If there’s one thing we can always count on, it’s that every season brings us a bevy of new collections, trends and pieces with which to update our ever-evolving wardrobes. From fast fashion to high-end designer pieces, the options for consumption in today’s marketplace are virtually limitless.
Personally, I’ve always had a light rule of thumb that I invest more in my accessories and shoes than anything else in my wardrobe. After all, they often last longer, making the cost per wear far more reasonable than the upfront price tag might lead you to believe.
While I’ve stuck to this formula for the majority of my life, the way I have shopped has changed, thanks to both the global shift towards e-commerce as well as a shift in the social nature of shopping.
It’s inarguable at this point that e-commerce is beginning to dominate our shopping experience. You could point to the hundreds of online stores that seemingly pop up on a daily basis or the increase in mobile shopping apps so that we can shop straight from our phones with just a few swipes. Or you could point to what might be the hardest evidence of all – the closing of over 1,000 retail stores in this year alone – thanks to the rise in e-commerce and the decline in brick-and-mortar operating margins.
This year truly is a prime example. BCBG Max Azria is planning to close 120 stores, while Macy’s will be closing 63 and Abercrombie 60. Guess is also closing 60 stores, while Wet Seal will be closing a staggering 173 stores. And the list goes on.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that this is a signal of a major shift in our culture. With convenience becoming valued more highly than ever, not to mention increased expectation of instant gratification, we as consumers (and especially as fashion enthusiasts) want it all – and we want it right now.
Pair this with the democratisation of fashion thanks to both social media and fast fashion, not to mention fresh approaches to high and low, such as Kim Kardashian pairing Champion sweatpants with a fur coat or cult luxury brand Vetements’ collaborations with mainstream brands (including Champion by the way), and you have an entirely new beast altogether. Because there really is a direct relationship between social media and fashion.
These days, you don’t have to wait an entire season for the looks and trends that marched down the runways to be available in stores. You just have to wait for a fast fashion retailer to turn out the same look, which can sometimes be done in weeks. And while I believe this is unfair to the designer, it’s also an inevitable consequence of social media.
Our devices have become the new normal for socialising. In the UAE as well as other places around the world, the mall has generally been seen as a place to be social. It’s a place where interacting with others is a part of the shopping experience. But whenever I find myself in the mall, I’ve noticed more and more that they are filled with people with their heads down, focused more on their phones than the clothing or people around them.
Because of this shift, it’s clear why so many long-standing brick-and-mortar retailers are now placing more of their resources and energy into their online presence.
E-commerce has its own challenges. You don’t get the foot traffic that you do with a store. It’s also easier to open an e-commerce store as there are fewer barriers to entry, which inevitably results in more openings at a rapid pace, leading to a saturation of the marketplace.
Personally, I believe the future of retail and shopping is similar to how I try to shop – it’s about balance. Sometimes, a fast fashion piece makes sense – especially if it’s a trend you love but know won’t last. And sometimes, a well-crafted, quality designer item is it. The work, quality and artistry that goes into a designer item inherently makes it more special. It’s fashion’s approach to checks and balances.
I think it might also be the answer to e-commerce vs brick-and mortar. Both have their place and their own appeal. And as technology continues to shape our experiences, the retail space will have to continue to adjust.
Nudes and golds make for sophisticated accessorising
1. Shoes, Dhs 2,050, Alexandre Birman at Ounass. 2. Sunglasses, Dhs 845, Gentle Monster at Net-a-Porter. 3. Earrings, Dhs 845, Balenciaga. 4. Bag, Dhs 3,460, Tonya Hawkes at Boutique 1. 5. Jacket, Dhs 1,000, Needle & Thread at Net-a-Porter.