This month’s topic ‘Fashion’s Microchic Shake-Up’ pondered on the impact of the internet on the global fashion market we see today. Prior to the invention of the internet, origins of fashion trends could be pinpointed to say, a specific youth culture, a political movement, or a new music trend. Times have changed; the way we see fashion has changed. The serge of information made accessible to us via the internet has created a new breed of consumer, a fashionista in his or her own right. Hello Microchic.
The term Microchic is used to describe fashion today – fashion derived from a variety of new, and inspirational sources. A style influenced by social networking sites, trend blogs and small cult labels adopted by highstreet clothing lines. A Microchic consumer knows about fashion and demands individuality, quality, innovation and fashion-forward appeal.
Ben Beaumont-Thomas began the evening with ‘The Great Microchic Shake-Up: A Primer’, in which he defined microchic as a ‘hyper-personal multi-faceted look’. The internet allows us to cherry pick fashions, it’s no longer about subcultures showcasing specific looks but about a consumer being able to choose a look for that day without the commitment. London’s fashion-forward hubs like Shoreditch accommodate many a microchic fashionista and, it seems what used to be ironic now just ‘is’. In order to track cult fashion movements on the streets of London, Paris, Milan, New York and Tokyo big brands subscribe to online global think tanks and trend forecasting services such as WGSN. These think tanks track fashion movements all over the world. Data is collected to give information on a global scale. Sales figures, market research, on-the-street trend spotters, and research into new manufacturing techniques all form a hub of information essential to any brand that wants to survive. It seems clear; the Internet has played a huge part in turning the way we think about fashion around.
So began the evenings debate; “Can the British High Street compete with Microchic?” The audience were able to upload thoughts in real-time via a live twitter feed which was displayed on stage for debate interaction. Guests Iris Ben David, CEO of Styleshake, Helen Brown, founder of Catwalk Genius and Ruth Marshall-Johnson, senior editor of WGSN Think Tank also shared their thoughts, prompting further debate. A particularly interesting point made by @cushefootwear via twitter was “Internet is to clothes what microwaves are to food”, prompting us to question the importance of ‘experience’ and ‘sensation’ when buying fashion.
Alterations in consumer shopping patterns have led to many interesting technological developments. Innovative systems are being designed to meet new sets of consumer demands.
Styleshake allows a user to build a look within an online interface. The idea is, the user can create the garment they have in their head (you know, that absolutely perfect dress you wonder if you’ll ever find) through the selection of various characteristics, such as fabrics, necklines, and detailing. After you’ve designed the garment you can have it made at very reasonable prices.
Catwalk Genius is an innovative creative platform in which unestablished and up-and-coming fashion designers can sell their ranges. It’s a great resource for those looking for something ‘not on the High Street’. Users can also invest in emerging talent by buying shares in a designer’s next collection.
Perhaps a more extreme example of innovation is Augmented-Reality Shopping in which tools such as 3D scanners are used to replicate the body shape and look of a user, allowing him or her to see what they would look like in any chosen garment.
Emerging trends are all about the involvement of the consumer. The consumer is part of the process. Innovative systems like these are designed to combat consumer frustrations such as differentiation in sizing between brands or inability to find a specific item or size, while offering an alternative consumer experience. Many consumers would be happy to do away with the days of long queues, sweaty changing rooms, rude salespeople and traipsing round shops all afternoon. By adopting an online shopping sphere, however, we lose out on the interactivity, the social nature and the tactility of shopping the High Street. Retail brands will need to facilitate technical developments such as 3D scanners (eliminating the need for changing rooms) to compete.
The competitive nature of the High Street has resulted in a cycle of mass production of fast-fashion garments and large amounts of waste. In contributing to our throw-away society the highstreet fails to represent the ethical edge that can be found in Microchic. However the High Street favourites H&M’s Garden Collection made up of organic cotton and recycled polyester represents a change in attitudes from big brands.
So what does the future hold for the British High Street? Join the Debate!
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