Albert Einstein once stated that nothing can be faster than the speed of light, but the speed of fashion seems to be contradicting that theory. Over the last decade, fashion preferences, tastes and behaviours are rapidly changing and evolving but the fundamental decision making has remained the same: quality, price and brand. But have the definitions and our evaluating criteria of these elements changed?
To start with quality, to what extent has materialism impacted our definition of quality? In our upcoming Millennial Black Box report, we explored the myth that Australian Millennials are the most materialistic generation and were challenged with the notion that while no previous generations had access to so many material goods, there was an active desire (if not behaviour) to move away from fast fashion and consumption. Millennials believed it was the environment not the individual that created the disposable economy and as such, what they value or deem as quality has changed.
Quality and price have always been interwoven and continue to be but the challenge for brands is where they position their products in light of the perceived quality. Low quality and low price work as it becomes an economical purchase, high quality and high price is seen as premium whereas high quality/low price is a bargain. But the challenge remains when it comes to fashion that the shopper definition of quality might not always match up with the retailer version.
And then we get to brand, which is where I am most passionate about. We know that brand consists of a mix of advertising, PR, sponsorships, celebrity and much more and that we as consumers are exposed more than ever via traditional and online mechanisms. For fashion, there’s a couple of examples that I’ve seen recently where brand is in some ways out-performing the quality and price decision making factors and in other ways enhancing them.
Under Armour specialises in sports and athletic clothing and accessories so best-suited personality will be with the same background, high level of intensity, and of course, social media presence. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fulfils all these aspects for “Under Armour” when they signed him in 2015. The WWE superstar is not only famous for his wrestling skills but also because of his huge social media base. His 107 million Instagram followers made him one of the most popular celebrities on Instagram and the content is perfectly aligned with the brand values Under Armour is trying to communicate, so it becomes less about quality and price and more about ‘The Rock’ brand.
Yet as much as we love social media, in what way has it contributed to rise of fast fashion. Gone are the days of cutting out the inspiration within magazines, we’re living in a see, buy it economy. There’s a great piece of thinking from Jeff Goins who believes there are two types of people on the Internet – sprinklers and vacuums. Sprinklers share the content, and vacuums hover it up. Influencers, bloggers, fashionistas and would be fashionistas are the new mannequins and store windows and there’s a captive audience waiting to absorb, consume and buy. So from a branding perspective, it’s imperative to stand out amongst the clutter and remain true to the values and that the sprinklers fit the overall brand attributes. Under Armour gets it perfectly right with the brand fit but for other fashion brands, does the desire to be seen, quickly and by many, devalue the brand and subsequently the quality and the price perceptions you want.
So as fast fashion gets faster, as the current consumers of fast fashion state their intention to move away from it, and as we’re inundated with messaging and branding trying to compete for our attention, maybe we need to stop, think and remind ourselves that nothing from a quality, price, brand perspective has changed, it’s our definitions of them that have.
By Akash Singh