At a recent press day, previewing the new SS18 collection from the Swiss brand, Bally, I got thinking about how you can slip between the gap. Bally has followed the Gucci model of Wes Anderson statement pieces in bold colours and look-at-me graphics and slogans. But, Bally’s problem is, it isn’t Gucci, and just doesn’t have the attraction as a “name”- I actually like it more for this reason. Therefore they can’t charge the prices Gucci ask and sell in the volumes too. They also have another issue, well, it’s actually a good thing, they are offering a quality made product.
Left - Gucci Cruise 18
I’m going to call it out. Gucci isn’t good quality. I like Gucci’s ideas, I just don’t think it’s executed to reflect the prices they charge. I’m not naive, I know luxury goods have huge margins, but there’s margins and then there’s margins. No wonder Gucci’s profits are through the roof, they are making products that aren’t as good as they should be in that price category.
There’s enough Gucci out there, now, to hear of plenty of quality control issues: shoes than run in the rain, tiger patches on jeans repeatedly fixed, leather belts that feel like a free school belt. It’s not just Gucci doing this, but they’re the label flying high and drawing in the masses. They are also creating complicated product that requires time and a level of expertise to make it well and quickly shows its quality.
The article said “Balenciaga has stolen Gucci’s crown to become the hottest brand in fashion. According to the latest data analysed by BoF in partnership with search platform Lyst — which tracks 4.5 million data points per hour from over 65 million annual consumers, five million products and 12,000 brands — the Demna Gvasalia-designed brand climbed two places to top the hottest brand ranking in the third quarter of 2017.”
Right - Bally SS18
The feedback on Twitter, from many passionate people, was that they wanted Gucci and couldn’t understand this. It must be wrong. Clearly, Gucci is still in demand and they need to maximise this while they can, but this quality issue will speed up their “hot” lifecycle. People will question what they are paying for and many will feel cheated. The fashion crowd are already over Gucci.
A friend recently had a scarf, retailing, probably, for around £400, and it was so thin, it was clearly nowhere near the best quality scarf of that type. It’s almost laughable, and while people have “Brand Blindness” it’s okay, but you free-fall quickly after without quality. Quality makes people return to a brand.
And, this takes me back to Bally. Currently looking for a new owner, they need to decide whether to offer quality and an acceptable price or chase the higher margins, slash quality and see what happens. They’ll never be a Gucci, but they can clearly maximise sales, but increasing margins like many of its competitors. It'll be interesting to see who the new owner is and which direction they decide to take.
A recent wrap on the Evening Standard’s ES Magazine by fashion portal, Lyst, got me thinking about how fashion is currently being bought and marketed. Armed with streams of data on sales and searches, the company fine tunes its offering to predict what you want before you even know it yourself selling from different retailers and sites in one place.
Left - Recent advert for Lyst
The advert says things like - “This week on Lyst: New York men spending 25% more on rubber-soled sneakers than New York women on high heels”.
Is this kind of information really useful? While any additional information empowers buyers and retailers to think about what is selling and what to buy again, it has be remembered that fashion isn’t a logical beast.
You can’t solely predict and buy fashion on previous sales and best-sellers. It’s a bit like trying to please a search engine, how can people search for something they don’t even know they want yet or actually exists? It’s the digital equivalent of the chicken and the egg.
Right - Can algorithms predict fashion?
Annoyingly, as fashion becomes more saturated and speeds up, the number of major changes and ideas seems to be slowing. Is it these types of buying patterns and data information that is stalling fashion? Are retailers being too cautious in order to maintain sales and offer more guaranteed return on sales?
Algorithms will never be able to replace instinct. Fashion is about instinct, a gut feeling. It’s about influential people - be they celebrities, designers, best friends - asking themselves “what do I want now?” or “I want that!”.
This starts the wave of influence along the chain across brands, designers and people which then results in the trends and then, hopefully, end sales for the retailers.
As fashion becomes more competitive and saturated it will be those with the instinct to go in their own direction who will really standout.