by Bernardo van Eekhout in Lifestyle & Fashion , 19 april 2015
The recovery in the fashion industry is under pressure because of constant clearances in particular. These sales periods are becoming increasingly longer, and the discount rates increasingly higher. Mid-season and pre-sales have become established expressions, and so now, consumers are expecting low prices throughout the year. This forces retailers to deal with imposed price pressure.
Even though the end of the credit crunch is in sight, it still has its claws in the fashion industry. In The Netherlands, fashion chains MEXX, the Rode Winkel and Thom Broekman have gone under, and fashion chain WE is closing all of its twenty stores in China. In 2013, nearly 2100 fashion retailers in The Netherlands went bankrupt or ceased activities.
The turnover in Dutch menswear decreased 2.9 percent, and the third quarter of 2014 will also see a decrease, of 4.3 percent. This year, the clothing industry expects to see a small increase in revenue.
Ever since the beginning of the credit crunch in 2008, the (international) fashion industry has had to deal with falling sales, and even big names did not escape this trend. After thirty-eight years Jean Paul Gaultier has decided to discontinue his ready-to-wear for both men and women. As a result, two stores in Paris will be closed, with forty-two of the 104 jobs made redundant. Gaultier: “The world of prêt-à-porter has changed drastically.
Now seems the right time to stop. The hectic tempo of the collections don’t leave time for artistic freedom or fresh ideas and innovation. I just didn’t have time to think. Maybe there is too much clothing and not enough people to wear it. I also want to make room for the younger generation. It is a fresh start to express my creativity without limitations.” Gaultier will now focus on his haute couture, perfumes and jewelry. In collaboration with Swarovski, Gaultier has already designed a new type of crystal.
Recently, Viktor & Rolf also decided to discontinue their ready-to-wear and exclusively focus on their haute couture, scents and licenses. “We always saw fashion as a way to communicate, but because of the speed, the deadlines and the tough competition, prêt-à-porter felt like a creative obstacle. By letting it go, we now have more time and freedom for creativity.” The fashion industry is obviously drastically changing, with the middle-end suffering the most because of its lack of brand power, which is precisely something the upper-end does have. The recovery in the fashion industry is also under pressure by the constant clearances, making consumers expect constant low prices. This is resulting in more external pressure on retailers to also join the clearance frenzy. Furthermore, the fickle consumer still keep his or her options open, despite of falling unemployment, an accelerated economic recovery and increasing consumer confidence.
Due to the massive absence of wealthy Russians at several fashion shows, the Parisian fashion scene is also in trouble at the moment. The Russian fashion market represents about fifty-three billion dollars in sales. After the Chinese it are the Russians who are doing their tax free shopping in Europe en masse. In terms of sales, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana are the three favorite brands of the Russian consumer. But the political sanctions and the devaluation of the Russian Rouble with about forty percent are why the Russian consumers cry off.
Yet, many luxury brands still want to open their own shops in Moscow, something Dior did many years ago. In the graphic collection of Dior Homme, creative director Kris Van Assche opens the show with navy blue pinstripe suits (sometimes with toggle fastening) that look young by combining them with low-cut halter tops in wide marine stripes. Sometimes the costumes are splashed with white stripes.
Van Assche: “Tailoring has always been what it is about at Dior Homme. And I like to handle it in different ways; discovering different shapes, volumes and styles, as some of our clients are extremely classical and others more progressive.” In the Dior archives, Van Assche found a handwritten letter by Monsieur Dior himself: “Traditions have to be maintained. In troubled times like ours, we must maintain these traditions which are our luxury and the flower of civilization.”
Van Assche uses these texts as a print for shirts, bomber jacks, ties, blazers, and even bleached denim jeans. Not always successfully. “I like the idea of seeing Christian Dior’s handwriting in print, almost as if he were here in person.” More colorful are the grey sweaters, white shirts and sneakers with colorful stripes of chalk crayons. Van Assche must have drawn these himself.
The collection of the French powerhouse Givenchy is sprinkled with prints which look like paint splashes á la Jackson Pollock, but on closer inspection are innocent floral prints of soap root. After prints of barking Rottweilers, Madonnas and Bambis, they are the latest trump card of creative director Riccardo Tisci. He has turned the once so posh Givenchy into a male urban “hip-hop-ghetto” fashion label. Strict black school uniforms (blazers, shorts, Bermudas) alternate with outfits with all-over black and white print. Halter tops, tight jeans, bomber jacks, sweaters and parka jackets seem dangerously aggressive.
The Dr.Martens shoes have the same print as the clothes, and are sometimes extended to knee boots with white laces. At the end of the show, the flower patterns are embroidered on transparent black T-shirts and singlets. Are they a reference to the long-lost couture status Givenchy once had?
Paris de Luxe
The French prestige brand Louis Vuitton has been awarded as the strongest luxury brand of 2014. Hermès was the runner-up, and Dior came third. In China, Louis Vuitton ended up in second place in the list of best brands to give to men. Chinese consumers are still responsible for approximately one-third of the global luxury goods sales, but while their spending increased with about thirty percent in 2011, in 2014 this significantly dropped to two percent. Yet, Chinese consumers spend approximately twelve to twenty percent of their net income on luxury goods. Two-thirds of these purchases are made outside of China, where prices are a lot lower. For that reason, Louis Vuitton opened a store of 10,000 square meters on Oxford Street, London, the birthplace of British creative director Kim Jones. He designs Louis Vuitton’s wonderful men’s collections. This time, his inspiration was the imperial elegance of the Indian Rajasthan in combination with Air Force speed. Everything is chic, simple, desirable, and sublimely cut. “I was inspired by the relationship between the maharajahs and Louis Vuitton in the 1920s. L.V. was making a lot of suitcases for them, which is quite interesting. The maharajahs were also the first ones to fly.”
Cognac colored suede trench coats and baseball jackets are worn with pebble colored trousers, and shirts with short sleeves have zigzag patterns, and pilot overalls come in bright pink Indian color powder. The must-have item of this season is the short bomber jacket with a bright orange shine or in a discreet light grey.
Everything is worn with white or black sneakers. This time no strikingly flashy men bags, as the striking logo bag seems on its way out. The luxury conglomerate LVMH - which includes Louis Vuitton - made record sales of 30.6 billion Euros in 2014. The net profit rose with sixty-four percent to 5.65 billion Euros. In the first nine months of 2014, the turnover of Louis Vuitton saw an increase of four percent to twenty-six billion dollar.
At the moment, one of the hottest fashion labels for men is Kenzo. The sweaters with colorful tiger heads were the best-sellers of last season, and especially popular with young people. For some seasons now, American designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim are responsible for this originally Japanese fashion label. In the collections, they have brought back to the surface the merry and colorful character Kenzo was known for.
This time it is the enlarged polka dot in red and blue that is the favorite print for jackets, Bermudas and blazers, with the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty as logos. There are also mint-colored trench coats, marine jackets with large hoods and boat neck sweaters with aquatic color combinations, or in pastel colored sherbet hue that is sometimes semi-transparent with striped halter tops. Everything is playful, youthful and fresh, and clearly meant for a young audience. Leon: “I was inspired by the Frenchman. Everything I love is in Paris. I love everything French, so I wanted all things French in the collection. As I work with a lot of Frenchmen, I know what they really need. It is my ode to Parisian men, but also to the tourists that visit Paris.”
An increasing number of (women’s) fashion labels is concentrating on men’s clothing. They seem to think there is a lot of potential still in the market for men. The American label Coach, for instance, is setting up a men’s line, and American designer Michael Kors is opening about 500 men’s only boutiques worldwide. Mr Kors assumes that men’s clothing will bring in approximately one billion dollars in 2017. It is expected that in five years the growth in luxury menswear will surpass that of women’s to an amount of 110 billion dollar in 2019. This is a thirty-six percent increase in comparison with the eighty-one billion dollar trade in 2014. In The Netherlands, nearly 2100 fashion retailers went bankrupt or ceased activities in 2013.
The retail landscape has become one of displacement in which stores continuously have to adapt and renew to be successful in seducing the consumer. Many stores remain the same for too long, without giving the consumer an incentive to revisit. In 2013, the revenue in menswear decreased by 2.9 percent, and total apparel sales in The Netherlands decreased by four percent. In 2014, the Dutch fashion retailers ended the third quarter of 2014 with a turnover decrease of 4.3 percent compared to 2013.
However, Dutch consumers bought clothes and shoes for about 850 million Euros via the internet, an increase of sixteen percent compared to 2012. To put menswear on the map even more, the New York Fashion Week organizes a special men’s edition in June 2015. For several seasons now, a special London Collections Men has been organized besides to the regular men’s shows held every six months in Milan and Paris. So perhaps it is time for a special edition focusing on Dutch men...