Slow Fashion

Comes an article from the Wall Street Journal last week on “slow fashion” entitled Tracking the Trouser Cycle. Unfortunately, the WSJ incorrectly identifies slow fashion as “an antidote to fast fashion, keeping the same styles around from season to season” but fast fashion doesn’t mean rapidly changing styles. It generally means fast cycle time to delivery. Profiled is Slowear, described as “a luxury clothing maker based outside of Venice” but the company’s website says “Slowear is not a brand but a brand of brands” and the project is “a group of high-end companies gathers [sic] to offer a range of complementary products that are similar in style, quality and strong brand identity”.

Contradictions aside, the article describes a very real phenomenon of men’s shopping -and maybe you don’t care if you’re doing women’s apparel but you should because women are shopping more like men every day. The article describes purchasers of men’s luxury goods as being “leery of adopting new styles. They more often remain faithful customers of a single company, once they find something that fits and looks good.” I’d say that also describes women more and more often these days and most likely to continue in certain demographies as the population ages within the luxury staple goods categories.

While the fast-fashion push is being embraced by many companies today, a backlash is brewing. Filson, a 110-year-old clothing maker known for its staple wools and cottons, now is backtracking after adding more fashionable clothing in the fall of 2005. Customers responded so poorly to the changes that the company hired a new president and chief executive, Bill Kulczycki, to shift the strategy into reverse by eliminating the new sportswear and leather jackets and restoring the focus on products like the “Tin Cruiser” jacket, which was patented in 1914. “It was a major backlash,” says Mr. Kulczycki.

New, forward-looking fashions are coming at shoppers so fast and furiously that some customers have reached “burn-out,” says David Wolfe, a creative director at the Doneger Group fashion industry consultants in New York. He points to Slowear.

One thing not mentioned in the article was sizing changes. While Slowear and others intend to keep their customers forever, are their sizing scales being pushed toward an increasing median? I’d think less slowly; men in that demography tend to maintain their weight but still, maturation forces changes in skeletal structures. Were there an identical push in women’s wear, I’d think sizing changes would be more pronounced.

Just curious, do many of you also shop like this? Do you tend to stick to brands and silhouettes within them if it is possible? Have your shopping habits changed as you’ve aged?

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19 comments

  1. Morgen says:

    At the ripe old age of twenty-six, I tend to go for some really boring clothes these days. It’s depressing what is available out there for women with my age/budget. Big box (cheaper) stores are starting to be a little more on-trend, but the fit and the colorways are so homogenized and a lot of the stuff geared toward younger women is offensively cutesy and also worthless within six months. Every once in a while I can afford something nicer, but even then I will usually choose a knit tee, a pair of jeans, or a cardigan. So yes, I tend to stick to very basic shapes. Most of the stuff in my closet has been with me for four or more years. No particular brand, but second-hand scrounging is usually my best bet for the more durable, classier items. Not to mention that a decent second-hand store gives you a much wider range of ‘fit’ options than someplace like Target or Wal-Mart.

    In the future if I were to come across a brand that offered the basic things I like, done well, especially in natural fibers like wool and cotton, well sure, I’d probably be all over it. Sounds like a swell value.

    I love watching fashion change, but pretty much consider myself a non-participant at this point.

  2. CDBehrle says:

    As a new subscriber, I am really enjoying fashion incubator and have forwarded it to friends and others in the industry.

    I am a designer of high end leather clothing based out of NY. I’ve specializing in custom-made for men and women for many years. I manufactured (in house) and exported a women’s leather line for 7+ years and had a retail shop for 5 years.

    I have always found men to be my best and most loyal (custom-made) customers, there is much less resistance to both price point and the wait involved in getting something custom-made. Even if he is purchasing something for a third party, I am guaranteed repeat business. Men are much less swayed by label,hype and the instant- gratification aspects of a purchase and much more interested in the fit, quality and overall experience. Men are very true to themselves when making the choices involved in such a purchase.

    Many Fewer women consider purchases this way, and the term “custom-made” has been greatly diluted by mis-use. But, I do feel this is changing as prices go up and overall quality of RTW gets dodgier. There seems to be a real demand for unique, custom-crafted work bubbling up across the board in response to the sameness of so much that is out there. And while a lot of this in the US is happening at the DIY level, it can’t do anything but help increase the demand for any true “Slow Fashion” business.

  3. Natasha says:

    I always seem to know what I’m looking for in terms of style, color and fabrication yet I always end up empty handed. Maybe I’m picky. I wish bras came in the same style year after year.

  4. Oxanna says:

    Me, I’m so difficult to fit, that I really don’t care where it comes from! If I could find a place that fit me and provided nice basics, I would probably shop there forever. Now, I also like fashion-forward clothes, but I haven’t found a reliably fitting brand for that, either. So I’m not very brand-loyal. But if I find something that works, why wouldn’t I go back? Why should a 6-gore skirt be offered only in the fall, and only when it’s the hottest thing?

    I think that if you offered a nice pair of pants last season, I should be able to find them again – barring extreme style changes, of course. I also concur with Morgen on the natural fiber basics. Very annoying to shop for comfy clothes and find racks of polyester knit!

  5. Lisa NYC says:

    I definitely shop like a man…I have my favorites (Tahari and Dana Buchman) and most always purchase from their lines…unless of course, I’m wearing a cheap sweatsuit to the gym…LOL. I find very few lines are cut for the full busted woman with hips. My 50 yo DH is also known to shop only 3 or 4 lines…year after year.

    Funny thing is I shop the same way for my 5 yo son…there are no more than 3 designer lines I consistently buy for him. As a boys’ clothing manufacturer, I am overly critical of what he wears (when he’s not wearing my line). I find the ones I buy for him are consistently well-made and fit terrific. Most of the trendy boys’ lines don’t measure up IMHO.

    With friendship,
    Lisa

  6. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    I’m disappointed that Mossimo’s T shirts for Target have now been made in slightly thinner fabric; however, I’ve been buying those shirts in both long and short sleeves for the last 3 or 4 years. I’m glad they finally started making shirts longer, as I’m long-waisted. I’m also disappointed that all the colors don’t overlap between V-neck and crew-neck (I like the former better than the latter).

    As for other stuff, my budget really only permits me to get stuff mostly 2nd hand so I go with what fits, not certain brands. I have a hard time finding pants that fit right.

  7. Marie-Christine Mahe says:

    I’m not the best for this survey, since I make nearly all of my own clothes :-). But the reason for that is that I’m dismayed at the quality and fit of most ready-to-wear that I see. Every attempt at shopping ends at the sewing machine. And yes, since I don’t have that much expendable time to devote to sewing, I tend to make fewer items of better quality as I’m getting older, not foregoing fashion entirely but trying to steer clear of the most ephemeral. It’s perfectly OK to make classic staples in varying fabrics and colors, nobody can tell your wardrobe is boring even if you -tell- them it’s mostly the same patterns.

    I do have several friends who make a living doing custom clothes, and they’re seeing strong customer interest, not being able to keep up with demand. This is true also for the younger woman who does quite wild neon-and-visible-seams sort of stuff, and who has a solid older customer base who goes to her for fit and merely tames down the colors a bit. In Europe at least, the demise of the custom dressmaker is grossly exagerated.

  8. Kate says:

    That’s shopping like a man?? I’ve always shopped like that. Who has time to go to twenty stores looking for a basic pair of pants.

    My preference has been to shop only those brands that I have found that fit and look good. Unfortunately for me, my old favorite has been bought out and now all they make is crap that I refuse to buy. So now I’m searching for a new favorite.

    As for shoes, I refuse to buy poorly-fitting shoes (I have a narrow foot) so when I get something I like I buy a couple of pairs so I can keep wearing them when the first one wears out. (And I alternate identical pairs so they will last longer.) Though a woman, I’ve worn the exact same style of shoes almost every day for the past five years.

    My big question is why, given all this lean manufacturing and global sourcing, there seems to be LESS diversity in what’s available rather than more? Not just in terms of style, but in terms of fit?

    We have body scanners now. Why can’t I go somewhere where they will scan my body and then deliver a blouse or pants to fit my long torso? (Many people apparently forget that a long torso can also mean a longer than usual rise.) Or fashionable shoes that fit?!

  9. Kathleen says:

    My big question is why, given all this lean manufacturing and global sourcing, there seems to be LESS diversity in what’s available rather than more? Not just in terms of style, but in terms of fit?

    This dichotomy has been addressed in an entry I wrote called Push manufacturing; subverting the fit feedback loop. That is exactly my point. Globalization and big brands leads to fewer choices, not more. Read the entry to see how this happens.

  10. Oxanna says:

    Not to hijack the thread, but Consumerist just ran an article asking “why you hate the GAP”. They got plenty of responses. And then GAP answered. Well, sorta. PR-answered. (Well, who was expecting them to admit to poor quality?) This would relate to the push manufacturing issue.

  11. oliviacw says:

    The sizing shift question for men is interesting. My husband is a boring dresser (he admits): one of his wardrobe staples is the Nordstrom’s label white 100% cotton broadcloth shirt, long sleeve. This product has changed in very minor ways over the years: they used a cheap button for a while that broke easily, but then shifted to a nice ceramic one that outlasts the shirt. The collars have widened and narrowed slightly. And a few years back they introduced a fabric treatment that reduced wrinkling. But, basically, the same style and cut for, oh, 15 years or so. But about 4 years back, the same size he had always purchased (16.5×33) suddenly started looking really baggy on him, like a wrinkly balloon. He had lost a little weight, but not that much – he’s a perfectly normal-sized guy. So about two years ago on the semi-annual shirt replenishment shopping trip, we asked if there was something a little less baggy. And lo and behold, they now had a “fitted” cut that really isn’t fitted (it’s still loose, not close to the body), it’s just more like the old shape.

    So definitely, there is some sizing creep going on there. Not so much on the actual measured dimensions (16.5×33 is still 16.5 in the neck, 33 in the arms), but on the cut of the other aspects.

  12. CDBehrle wrote:
    –I have always found men to be my best and most loyal (custom-made) customers, there is much less resistance to both price point and the wait involved in getting something custom-made. Even if he is purchasing something for a third party, I am guaranteed repeat business.–

    I completely agree. This has been my experience at my custom shirt studio, Off The Cuff Style. My clients are very loyal and either are completely predictable in their style and fabric choices….or they allow me to make their color, fabric and design choices for them! I rarely get a return….or a quibble about price. Men are such delightful customers!

  13. Amanda says:

    As a woman, I find it almost impossible to be brand-loyal, because (for instance) a pair of jeans from the GAP, in what is ostensibly the same cut/material will not be the same from season to season. So I have to shop many different brands and goes with whatever one has what fits. It’s frustrating. If I found one company that consistently had a good fit, I would stick with it.
    As far as skirts/dresses go, I make my own because I have much wider range of choice as far as style and hemline length. These things are totally dependent on what is “hot” at the moment, and if what I’m looking for isn’t exactly what everyone else wants, it won’t be found. Also, I like the broader range of fabric choices I get when I make my own. And that what I make is of a much higher quality than what I could get for the same amount of money (that I spend on fabric, notions, etc)at somewhere like Target.

  14. Jennifer says:

    the answer is yes and no
    For basic items yes I shop like a man – I look for the same lines, and styles over and over again but in new colours or to replace old ones – Jeans, basic pants, button up shirts, t- shirts etc..
    But for fashion items something with a bit more pizazz I traditionally shop around. And now that’s how I try to stock my retail store.
    The thing that drive me crazy as a store owner is trying to find basic styles that will fit the three general body types for in my size range – plus.

  15. Helen says:

    While cheap throw-away clothing (F21, H&M) is fun, it’s too expensive for me to fill my wardrobe. Those styles don’t last long in the fashion bell curve or in my washing machine. I’d love to buy quality staples, but unfortunately I have a lot of trouble finding companies that use a 20-something fit model AND make decently constructed clothing.

    I’m considering turning to a dressmaker or tailor for completely bespoke because I absolutely cannot find quality items that fit. I don’t want a ballgown, just some good pants. Will some DE please fill this RTW void?

  16. Jasmin says:

    I have to agree – I turned to dressmaking at 16 because of my figure (short, curvy) and never looked back, but I am now focusing more and more on making more intensive, architectural, long lasting pieces (that said, I’m still wearing clothes I made 10 or 15 years ago – and I still get compliments on them!). I have never bought pants that fit the way the ones I make do, and I have no interest in whatever is ‘current’, I just want fit, reliability, and quality. If I could actually buy pants and jackets that consistently fit and met my quality criteria – I would just buy them from the same people, I do that with shoes (I just keep buying the same styles, and stockpile if I can afford it). I think more and more people are becoming confident with their own style as the fashion market becomes more and more chaotic – people realise they can just do their own thing, buy clothes that fit and flatter, and not worry too much about whatever the current ‘hot’ trend is. Also I think as women get older, they become less and less willing to suffer for fashion, and way more focused on what actually looks good *on them*. Brand wise, I’m totally an Aura jeans fan because I can get my combination of leg length, rise, and size – no problems – and I simply cannot be bothered sewing jeans!

  17. Ruby says:

    Would it facilitate “slowear” and/or repeat customers/customer loyalty to put an email addresss (not just a website address) on a label that says, “Tell us how it fits”?

    Feedback. That’s what gets lost when a customer buys from a small line once and then not again.

    I have RTW clothes that I’ve worn till they fell apart, then duplicated them because they became standards of my wardrobe. If I’d had an email address or a URL to contact the maker, I would have returned to buy another. Isn’t that how this networked world is supposed to help us?

  18. Babette says:

    I definitely shop like a man these days. Partly because I shop for a man.

    My husband wears a uniform – he’s more adventurous now than he was before he met me but that just means that now he wears corduroy and chinos before he strictly wore slacks. He wears the same cut of pant in any fabric regardless.

    I became envious a few years back that he could always buy a pant that fit well. I never could. Pants shopping was the thing I hated most and I would find myself in tears in the change rooms. Some serious weight loss later and I find it easier but I can’t go back to a store and buy the same cut three seasons later and know it will fit (except with one jeans company).

    Two years ago I found the best pant. Comfortable and flatterning. Gone the next season. I will admit to laying it out on my cutting table and ripping off a pattern which I have made multiple times. I’m so mad I can’t buy this pant anymore.

    I know other Australian women suffer too. I’m told that one of the slightly more reliable suppliers here, Country Road, has recently changed all of it’s pant blocks and some curvier girls who like their pants find it’s no longer a good fit. It’s irksome.

  19. Magdalena Nehm says:

    I don’t know if i shop like a man or a woman, but i tend to always buy things on sale. Its mostly basics from top swedish brands (I live in sweden.) I also tend to avoid trendy clothes. I want to be able to use them for atlest a few yers. If i want anything more fun and eyecatching i make it my self.

    My sister in law told me that she dosen’t understand how i can buy so much things on sale. If she buys a dress on sale on the end of the season she can’t wear it the next because it will be “out”. She is very trendy.

    I love to see my clothes worn out. To see that all the effort put into the garment have come to good use. Both if it is my on workinghours or anyone elses.

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