Fashion designers help create the billions of clothing articles, shoes, and accessories purchased every year by consumers. Fashion designers working for apparel wholesalers or manufacturers create designs for the mass market. Fashion designers are the people who create the elegant, whimsical, fun, silly, and often expensive clothes we see parading down runways twice a year. Fashion designers design and create clothing and accessories for men, women and children. Some high-fashion designers are self-employed and design for individual clients. Other high-fashion designers cater to specialty stores or high-fashion department stores.
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Fashion design is the applied art dedicated to the design of clothing and lifestyle accessories created within the cultural and social influences of a specific time. Fashion designers have brought about a storm in this glamour world with their commendably fabulous variety. Fashion industry has always welcomed new talent giving rise to the budding stars of tomorrow. While all articles of clothing from any time period are studied by academics as costume design, only clothing created after 1858 could be considered as fashion design.
Before the former draper set up his maison couture (fashion house) in Paris, clothing design and creation was handled by largely anonymous seamstresses, and high fashion descended from that worn at royal courts. Throughout the early 20th century, practically all high fashion originated in Paris, and to a lesser extent London. At this time in fashion history the division between haute couture and ready-to-wear was not sharply defined.
Designers know they have this power, and will continue to use it to influence global fashions throughout the eras. These designers create original garments, as well as those that follow established fashion trends. Most fashion designers, however, work for apparel manufacturers, creating designs of men’s, women’s, and children’s fashions for the mass market. Designer brands which have a ‘name’ as their brand such as Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren are likely to be designed by a team of individual designers under the direction of a designer director. Thus, the tradition of designers sketching out garment designs instead of presenting completed garments on models to customers began as an economy.
Popular Western styles were adopted all over the world, and many designers from outside of the West had a profound impact on fashion. Currently, modern fashion has seen a reference to technology such as designers Hussein Chalayan and Miuccia Prada who have introduced industrial textiles and modern technology into their fall collections. Mass market designers generally adapt the trends set by the famous names in fashion. Increasingly, many modern high-end designers are now beginning to turn to mass market retailers to produce lower-priced merchandise, and to broaden their customer base. Perhaps most importantly, designers use their imaginations to come up with new ideas.
There are a number of well known fashion design schools worldwide. Most fashion design courses last for three years. As well as teaching students about the artistic and technical side of the subject, some courses include a year working in the fashion industry, to give students a taste of commercial fashion design. Others offer the chance to visit fashion houses abroad.
Fashion Marketing news: A slew of studies, data, and articles seem to point out the growing success of niche sites, especially in the fashion industry. Hype or Fact? How can big online retailers and local fashion stores benefit from internet niches?
I like reading about pragmatic ideas to boost online sales of fashion goods, from apparel to accessories. I think that too much time is wasted in theorizing about internet marketing, and not acting about it.
Yet, I am going to talk about hard-core statisical studies and hype. Why?
Because I found in this month’s INC. magazine an article about niche marketing that made me connect together a lot of issues facing local apparel stores as well as big online fashion retailers.
Make money online by not carrying best-sellers
First, the article titled “A world without bestsellers” dabbles with buying patterns specific to internet consumers.
These patterns make up the Long Tail. You may or you may not know about it. For a concise explanation, go the Long Tail page on Wikipedia. Let’s just say that consumers can find and buy online products that a regular store could not carry. For instance, 40% of Amazon.com’s book sales reportedly consist in unknown titles that your regular Barnes and Noble cannot afford to carry in the bookstore next door.
The same seem to apply to fashion goods. For instance, in the INC. article, Zappos’ Tony Hsieh says that:
“Today the company sells more than three million products across 1,000 brands. The top 20 percent of products account for half of revenue, the bottom 80 percent, the other half.”
So, at Zappos, the 20 best-selling items represent only 50% of the revenues. This is a far-cry from the usual 80/20 rule that usually applies offline, when the top 20 best-sellers make up 80% of the revenues. The 80/20 rule is drawn from the works of economist Pareto.
Online sales of fashion goods make Pareto Principle redundant
This is the gist of a February 2007 study called “Goodbye Pareto Principle, Hello Long Tail: The Effect of Search Costs on the Concentration of Product Sales.” It was written by researchers at the Sloan School of Management at the MIT. Better, this study is based on “several years of sales data at a private-label women’s clothing company that offered the same merchandise through its catalog and its Internet store.”
Fashion goods are really at the forefront of this trend. Think about all the sites of the specialty sites that have sprung up, from sites selling discontinued lines of products to sites selling only to a sub-demographic. Buyers will turn to the web for hard-to-find glasses or for styles that regular retailers would deem too original to carry.
A company called Niche Retail is specialized in doing just that. The company says that they actually avoid carrying best-sellers, as big retailers can usually manage to kill the business by discounting the most sought-after items. By the way, Niche Retail’s logo reprents the Long Tail graph.
Style is a personal matter. Fashion professionals did not wait for the Long Tail theory to launch niche product lines. But the internet does offer interesting further niche opportunities:
– established brands and big online retailers can find relevant niche sites for some of their product lines
– local fashion stores are indeed niches themselves; they can use the internet to get more exposure
Big brands and retailers going after niche consumers
This very site spends time presenting you new fashion blogs, new fashion sites, and new fashion communities (see Fashion 2.0). Because fashion can get very personal, it has always been a good conversation topic. Now, the internet allows you to become a fashion critique in a snap. Big fashion actors can go after these niche sites to get their attention.
For instance, niche TV channels are popping up on the internet, due to the low barrier of entry, as reported in this article of the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper gives the example of clothing chain Express sponsoring the Ford Models web tv. I would add the example of “Ask a Gay Man”, the colorful and popular fashion critique show on YouTube (see my previous note on the subject), which has gotten founder William Sledd a TV deal with Bravo.
But you not have to be big to go after these niche sites. For instance, Ujeans, a made-to-order jeans company sponsors competitions on social network site StyleMob (“a new community for street fashion inspiration”).
Local fashion stores are so niche
I see here a chance for local apparel stores as well: a niche can be geographic.
A local store owner may be the best person to know what senior citizens like wearing in the Boca Raton area. Why not put up a website, where you can share your expertise? When local people use Google to find information about clothes they like, they will find your website, enjoy your expertise, and visit your shop.
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Marketers are encouraging local stores to go online and advertise. A book called Marketing your retail store in the internet age does a great job of giving pragmatic and inexpensive tips to local store owners. Meanwhile, Google is pushing local ads heavily. Its AdWords system allows you to display your ad only to people searching from your zip code. Moreover, gettoplists Google Maps allows you to mention your store in the popular map system, so that when people search for “women’s fashion, 97108”, your store shows up.