fashion magazines and the culture of jamming in Asia (Klein, 2002). With Klein’s idea of fashion marketing and advertising, it is critical to look at the future of fashion strategies, as the consumers tries to assist in the production and distribution process.
Advertising is a somewhat a non-personal form of information dissemination directed to the consumer to influence their behaviors. Practically, advertisement has been identified to be one of the most important tools that companies use to pass their well structured information that would influence the consumers’ conducts towards their intended products for sale. As stated earlier in the paper, it is evident how fashion has evolved from the initial mass production that encouraged mass production form mass culture to a more fragmented approach of designing the products with the specific market segment in mind. So how does the consumer connected to the future of fashion brand development and artwork? To elaborate on this point is important use the past and the present to predict the future of fashion and art work.
In order to remain active, luxury brands will have to place strong emphasis on enabling transformative journeys for individuals. The shift in this function of the retail formats will need to adopt new approaches towards visual and design merchandises. Future retail formats will have to woo consumers in a way that when they walk into stores their interaction with the environment has to be carefully regulated to intimidate them to meet their aspirations by making purchases. All such experiential parameters have to be reconsidered by luxury brands. Fashion and luxury are viewed by some as being extravagant and frivolous and their nature is seen as changing, not for the better. It will not be surprising if the major industries suffer a gradual transformation and realignment resulting from deregulated global economies. An added disadvantage for the fashion and luxury goods industry is that they are being increasingly viewed with disapproval since they are considered to be one of the biggest contributors to pollution.
The days are over when brand meaning comprised of carefully created images as communicated to consumers. Consumers are now alive and aware of what is meant by brand image, which is inferred from the sharing of experience and perception in terms of the large number of choices available through communication tools. What is more important for the future is the brand culture resulting from consumer empowerment instead of the constructed brand images. According to Pompei, “brand culture will effect the design of the retail spaces because brand environments will have to reflect these cultural transformations by moving beyond [commercial] transactions and expressing the evolving values of the brand community. The simplest way to describe this transition is that retail environments will become places for people and the emerging brand culture rather than only places for product” (BOF, 2009).
There is no doubt that the high street is gradually giving way to online retailing which implies that the internet is increasingly becoming an important distribution channel for luxury fashion. Business models are fast transforming themselves in updating to meet the fashion requirements and to catch up with the online buying habits of consumers. Consequently the conventional retail channels have also been swift in transforming themselves and their functions to meet the demand arising from changed consumer perceptions. Luxury brands are inviting consumers to their stores and treating them with a new format that was never seen before. Fancy decorations of garlands and flowers, unusual chandelier pieces made of recycled plastic, life size sheep dressed in soft fluffy yarn and massive twenty meter high vertical gardens are examples of the new welcome symbols for customers that visit the luxury stores in fashion stores around the world.
According to Simmons, learning how to design is a product of the past for one cannot become an important designer if he or she is not trained and without knowing how to cut a dress, and that the only way out to learn some of these concepts are through the work of past designers. He says that strength and endurance of his designs for so many years is because his work has been rooted into the historical lessons combined with continuous artistic work. However, it is not only fashion that people have to learn through studying the past, but the entire industry of art for example design clothes that are hurriedly made just for instant impression often do not count much and may not achieve much in the long run.
Luxury brands have familiarized themselves with customer behaviors and started to build a reputation in being known to create unique shopping experiences for customers. By getting to know their customers well, luxury brands can enable for customers, quick and decisive assessments of the required merchandise and surroundings. Owners of luxury brands also understand that if there is nothing appealing to catch the eye in the first thirty seconds of customers’ entering the store, they will leave without buying anything.
In the last two decades luxury has built a strong reputation for itself in being free from the adversities of recessions. Luxury brands have been known to weather a number of downturns but analysts fear that those days may be numbered because the luxury customer base is now democratized. The luxury sector is seen as following a two sided strategy in wooing the traditionally elite customers on the one hand and aspirational consumers on the other. Aspirational consumers being adversely impacted by the economic downturn may have to let go of their desires for a while thus proving to be a deterrent for the luxury sector. Currently Japan is considered to be the world’s luxury capital in being the ultimate destination for over 45% of the world’s luxury goods and with the highest per capita spending on luxury goods.
As observed, today’s fashion industry and advertising has evolved tremendously, this is largely due to the increased technological approach where information is seen to move relatively fast as compared to the past. That is to say the use of internet, digital television and mobile marketing has revolutionized the fashion industry. Simmons however insist that the fact that some designers still believe in the past to an extent that they adopt the clothing styles that were adorned almost a half a century ago is just but one way of seeking past gratifications. From this he says that the past may not hold much future, unless merged with the present, and highlights the hip-hop generation as well as urban music that have changed the art industry, with multi-billion dollar markets and the Phat Fashion viral spread as one of the areas that designers should be in a position to observe keenly.
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