Monday, November 28, 2011

God Save the Queen

There is a growing realisation by the present UK government as well as open-minded economists that Britain will have to encourage all types of manufacturing if the country is to sustain its standard of living. Despite all previous governments’ lack of interest in the fashion industry, some of the largest British brands are ready to support the UK economy. Head of Brand Development at John Lewis, Christine Kasoulis, has put it simply to the public that ‘businesses should be doing more to support UK manufacturing.’ But it’s not just the established fashion firms setting the example; small fashion businesses are also doing their part in embracing the nation’s patriotism.

One of this year's ‘it’ brands is The Cambridge Satchel Company, currently infamous for their school style satchels.The firm was founded in 2008 by Julie Deane and her daughter Freda Thomas. The pair were motivated by the retro style uniform bags featured in the Harry Potter film series.

The Cambridge Satchels came from humble roots, starting with a mere £600 producing handmade signature leather satchels. This particular example represents the rags to riches story of a fashion company with just a vision. Nether Julie Deane nor Freda Thomas have had any previous design experience, yet this year The Cambridge Satchel Company made £2.2 million in profit with an uplifting £10-15million projected profit for next year. The designers have proven to have a sharp understanding of the industry, making The Cambridge Satchels available in a wide range of colours in over 36 countries worldwide already. The desire for global growth has made the company rapidly successful.

Introducing new collections to an established brand can be difficult. At times loyal customers, who think they understand the direction of the brand, become hesitant when a designer releases a new group. The Cambridge Satchel Company shall release the much awaited collection of clutch bags in 2012. Deane and Thomas have embraced the popularity of their simplistic, vintage style satchels and translated this into their clutch collection. By keeping the key characteristics of The Cambridge Satchels, the clutch bags are sure to create a waiting list in no time.

Having a celebrity carrying a designer handbag has been proven to increase sales on almost every occasion. In the recent decade, the use of celebrities in fashion campaigns has increased dramatically. Celebrities endorse a brand; take as much or as little involvement as they wish in the company, and thus drive the awareness and sales of the handbag. Celebrity clientele, (notably Elle Fanning and Brad Goreski), have driven widespread interest in The Cambridge Satchel Company, helping them feature as the ‘must-have’ bag in a variety of publications from Italian Vogue to the Guardian Gift Guide.

Owning a handbag that is true to the heritage of the brand is becoming increasingly important to customers. In a world where the social focus is on being ethically conscious, we often want to know where our handbag has been made, the quality, the craft work etc. The Cambridge Satchel Company has taken advantage of the internationally recognised symbol of elite education associated with the area of Cambridge, thus marketing the unisex bags to a teen and young adult audience. Despite having problems with their initial manufacturers, the designers still manufacture their bags in Leicester, UK. The founders endeavour to work with local educational establishments in order to build apprenticeships, thus staying true to the authentic English brand identity. Furthermore, the firm have exclusive collections with ASOS and Urban Outfitters, creating unique ties with two of the largest UK fashion companies.

Personally I love The Cambridge Satchel Company, their story and their brand identity. The key to their longevity will be their authenticity. Perhaps releasing a line of small leather goods for cross selling, (particularly at Christmas), will give the company an even bigger push!

Pictures taken from,

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I know you want me, you know I want cha.

Since Lanvin released that campaign featuring Pitbull and celebrities flocked to be seen in the iconic colour clashing garments, creative director Alber Elbaz has become the man of the moment. But what of the children? Lanvin are due to debut their first Lanvin Petites collection in November. The 25 party girl pieces all complement the aesthetic and trends within the adult ready-to-wear collection, giving the brand a sense of completeness.

There are many reasons for Lanvin and other designer brands entering the children's wear market. Large fashion houses are now realising the full potential of designer children's wear, taking care not to over expand and lose their brand identity. Today's girls want more options and have a desire to be as on trend as their fashion savvy parents/peers.

Parents are increasingly choosing to dress their children in junior lines of adult labels, regardless of changes in the economy. This applies to high street brands as well as designer brands. On average, a mother loves the idea of dressing her daughter very much like herself. Lanvin has taken particular note to this behaviour, producing 4 exclusive rag dolls also dressed in the collection.

With children's wear, the key is to capture the child's mind and the parent's wallet. As the buying process involves more than one person, marketing children's wear becomes a totally new concept. It is important to reach out to the girl and her imagination, as well as the mother and her desire to have a durable, unique and beautifully made dress. The Lanvin Petites lookbook does exactly this. Parents are able to see the fit, style, fabric and colours clearly enhanced with the harsh white spotlight on the girls. The stills from the capsule collection are not overly composed, making the girls look natural and more appealing. Particular attention has been taken to make sure that dresses, separates and coats are advertised effectively, showing a wide range of looks.

As the collection is yet to be released, I hope Lanvin will produce a video campaign as well as a child friendly web page to kick-start their new line, whilst still being true to the brand. Every brand tries to create brand identification through its in store arrangement. As for the Lanvin stores, I would think the Petites collection would be limited to specific stores, taking note of the geography and clientèle. Personally, I feel the collection would work well in the iconic department stores such as Harrods, sitting alongside Roberto Cavalli children's wear. It's important to charm the girls as well as the parents, especially those little princesses who have that all important nagging power.

Despite the price, I predict Lanvin's princess pieces will be in high demand with rhinestones and silk organza flying off the shelves within the month. Each garment has its own mix of fun, beauty and luxury, making them just in time for Christmas parties.

Pictures taken from the Lanvin lookbook. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fashion is made to become unfashionable.

Jane Norman, the British womenswear high street retailer, fell into administration this week. Problems started to emerge when figures showed they were £140 million in debt and the brand was left in utter dismay after the exit of their Chief Executive, Saj Shah, at the end of February this year. The firm was quickly part rescued by knitwear company Edinburgh Woollen Mill. Sadly, this resulted in around 1200 job losses across the nation. But what contributed to the collapse of Jane Norman in the first place?

Of course, the nationals have their broad reasons of explanation, the main one being the downturn in the economy. Consumer spending on discretionary items has fallen in line with job security. Adding to that, the 2.5% VAT increase since January has also taken its toll on the high street. With regards to clothing in particular, the price of cotton and other raw materials have soared since last year, pushing up the prices even further on our streets. Although the above were contributing factors, it did not explain why Jane Norman was the only high street fashion firm to suffer. Hence, the answer lies within the fashion and marketing of Jane Norman.

With regards to the clothing, we were seeing similar collections every season. This lack of variety deterred customers; women felt as though they had purchased ‘the same dress, but in blue, three years ago’. For example, the signature chunky knitwear dresses, once a trend around 10 years ago were still being produced last winter.  Offering different colours in the same range can be profitable, only when within the same season or when pieces become iconic. Becoming iconic on the high street is virtually impossible. Jane Norman was also criticised for their ‘market’ style, (with slightly better quality fabrics), year on year, resulting in the tarnished image we have today.

In terms of Jane Norman’s marketing, the lack of innovation was evident. High street stores such as H&M chose designer influences from Lanvin and Stella McCartney to boost their sales. Now more than ever, customers are mixing high street with high end. Jane Norman failed to jump on the bandwagon, resulting in the easy decision for a consumer to walk into Ashish for Topshop just across the road instead. The retailer was known to have a tacky visual layout with too much stock on the shop floor. Their minimal use of mirrors to create the structure of the store felt as though parts were missing when comparing the clean, inviting mirrored front of Karen Millen next door. There seemed to always be a lack of vision or drive for the future development of the brand.
Perhaps the downfall of Jane Norman will teach other retailers the importance of creativity and originality. With some brand re-invention and knowledge of style, the firm could have been a striving success. As for thoughts on Edinburgh Woollen Mill keeping the firm half afloat, we’ll just have to wait and see how they transform poor quality clothing, poor style and a wholly poor brand.

Pictures taken from Jane Norman SS11 and AW10 portfolios.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The battleground for retailers today is...?

From the mid 1800s to 1930s, the department store was our society’s most pioneering and influential institutions. British department stores have been the most attractive way to shop for decades, but what are the keys to their longevity and steady success? John Lewis, one of the UK’s favourite retailers, are a perfect example of clever use of implementing new marketing ideas whilst still focusing on their heritage and unique business structure.

Department stores are able to have ‘everything under one roof’, making them immediately marketable, as they are able to offer an extensive range of garments. John Lewis are able to sell popular high street attire alongside fashionable designer labels because of the ‘convenience’ factor. John Lewis have 28 department stores, all of which are geographically easy to reach. The feeling of never being too far from a store works to their advantage.

Customers have more choice at a greater price range, instead of a limited choice of one brand, when they visit department stores. From Mango to Whistles, Dune to Terry de Havilland, John Lewis allows the customer to create a high street to high fashion outfit without searching the streets of the city. However, competing department stores often have the same brands in their store, so add-ons are required to lure the customers.

Department stores have the resources to offer extra customer services that enhance the overall shopping experience and add further value to sales. As well as the restaurants, restrooms, lengthier opening hours, home delivery and gift list services, John Lewis are able to offer gift cards which can be used to purchase anything from womenswear to home furnishings across a variety of brands. These attractive offers boost sales for the retailer, particularly during the Christmas period; a man can walk in to view a bag to buy for his wife, then walk out with a gift card allowing her to buy over half a million different products in John Lewis stores throughout the country.

In line with technological trends, online sales for department stores are just as lucrative as online shopping websites such as ASOS. The John Lewis Edition magazine has an interactive, online counterpart, focusing on bringing the catwalk to the public. The website includes video makeup tutorials and recommended looks for each of the current season’s trends. The retailer has understood that buyers of John Lewis items are often spoilt for choice. By offering a user friendly guide that transfers you to the shopping cart in a few clicks, makes online shopping user friendly and fun.

Will department stores live on for another 200 years, or will we be sitting at our screens on price comparison websites instead? Personally, I think shopping can be a relaxing experience or an outing with friends. A department store chain like John Lewis will be with us for years to come, offering exciting new clothing at great prices and the opportunity to mix and match outfits across a variety of brands at your leisure. John Lewis can only get better.

Pictures and screenprints taken from

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Has the East really met the West?

As an English girl with an Indian heritage, I have been exposed to two extreme fashion cultures. But growing up, it was always one or the other, English or Indian; never a blend of both. Recently Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, the continent's biggest business of fashion event, introduced the world to some of the country's greatest Indo-West fusionwear. But, can we find them in England?

Ritu Kumar, an award-winning pioneer of Indian fashion, has been creating some of the nation's most exquisite garments since the 1960s. Her style is famous for the distinctive use of colours, intricate embroideries and a 'gloriously rich India' aesthetic. Having introduced India to the boutique culture back in 1966, within a few years she had collections in Harrods and Liberty of London. Ritu Kumar is widely accredited for putting her designs and India's talent on the world map. In 2002, the design house took the step of introducing LABEL by Ritu Kumar, a fashion forward sub brand, whilst still being faithful to Ritu Kumar. But how is it that such established brands and other Indian high fashion designers have not yet become household names in the UK?

The use of technology in expanding worldwide is extremely valuable. It is sometimes the only way the designers can reach out to the international clientele. Following simple Western marketing trends like creating Facebook, Twitter and blog pages would immediately promote brands like LABEL; what are they waiting for? It's free!

The Indian style and aesthetic is extremely representative of cultural background. Consequently, seasonal trends in the East are often dissimilar to those in the West. This may just be the grounding reason for the lack of Western expansion. The Ritu Kumar line shown at Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week took us on a journey through time, with its spiritual and colourful visuals. In contrast, the top trends at London Fashion Week included leather, (still a big 'no' in India), pleats and feathers. However, even though the LABEL by Ritu Kumar line was cotton based and very marketable to the young Indian woman, the garments were perceived as 'beachwear' and presented a more casual appeal to the English. This 'by chance' crossover market appeal is a huge sales potential for the great Indian designers, and it seems that the English are just waiting for someone to reach out.

However, do Indian high fashion brands even want to expand into the UK market? The UK fashion designers are the most influential players of all. Our country is not big enough to sustain a designer brand without expansion; India however, is. Why try to expand when business is booming, but then again, why settle for less when you have potential to meet global demand? Ritu Kumar collections have therefore aimed to strike a balance between both. Selling collections online via the elite website, the brand have enabled themselves to expand at the smallest cost whilst meeting the demand of the niche international customers. Perhaps this tentative step in the right direction will lead to a more significant growth in sales over time.

Pictures taken from

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Let fashion do what fashion does best...reinvent itself.

Burberry are a luxury fashion brand with authentic British heritage with quality, function and modern classic style, rooted in the integrity of its outerwear. Their unified, passionate and seasoned management team are one of few that have truly understood the importance of creatively changing with the times.Within the decade,  there have been visible changes in consumer values, technology and globalisation. High fashion brands such as Burberry are still able to charge ten times the cost of manufacturing for a garment and show a 27% increase in revenue, (Q3).

Traditionally, designer labels have followed the path of creating a design rich, but loss-making, main line and a cash generative diffusion line. However, this formula may not equal success. Christian Lacroix's iconic couture line may have been courageous and bold, but the failure to push the diffusion line ultimately led to the brand's end.

So, what changes do brands need to make for long-term success today? What will the future hold?

One of the recent changes in the business model for fashion is that high street brands such as Mango and H&M are mimicking catwalk trends immediately. This makes fashion quicker to access and at a cheaper price, pushing down sales of high fashion products.

Designer labels are reducing seasonality risk by creating up to six complementing collections per year. These interseasonal lines are fast becoming the highest sales paths, with brands choosing to make cruise and pre-Fall collections at more accessible price points. The more new stock there is, the more often a customer will return to the store and spend more, creating a client relationship and brand loyalty for the designer. Burberry are a brand that have taken this on board, and their 2011 pre-Fall collection has become an instant success with high demand for every piece.

Suppliers need to acknowledge the affects of globalisation and hence create a network to meet the demand. As a result, there is no guarantee a brand will be sourcing its product from the same country, let alone the same supplier, season after season. As demand grows from all over the world, creating a fragmented customer base, costs will naturally increase. Burberry have re-engineered its supply chain, cutting the number of distribution centres, replaced air freight with more cost effective sea freight, saving the firm £25m; all in the name of fast fashion. They have also increased their efficiency in terms of replenishment of stock, thus leading to their promising figures for this quarter.

There exists a hunger for every designer to create an iconic bestseller to establish themselves. But the lesson here is to reap the profits and then know when to let go. Overdependence on a product can push a brand too far and in due course, the market will become disinterested. Burberry have successfully overcome the 'chav' issue and used the mimicking of the check and trench to their advantage; adding eccentric detail and increasingly luxurious fabrics.

High fashion firms are increasing their expertly located retail presence in efforts to gain more control over their image and representation. This financial year alone, Burberry have increased their selling space by 25% by opening 7 new main line stores including in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Puebla, Mexico.

Looking to the future, with menswear trending in line with emerging markets, firms need to focus on capturing this new market. Due to the decreasing cultural differences across borders, we shall see the fast menswear fashion growth occurring within the next 10 years.

Technology is also a large area of growth for luxury brands. Burberry have the highest luxury brand fan base on Facebook, with a staggering 4.2 million fans. The brand also release live streaming of their collections in order that customers may share the full experience of a Burberry fashion show. A new idea of Burberry's is the website. This is a social media website which introduces the iconic trench coat to the digital generation and is attracting the new, younger luxury customer to the brand.

I think with a luxury brand, there is always the danger of over-expanding and the idea of 'trying to do everything at once'. However, in the case of Burberry, with their firmly established background and trend-setting style, encouraging a larger audience will only increase its positive brand awareness and make the firm stronger.Pictures and screenprints taken from,

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Jimmy Choo man has confidence and style.

Jimmy Choo launched menswear shoes for AW'11 in Milan last month. The British style collection coupled with the Italian craftsmanship creates the Mod aesthetic. Like the womenswear, the footwear is classic and audacious, offering styles ranging from exotic skinned trainers to rugged boots. But, what could be the reasoning behind extending an already incredibly successful company towards menswear? Will Jimmy Choo shoes for men be as striking as those for women?

With growing numbers of men becoming more fashion forward, there is definitely demand for designers to branch out to meet the requests. Men are, as a whole, increasingly taking pride in what they wear on their feet. Like women, more and more men feel that the purchase or use of a particular brand will enhance the image which others have of them.

A company like Jimmy Choo can promote their new collection immediately through capitalising on the designer name, creating instant product awareness. Brand extensions increase the efficiency of a firm’s investment in marketing communications by generating a greater level of sales from a given advertising investment. Indeed, clicking on the Jimmy Choo website now asks you to register for menswear collection updates before letting you access the site, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman.

Brand extension enables a new product to use the already well-established functional attributes and symbolic values that make up the personality of the brand. The Jimmy Choo menswear collection exuberates class, elegance and individuality; all of which blend perfectly with the company’s core beliefs.

By introducing a different range, Jimmy Choo have allowed more people to actually buy the products; the men, therefore increasing their client base and brand awareness through targeting a different market segment. It also educates men about the infamous variety of womenswear collections.

However, there is a small danger that the image of the core product of women’s shoes may be tarnished, and its standing with the core female customer. Branching out may lose the feel of exclusiveness and luxury that Jimmy Choo values as a company.

Personally, I think Jimmy Choo for men will be a slow, but steady success. With demand growing from the major developing countries such as China and India, Jimmy Choo have timed the release of this collection impeccably to meet the demands of the more confident, affluent and stylist man.Pictures taken from

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.

This Winston Churchill quote neatly describes my meticulous nature. I have learnt, (the hard way), that forward planning and being able to think ahead of the game is truly the only way to achieve anything of high quality.

The marketing geniuses behind the on-line fashion firm ASOS have clearly taken Churchill to heart by launching one of the first fully transactional Facebook shops, allowing customers to buy its entire range from within the second most popular website in the world, (second only to Google). ASOS will have over 35,000 lines on Facebook by the end of January, adding 1,300 products on a weekly basis.

Vivienne Westwood Anglomania for Melissa Ultra Girl Ribbon Bow Flat Shoes
At the moment, ASOS generates millions of pounds through advertising on the side bar and its marketplace area on Facebook. How often do you click on the sidebar advertisements, and when you do, how much does it annoy you when you have Facebook telling you that you are navigating away from the website, and then ask if this is OK, and then...etc? The idea is that 'fewer clicks and barriers to purchase should mean greater conversions', (James Hart, ASOS ecommerce director and absolute mastermind).

ASOS shall go the extra mile and will also add Facebook features such as the 'like' and comments boxes to make users feel more at home with the hybrid site, and hopefully attract new customers.
While ASOS becomes a pioneer of transactional Facebook shopping by the end of the month, other firms shall be keeping a close eye on the activity and more importantly the changes in the figures to see if it's worth following the new trend.

ASOS Blousen Sleeve Silk Mix Tailored Pencil Dress
 As you can probably tell, I'm pro Facebook/ASOS. I believe that this is an innovative marketing strategy just at the right time and place. With our awful weather making us lazy to shop, coupled with our impatience and laziness to wait a few more microseconds for a web page to load, making on-line retail therapy that little bit easier will make a significant difference. With current trends and my style being 'casual sophistication', I shall be spoilt for choice on Facebook in the near future!

Pictures taken from