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8.17.2010

When consumers get tired of "Saving"

KENYAKU ZUKARE is an expression I heard maybe 6 months ago.
People started talking about how consumers are getting a bit weary of watching every penny.
 
This does not mean that the pendullum is going to make a full swing back to the bubbly, happy-go-lucky days of the "Bubble Economy" in the 90s; it just means that consumers will be even more discerning.
 
For example, instead of having a real beer (as opposed to the "new beer") every night, people may choose to only have beer three or four times a week, but instead of the cheap stuff, they will have the real stuff.
 
They may be shopping for "marked down daily specials" for fish and meat, but the rice may be from Uonuma - one of the best there is.
 
And so on...
 
For apparel, it probably means that instead of buying three pairs of 680 yen ($6.80) jeans at the supermarket or 2 pairs for $29 each at UNIQLO, consumers would invest in that exquisite pair of SAMURAI or AG or DIESEL jeans and wear it to death to get value for money.
 
The trend setting magazines have all done their "what the editors bought in real life" stories to feature real clothes trends;
and once again, the popular items are military jackets, leopard prints, maxi dresses, and skinny jeans...
I have to say once again: what else is new?
 
Soon, the feature stores on "my beloved, long-standing staples" will come out,
and once again, the glossies will start promoting the Converse basket ball shoes, the Levi's 501, the Burberry trench, and Margaret Howell "my favourite shirts" shirts along side the Chanel bag, Hemes Birkin and Kelly, and maybe something from LV and/or Dior.
"go back to basics," they will say, "and while you are at it, buy the real thing."
 
Some people have begun to ask if the market will be soon tired of the "real clothes" and "fast fashion" trends, which is the same thing over and over and over again.
Maybe it is time that we looked to buy more than the new T shirt from Alexander Wang or another leopard print scarf from Louis Vuitton.
 
For me, I think this desire to be more discerning and selective will lead to truly creative talent getting more recognition.
 
It has been very sad to see Martin Margiela move away from his eponymous label and Yohji Yamamoto go bankrupt.
 
And it would be nice to see someone who can make more than glorified street clothes get real recognition again.
 
Rei Kawakubo is a shrewd businessperson. She will do whatever it takes to keep the cash flowing so that she can pour her creativity into her collection line.
If more designers had her sense of commercialism, the collections themselves would remain more dynamic and inspiring.
Unfortunately, many designers have gone the other direction and commoditized their collection line in hopes of keeping their business above water, and in turn, accelerating the downward spiral in terms of creativity and excitement.
The more the designers try to make their collections "wearable" and "real," the easier it is for the fast fashion companies to outdo them.
 
I hope this trend will soon be reversed and that the real discerning consumers will start voting more heavily with their wallets about what has value.
 
I think it is now 5 years ago that I bought a hand-embroidered leather Dior jacket and matching short boots for about $10,000.
People still ooh and aah over them when I wear them.
The jacket is just WONDERFUL over jeans or white relaxed trousers.
The boots are stunning with a simple dress or tight-fitting cropped pants.
Galliano probably would NOT want to see them, but to everyone else, they are still very exquisite items that look stunning on me.
And I know that they were not copied by fast fashion brands - and even if they were; they are long out of stock.
 
I used to make a disgusted face when one of my staff members proudly told me that he is wearing his UNIQLO down jacket for the third year in a row.
I hope he is not wearing it again this year.
But then again, if he absolutely loves the damn thing, who is to stop him?
 
Trends just change so little these days, without a POS sign that says "marked down," who can tell what is last season and what is not?
We know that anything we buy now, we can wear for at least 2 years if not more.
So why save and buy more of the cheap, nasty stuff?
 
I reckon consumers will go back to really enjoying shopping for "the right item" at the right price, and not settle for anything less.

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