Retail has changed so much over the last twenty years. Department stores are disappearing and online shopping has taken over the industry. Consignment and thrift stores are gaining momentum. Personalized shopping packages are fashionable, and it’s possible to rent your wardrobe instead of owning it. The new reality is pretty mind-blowing.
It’s not just the way we shop that’s different, the price point structure is changing too. The market seems to be polarizing to two extremes: fast fashion and designer wear.
Fast Fashion is relatively inexpensive and affordable to most. Quality ranges from fair to poor, and is inconsistent from item to item. Some items are sold so incredibly cheaply that I can’t get my head around how they can possible be making a profit.
Designer Wear ranges from pricey to extremely pricey. Quality ranges from good to impeccable. Designs are fairly unique, fabrics and workmanship are superior, and you’re paying a lot extra for the exclusivity and status of the brand. The prices of designer wear also seem to be getting more expensive season after season.
The product that lies between these price points is disappearing. These items are very well made and use gorgeous fabrics. Some thought and precision has gone into their design, and they last over time. They are pricey compared to fast fashion, but not nearly as expensive as designer wear.
A lot of chain store merchandise is getting more like fast fashion, especially since retailers discount the goods regularly and still have to make a profit. They are continuously finding ways to reduce item costs, which takes a toll on the workmanship and fabric integrity.
Brands like Karen Millen and Boden are examples of this disappearing price point. More expensive than fast fashion, but for the price you get a quality item. Years ago, many house brands from Nordstrom fit the bill too, but that is no longer the case.
As a retail buyer I worked closely with clothing manufacturers and learned that superior fabric and workmanship comes at a price. Personally, I will happily pay extra for a wardrobe item that is made of luxe fabric, has all sorts of quality details, is flawlessly stitched together, and handles well in the laundry. But I’m not necessarily looking for designer wear where I have to pay a premium for the prestige of the label. These quality, non-designer items are harder and harder to find and that’s just the way the market is going. Things are fast, faster, or slow, with very little in between.