I’m not a sheep
Some people have been listening to our conversations. Specifically consumers, the lifeblood of our businesses. Many consumers are unhappy and dissatisfied with manufacturers. Consumers say manufacturers treat them like they’re stupid and don’t listen to them. Judging from some recent comments on this blog, I can’t say I’d disagree.
I’m printing a guest post from a consumer named Ronda. She is a 39 year writer from Chicago, with one child. She has a background in sales and marketing and she loves fashion. She says she finds the blog fascinating but some things offend her. Whether you agree with her or not, designers may want to think twice about the kind of impression that’s being left in the minds of consumers who visit.
I have been reading through the ABC retailing thread and I wanted to take a minute to comment. As a customer and a fan of fashion I was confused and insulted by some of the comments I read, but after some reflection I am left thinking that maybe part of the problem for some of you is that you just don’t get it. And that isn’t a knock as much as an admission that I don’t get you guys either. I don’t hear a clear point of view, only criticism. I don’t see anything being offered as a replacement for what you term the expensive and boring. And I find that the design entrepreneurs represented here, liken me as a customer, media savvy, hip me, with my extensive sales and marketing background to sheepâ€¦ That is a bit more than insulting.
I find it ironic that some DE’s postings are so vocal about anti-media branding because they are the type of designer who would benefit most from it and will probably not be as successful without it. From what I have been able to see of some designs, well all I can say is I don’t know what your point of view is, or who would be your customer, and I don’t think you know either. I think that many of the DEs here are missing the fact that tv/media as it relates to fashion, is a reflection of what/who the customer is as opposed to traditional marketing which tells the customer who she should be.
The reality is that there have always been fashion icons, from Jackie O to Twiggy, Cher to Lauren Hutton. Most fashion icons of the past were characters so dressed and defined by a designer or a look they weren’t as much people or personalities but living dolls. When a woman sees Sarah Jessica Parker on SATC or Terri Hatcher on Desperate Housewives her attention is drawn to characters that are reflective of what is going on with her and in her life. She relates and part of that is in the “costuming” or outfits that have been selected for that character.
The hard truth for most designers is that the days of designers dictating fashion are over. I know as a long time fashion fan that for the first time in a long history I am thinking about how to put my look together and how it will work with my life, and not get The Look that the industry is shoving. I find among the women I know, that we look to media and find our taste and sensibilities affirmed, but it’s not where we get our sense of style.
I mean designers lost power because they abused us (okay our mothers) with looks that make the average woman look ridiculous and when you looked back at photos of you past, you found yourself representing an era, an idea and not being yourself and it was embarrassing. The wrap dress, the safari look, the jumpsuit, the preppie look, the mini skirt, Russian Gypsy, Ladies who lunch pillbox hat with matching coat. Those weren’t looks of timelessness borne of creativity, nope in retrospect the game was to figure out what it would be for the season and make your own version of it at your markets price point. How original.
Fashion became a serious joke -what, do those designers get together and try to think of the most interesting way to make grown women look ridiculous? That is the way fashion was nothing short of a reality TV challenge. The color is orange and the fabric is linen, so create a summer look. Well you had a bunch of designers showing a bunch of stuff in a color few women wear well and in an unforgiving hard to maintain fabric, and if you weren’t in it you were out. So what’s a girl to do? I mean how easy is it really for the average mortal woman to wear orange linen, come on now.
And then something happened, Diane Keaton appeared in Annie Hall and everyone dug her style and wanted to be her, thus the style icon was borne. The same thinking that pretty much pulled men’s fashion from the grave, Richard Gere in American Gigolo, who single handedly saved GQ mag from extinction and created the first wave of the metrosexual male. Just as Miami Vice stylists created a whole new market for designers who were once limited to women’s apparel; inspired by media, you now had men considering color and cut as never before. I won’t even get into what Halston did for licensing because it irritates me that designers won’t admit that they can’t make any real money until they can sell something mass market. Hence the birth of the logo bag and perfume/beauty lines because branding gets you mindshare and market share. This frivolity that had nothing to do with the serious designer, was created to continue a brand idea and to help support the couture lines -that in truth is lovely to look at and a wonder to behold -but few can afford it and little is sold.
I wonder if you could parallel that to these modern “original” one of a kind creative pieces that the dumb American population just doesn’t seem to get. The truth is Mr. Designer, your stuff doesn’t sell on its own because we don’t want it and the only hope that your stuff has is that it may be seen on some major show so the poor fashion victims who still wander amongst us can buy it. And then you will be forced by demand to either create something wearable to continue to sell or your creative flash in the pan self will be out of business. But if that happens you can always chalk it up to corporate strong arming.
Let’s face it, the genie is out to the bottle and has been for a long time. Welcome to the 21st century folks. Video killed the radio star and if I don’t want to wear it you can’t make me any more. Because I, as the lowly consumer, have a choice, lots of it. My style icons aren’t models discovered by designers who tell me that this is who I should aspire to be. But female characters from music, movies, and television, women I can relate to or want to relate to and say hey that’s my life and that how I want to look when I star in it. Where did she get that necklace? I wonder how I would look in those jeans.
So now the stylist is king. I shrug my shoulders and think okay, so now I can see how this is supposed to work. I think your average person knows what they want but only when they see it. A good example of the trend toward TV’s influence on product marketing in modern times can be exemplified by the bed in Mad About You. Every young middle class couple starting out wanted that bed. Why? Because it was perfection. It was what they had in mind but couldn’t articulate and when they saw it in the show, the light bulb goes on.
Maybe the frustrated designer is mad because what they’re producing, isn’t what I am looking for. As a consumer, it doesn’t work for me. I don’t have to be bothered with someone’s creative vision because when I find what I want, I will know it when I see it. Too bad you can’t show it to me.
Think of the Rachel from Friends hair-cut. It was perfect, something new, different and wearable on almost everybody and could be adapted to most hair types. It was a pain to style but that would be discovered later. This is why women look to Desperate Housewives or Sex and the City, to see how to work the next great idea, for articulation of what is in their heads and in their fantasies.
For style is like porn, most people can’t describe it, but they know it when they see it. ~R
From time to time, the level of comment snarkiness increases and I’m tired of it. I should have stopped it long ago. It makes me want to avoid reading comments altogether and this is my blog. This is my living room. If you can’t respect each other enough to be polite then you should at least respect my feelings, I’m hosting you. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in person. Let’s have a little civility here. Nobody needs to be hateful.
So, we have a new rule, call it censorship, I don’t care but if your comment or portions of it are a gratuitous jab -and irrelevant to the topic- I’ll delete it. By being snarky, designers are leaving a bad impression with consumers, validating what consumers already think. You shouldn’t be validating their impressions but challenging them. Some of you can be jerks and I’m tired of it.