Continuing my muse on fashion that began with Refashioning Dad, one of the points that Marion Humes makes in her review of the Australian fashion industry is the explosion in choice available to women since she became editor of Vogue in, I think, 1997. That would certainly fit with my own impressions.
Part of the increased choice came from reduced tariff protection making a wider range of cheaper goods available. Then many people simply had more money to spend. Most recently, the internet has provided access to a very wide range of fashion choices indeed.
Neither choice nor indeed designer labels necessarily means quality or style. I thought that the man's outfit in this photo was remarkably daggy. I was reassured that eldest daughter shared that view.
The cost of the outfit, by the way: Armani gray jacket $1,390, pants $690 and cotton shirt $390. I can look just as daggy at far less cost.
As often happens, my interest in the review was sparked by professional as well as personal interest.
In the first half of last year I did some work for Dilanchian Lawyers. This included analysis of particular client matters. I am not a lawyer, although I have a reasonably good general knowledge of certain areas of law. Instead, I focused on disentangling the economic and commercial issues underlying the various cases. A number of the cases I looked at involved the fashion industry.
In her review, Ms Humes pointed to some of the changes that have been taking place in the structure of the fashion industry. Those changes lay at the heart of the cases I reviewed.
The simple bricks and mortar models of the past were being replaced by a multiplicity of distribution channels in an increasingly global market place. In turn, this had created a complex web of legal agreements as suppliers attempt to maximise their position across markets and channels. The result has been some something of a lawyers delight!
Fashion has always been fickle. Styles change, as does brand positioning. The rise of the brand has been one of the remarkable features of the last twenty years. No matter where you go in the world, you will find the same brands, real and counterfeit.
But can the brand survive? I do wonder about that.
I am not saying that brands will vanish. People are still attracted by labels that have particular status or images attached to them. But increasingly, consumers use the internet to search for styles they like independent of brand.
The concept of territory, a defined geographic market, has already become a victim of the changes. Why buy a brand at a particular store when you can source exactly the same thing from a multiplicity of sources?
The big brands are already struggling with this one. It lies at the heart of many commercial disputes. Now they have to face multiple competitors and an increasingly sophisticated consumer. It all makes life a tad difficult!