Monday, 3 October 2011

'Not Fabulous' Weather and Retail

Three things have happened to make me question the current fashion and retail cycle. We are all somewhat complicit in the retail and fashion cycle of clothes distribution, given we all just go along with it. I found myself rushing to buy at the end of September some ski clothing for the petit garcon on the basis if we have snow in any month soon there will be nothing in store. It has taken me 3 years of snowfall to get completely au fait with the retailers window of opportunity to buy snow type gear. Even specialist shops 'run out' at the most inopportune moment i.e. when it snows!

There I was handing over a sum of money to a woman in John Lewis in sweltering heat for a ski jacket on the second day of October. In another area of the store the Christmas selection had arrived and I realised I must have only two week window to get what I like because normally I never get anything because it is gone - bearing in mind I refuse to buy anything Christmassy until December. I'm thinking I'd better lose that last rule of decent acceptable behaviour and get with the programme!

The current heatwave we are experiencing in the UK is the second reason I've suddenly realised the retail cycle needs to be re-examined. Everyone I know had packed away their summer items and suddenly found themselves getting them back into action. Luckily I'd only piled them up in a shelf in my closet (no, I'm not being American and forgetting to say wardrobe, it is really a closet with a wardrobe element - a 'closrobe' perhaps) but I found my summer holiday wardrobe was a bit to casual and I nipped into a local H&M and found a brilliant pair of chino's for £14.99. They were a transitional season offering and luckily they had a pair in my size that fitted perfectly. I have to say they are the best pair of chino type trews I've ever owned. Three people in 3 days have asked me where I got them from and someone even texted me to say they wanted a pair. I'm not a trouser person. I love a jumpsuit and my red skinny jeans but I don't really wear trousers that well. I digress...

Then on Saturday night I had a twitter conversation with Eilis Boyle a wonderful designer based in Dublin about our pet subject the fact you can't buy a decent coat in February when everyone is freezing at LFW. We both agreed that if you are a retailer who stocks coats and jumper in January to April you make a killing. I often think the success of Net-A-Porter and now The Outnet wasn't so much the factor of buying designer items over the internet but ultimately the fact you could buy things you needed when you needed them. The stocking capability of Net-A-Porter is a phenomenon. Yes, you sometimes have to be quick as per Matches or My-Wardrobe but NAP beats all the other E-luxury/designer outlets online by miles with the availability of clothes often 'out of season'. By out of season I mean out of the  fashion or retail drop cycle that means coats and jumpers are in the shops in July but gone by August! This get it while you can is becoming increasingly absurd with the increase of designer collections. The two main collections, the pre collections, the Cruise collections etc.

The trouble is that retailing has lost sight of the customer in the battle for collection rip off supremacy. Actually that is a bit harsh, not all retailers are in the business of paying homage to the catwalks but the main emphasis is on a 'must have' item is reflected in the print media, the blogosphere, in store and direct marketing. I'm as guilty with my high street pick of the week post. I have tried to put it in context as a way to build up a wardrobe but I do by and large get carried away by the notion of spotting something, promoting it and making it a desirable item!

Marketing and vanity aside there must be a retailer out there who is looking to find a middle way. If I had the money I would go into business to provide all year round items, regardless of the fashion cycle. As hard as it would be to almost circumvent the buying cycle and therefore the trend and seasonal aspect of it all, I would find a way.

The other alternative is to change ones shopping habits. I have been doing that for the last 5 years and has paid off. My basics are set almost in stone. It is roughly a list of 50 things I need to survive 12 months of the year. It does include things like a bikini but not my gym kit and swimming goggles! If you compile a list and work on a one in one out basis then you tend to buy items that last and the compromise is less trend led and maybe certain colours dominate (black, white, grey, blue and red in my case!). It is not a water tight or fashion fabulous system but then it is not fabulous being cold in February.

What would you change about the retail cycle? What items do you need all year round regardless of fashion dictates?

Images: Christmas items from John Lewis and clothes all Net-A-Porter


  1. Interesting. As I'm a classic junkie and hoarded all my basics over years, I have most everything I need at hand throughout the year - through trial and error in early youth and being a difficult size - ie petite.

    Also with the unpredictable British weather there's no rigid seasonal dressing anymore so I will have a couple of trench and proper warm coats out most of the year as well as tees and light skirts/dresses with appropriate footwear of course.

    I'm lacking decent quality tees though so that's what I want!

  2. I agree with you whole heartedly and have always been aware of this issue which also goes for childrens designer clothes aswell. Seriously who wants a Bikini in February? but it does show how important it is to have a good capsule wardrobe consisting of items for all seasons. Nobody should really wait till February to buy a new coat, either get it when they come in stock or grab a bargain in the January Sales.

  3. I'm all for retail providing you with the things you need, when you need them. For me the frustrating thing is about winter coats but the time I am ready and need to buy a coat, there is a limited choice in what I can buy. I have over the years, ended up buying my christmas outfits by the start of November to ensure I had something to wear. I'm not perfect at getting myself organised but I have started to write a list of what I need to replace or new items I need in my wardrobe and try and stick to it. xx


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