Fashion Observed

Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...

by Darryl S. Warren  

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A h, yes, the economy.

There is no escaping the ramification of this sudden global upheaval. This blog has, along with many within the various financial sectors, anticipated a grave downturn but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who could have predicted the reach, scope and suddenness of such a financial shift. Nonetheless smart readers had ample time to formulate some kind of strategy to cope with anticipated economic austerity. Well, we hoped, anyway. But one of the perks of following our blog is the information and inspiration we provide to help you and we will do what we can in the spirit of unifying support.

Recently, Fashion Observed found itself in a casual conversation with a few designers talking in New York. As you know, that city got severely hit with the effects of Covid 19 in a country that has a lot of political chaos exacerbating economics. Yet the tenacity of this wonderful place never ceases to amaze. Within the confines of this metropolis are creatives with fortitude who vow to survive and thrive, and their collective wills showcase admirable adaptation. The conversation centered on survival strategy, and these ideas may be something to consider if not implement if one is looking to make it through what will be a huge challenge over the next few years.

One of the first concerns is operating costs versus maintaining a public profile. Rents have long been in the news and it was already a challenge while in times of prosperity, so of course this is the stuff of nightmares now. The decision involves one's liquidity. That is, can one afford to keep what would be a rather expensive warehouse when restrictions form the Covid 19 pandemic render one's store inaccessible? And if one's storefront is the way to stay relevant in the public eye, what would be a compromise or solution when having to make harder decisions like whether to keep a store open at all?

One pattern we can agree on is that the economy has changed, and that the bulk of purchases have become online purchases. Given how most retailers aren't willing to open change rooms means that it matters little whether one comes in person or orders online, that one will take their purchase home to try it on, and the risk of exchanges rises. So, having a physical store right now isn't as important. But one clever solution is to rent a store window. This way, inventory can be moved to a more affordable storage solution while key items can be set up in a window space. The pandemic has seen a lot of store closures and retail faces greater profit loss now that retail has taken a nose dive. It's far less likely that landlords will see the kind of premium rent scenario as was in the past, and arranging a window rental may now be a compromise that allows both parties to win under dire circumstances. And one doesn't have to rely only on this move.

Some may have read recently how po-ups may not be the best idea, but people don't get out of their house just for fresh air. People are creatures of habit, and some look for some semblance of normalcy as they try to regain the life they once took for granted. One can initiate a combination or pop up shops and window rentals to keep one in public eye and that solves the visual aspect that online cannot compete with. Pop-up shops have long been a great alternate for smaller labels to find new customers within smaller and/or newer urban markets without expending a lot on a brick-and-mortar presence. Pop-ups needn't be solitary enterprises, either; there is no shortage of collaborative initiatives a designer can undertake. The distinction is how to get around the lack of tactile experience that normal retail therapy offers. Here, designers can have a pile of sample textiles on stand-by where the interested client can touch the fabrics. These would be laundered and reintroduced another day. Some can be exposed to UV light therapies. Accessory sample textiles could fall under this category. Conversely, any dense materials can be wiped clean with antimicrobial agents....something to think about when looking at making accessories down the line.

One can work with various similar aesthetic groupings, can collaborate with non-apparel alternates to create a lifestyle collaboration and work together, bridging customer bases, doing online shared social media campaigns and even website collaborations. Savings doesn't have to be limited to the physical space, wither. Various retailers can share PR, web maintenance and pooling warehouse storage costs to ensure group survival. Efforts can focus on online presence building, while resources can focus on survival for the interim. Pairings to share costs such as getting group shipping discounts with delivery suppliers can also be instituted. This means that more ambitious creatives can collaborate to create a virtual marketplace online, and can extend to creating a co-op with membership and subscription discounts.

If there are any other ideas, this blog heartily encourages your sharing them Comments are screened, but that doesn't mean they aren't seen or won't be shared. In this situation it benefits us all when we work together. Sharing strategy creates the kind of win-win that we need these days. It's how we'll not just survive but thrive as we eventually make it through this incredibly historic period of transformation.

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