Urban Chat: The fashion fight to remain relevant

Urban Chat: The fashion fight to remain relevant

Yes, there are fights in fashion, and not just the kind of hissy catfights among fashion folks as you’ve probably seen in the likes of the televised Next Top Modelreality show.

The real fights in fashion always center on two sides; the creative realm to usher in the next trend, and the business camp to translate the creativity into revenue.

At the end of the day, beyond the priceless couture or hyped streetwear, fashion is inherently a business.

As the world’s population steadily moves in hordes to cities and lifestyle becomes more dynamic and informal, fashion choices have gradually shifted into less death-or-alive situations.

Increasing mobility means a person may attend a handful of daily engagements wearing just an ensemble without the chance to go home and change, so the attire needs to be relevant to the course of the day instead of just a symbol of personal taste or purchasing power.

Even better if the particular fashion of choice can be a conversational starter attuned to the issue of the day –– showing relevance, not distance.

Lulu Lutfi Labibi, the Yogyakarta-based fashion designer who’s been credited for reviving lurik into the premium wardrobe, decided to shorten the distance by working with a handful of fellow Yogyakarta-based artisans and renowned artists, Indieguerillas, to open Warung Murakabi in the newly opened 12thARTJOG, Indonesia’s most coveted contemporary art fair.

Following the local philosophy of gotong royong (equal collaboration), Warung Murakabi is indeed a functioning warung (small shop) where goodies are offered with friendly personal approaches and patrons can socialize with each other within the intimate outlet.

On one side there is a marvelous art installation depicting lush vegetation, on the other side there is a fashion installation featuring Lulu’s lurik and batik designs, and just a step across the hall there is the furniture installation –– all a collaboration under the Warung Murakabi umbrella.

Serenaded by the Tumbas (buy in kromo Javanese dialect) litany, a not-so-subliminal message to coax visitors to make purchases, that corner of the Jogja National Museum’s ground floor does offer a small refuge for the weary urbanites who come for a healthy dose of art, a little fashion fix and hopefully a stylish shot or two for social media.

In recent years, many other designers have launched a capsule collection incorporating works of popular artists, but with the Warung Murakabi collaboration, Lulu, a graduate of Yogyakarta’s most prestigious art school majoring in textiles, showed that his brand was more seamlessly woven into the art scene.

Many art aficionados, a crowd often thumbing their noses down at fashion as shallow hedonism, didn’t seem to have trouble snapping up the merchandise, especially after Lulu rolled out a trunk show during ARTJOG’s opening party.

Another route is taken by Fashionlink, the commercial outlet dedicated to promising local designers in Senayan City.

Run by the power behind Jakarta Fashion Week (JFW), Fashionlink tries to address the environmental concerns directed in recent years at the global fashion industry.

While JFW has steadily allotted more slots to ecofriendly designs in the past couple of years, Fashionlink extended hands to premium furniture purveyor Savana and WWF Indonesia to launch Fashion Habitat, displayed within its premise in July and August.

Savana’s conceptual works offer representation of the endangered Sumatran tiger, Javan rhino and whale shark that are hoped to induce awareness of patrons to not only the animals’ plight but also fashion consumption style that has polluted and depleted the environment –– a direct counterattack at fast fashion labels that have inundated shopping malls worldwide and eroded Indonesian designers’ market share domestically.

A portion of sales throughout the exhibition is also donated to the WWF conservation fund.

While it may look a bit like a promotional gimmick, Fashionlink still has room to leverage this initiative further.

The International Tiger Day just took place last week, a follow-up awareness campaign could’ve been developed. The conceptual furniture could be turned into more use, perhaps educational tours or auctions of some kind, to raise both awareness and funds for the WWF.

Perhaps some of the talents selected for the upcoming JFW could feature works with textiles of zero waste affecting the habitat of endangered species.

Relevance is today’s name of the game.

You stay relevant to the public consciousness, you are factored into the public conversation, you remain the label increasingly finicky consumers will choose. Even the hoity-toity fashion folks now need to tread on this path.

So, who’s ready to do even more?


9 to 5 but make it fashion: 8 street style trends to translate to your office outfits


Fashion revolution in Ireland as dress rental service tackles clothes pollution

Rag Revolution

A woman from Tipperary is taking on the environmental impact of fast fashion by starting her own designer dress rental service.

Edel Lyons, 31, a former marketing executive and fashion blogger started Rag Revolution just three months ago from her bedroom in Dublin, a premium fashion rental service that allows customers to rent dresses for special occasions, paying a fraction of the price, and returning the item when the event is over, helping save money – and the planet.

According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, clothing production has approximately doubled in the last 15 years, while the annual value of clothing discarded prematurely is more than 350 billion euro.

While the average consumer bought 60% more clothes in 2014 than in 2000, people now keep each garment for half as long, and discarded clothing made of non-biodegradable fabrics can sit in landfills for up to 200 years.

Rag Revolution
(Brian Lawless/PA)

Second only to oil, the clothing and textile industry is the largest polluter in the world, and produces nearly 20% of global waste water.

As the drive to be more environmentally conscious becomes more immediate, Lyons saw a gap in the market for Ireland’s fashion forward to be more sustainable, supporting reuse instead of consumption.

“I had a lot of events over the last three years, balls or weddings and work functions and was struggling to find something a bit different but that wasn’t really expensive, and I didn’t like the fact I was only wearing things once, it wasn’t good for me money-wise or the environment.

“I kept seeing expensive and real statement pieces that I knew if I bought, I wouldn’t wear again. We’re not like our mums’ generation, we don’t keep pieces anymore for a long time.

“With social media having such a presence in our lives, we’re less likely to re-wear outfits, people don’t want to keep wearing these statement pieces because there’s already a picture of them wearing it on Instagram or Facebook, and it sounds awful but that’s how people are now.

I did some research and I couldn’t see anything that offered style that I would wear, and saw the gap and thought; ‘I should do this’

Edel Lyons

“While all this was going on, I was becoming more and more aware of the effect ‘fast fashion’ was having on the world.

“I am very environmentally conscious and I wouldn’t buy a lot of clothes, and stick to key pieces, and that’s how I fell into this idea.

“I did some research and I couldn’t see anything that offered style that I would wear, and saw the gap and thought; ‘I should do this’.”

Rag Revolution offers dresses from designer labels such as Rixo, Reformation, Olivia Rubin and Self-Portrait, who can command up to 400 euro for a dress, and rents them out for as little as 70 euro.

Lyons’ thoughts on the future of the industry runs parallel with economic experts, who predict that the way we think about clothes is about to shift, as the industry moves to cater to sustainability and mindful shoppers.

Recent research by Deloitte revealed over 80% of millennials across Australia, Canada, China, India, the UK and the US say it is important for companies take steps to diminish their environmental impact.

Edel Lyons with dress
Ms Lyons wants to support reuse of clothes (Brian Lawless/PA)

Consumers aged 25-35 are projected to spend 135 billion euro on sustainable goods by 2021.

“I’m quite interested in the industry and they’re predicting in a few years we’re not going to be buying clothes like we are now,” Lyons added. “We’re all headed toward buying key pieces, good jeans and boots – things like that, but you’re not going to have a wardrobe full of dresses from the high street or occasion-wear.

“At this rate the industry can’t keep going as it is, even in regard to the disposal of clothes. 90% of fashion go to a landfill and aren’t recycled. It’s on a lot of people’s minds now about how and where they shop, people used to want to have loads of clothes, but that’s a thing of the past, people are looking for something more sustainable.

“I’ve always wanted to do something like this and I just took the leap, it’s not for the fainthearted but it’s really satisfying, I’d tell anyone who has an idea to just go for it.”


Amazon is using Prime Day this year to try to win in fashion

On the morning of June 25, mega-fashion influencer Arielle Charnas, who’s collected more than 1.2 million followers on Instagram and has her own clothing line Something Navy at Nordstrom, announced when Amazon’s Prime Day would be kicking off this year.

It was a not-so-subtle signal about what Amazon hopes to accomplish with its annual deals extravaganza this year. It still wants to be a bigger name in fashion.

When you think of Prime Day, you might be thinking about deals on Instant Pots and Amazon Echo devices — not half-off dresses and designer heels.

But the market for apparel and accessories globally is worth more than $1 trillion, so Amazon clearly sees there’s a lot at stake here. It’s using Prime Day to tout fashion deals. And it’s also had a slew of recent initiatives and tie-ups with fashion influencers — beyond Charnas — to show it’s trying to establish the site as a place to shop for more than just the basics. It hopes to take market share as other apparel retailers are struggling. And it hasn’t been afraid to experiment.

Typically, when it comes to selling clothes, Amazon is really good at “the boring stuff,” Wells Fargo retail analyst Ike Boruchow said.

Wells Fargo has estimated that Amazon generated roughly $35 billion in sales in 2018 related to apparel and footwear, out of $232.9 billion in sales overall. For context, athletic apparel retailer Lululemon brought in $3.3 billion in sales last year, while Gap Inc.’s net sales were $16.6 billion, and Costco has said it generated $7 billion in sales in 2018 from clothes and footwear. Amazon dwarfs them all, even combined.

But a lot of those transactions for Amazon stem from “commoditized” clothing items like white T-shirts, jeans and underwear, according to Boruchow. Amazon’s in-house brand, AmazonEssentials, is popular for that sort of thing — selling a four-pack of women’s camisoles for $24.50, or a 10-pack of cotton crew socks for kids for $9.45.

Bezos’ vision for fashion

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos frequently told colleagues in the early 2000s: “In order to be a two-hundred-billion-dollar company, we’ve got to learn how to sell clothes and food,” according to the book profiling Amazon’s ascent, written by Brad Stone, called “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.” At that time, Bezos set his benchmark based on the size of Walmart’s sales, Stone said.

Amazon surpassed $200 billion in annual sales for the first time in 2018. That figure includes revenues from its other businesses like Amazon Web Services, not just retail. Meanwhile, Walmart’s total revenue was $514.4 billion for its latest fiscal year.

Amazon is trying to sell more fashionable clothes today as mall-based apparel retailers like Victoria’s Secret, Chico’s, Dressbarn-owner Ascena Retail Groupand Forever 21 are closing stores and struggling to draw-in shoppers. And department store chains like J.C. Penney and Macy’s, which have historically been reliant on their apparel businesses to drive sales growth, are shrinking. It’s been estimated retail store closure announcements could reach 12,000 this year, setting a record, with many of those stemming from apparel-based businesses like Charming Charlie and Charlotte Russe.

This Prime Day, which kicked off Monday at 3 a.m. ET and runs for 48 hours, will put Amazon’s latest efforts to be a bigger fashion destination to the test.

Lessons from Prime Day

Prime Day 2019 will include hot deals on staple items, like sweatshirts and socks, but also is promoting Amazon’s own fashionable items to highlight the range of clothing it offers.

Ahead of Prime Day this year, Amazon was pushing deals for as much as 50% off leggings, accessories and more, Jacquelyn Cooley at analytical intelligence company 1010data said. Fashion items very well could be on the top sellers list this year, considering how the deals are panning out, she said.

h/o: amazon fashion homepage on prime day
On Prime Day, Amazon is touting 30% off Calvin Klein and deals on some of its own exclusive apparel merchandise.

On Monday morning, button-down shirts from Amazon’s Goodthreads line were 30% off, its own Lark & Ro dresses were 50% off, and certain Calvin Klein and Adidas merchandise was 30% off. Charnas took to social media again to tout her #PrimeDayPicks, including items from Amazon Essentials, Splendid and Rebecca Taylor.

Overall, this year’s Prime Day could bring in as much as $5.8 billion in sales globally, up from an estimated $3.9 billion in sales in 2018, when the event ran for just 36 hours, according to Coresight Research.

Beyond Prime Day

But a fashion business isn’t built on a two-day sales event. Amazon has seemingly been amassing an army of fashion influencers on social platforms like Instagram, bringing with them tens of millions of followers altogether, to write posts with taglines like “I #FoundItOnAmazon.”

Women including Paola Alberdi, Sierra Furtado, Emi Suzuki, Leonie Hanne and Patricia Bright each have more than 1 million followers on Instagram. Now, they all share something else in common. They’re working with Amazon to promote the platform as a fashion destination — alongside their posts about Reformation, Revolve, Channel, Rebecca Minkoff, and other trendy and luxury labels.

One of Amazon’s new influencer-focused ventures called “The Drop” went live in May.

With The Drop, Amazon is partnering with fashion influencers like Bright, a U.K.-based vlogger known for posting chic looks and night-out outfits to her Instagram, and Furtado, an LA-based YouTuber known for her more laid-back style. These partners are designing limited-edition apparel and accessories collections that Amazon will then create in-house.

There’s a scarcity element involved because shoppers are only given 30 hours to shop each influencer’s collection before the next one is dropped. A text alert notifies shoppers when a drop is happening. Amazon also says on its website it only makes limited quantities of each drop, so products are expected to sell out.

The Drop sounds a lot like fast-fashion retailer Zara’s strategy, which has found success by never making the same thing twice, only shipping limited quantities of items to stores, and rotating inventory frequently to keep shoppers coming back again and again to flip through racks of clothes. Amazon appears to be taking its own stab at this approach.

In order to be a two-hundred-billion-dollar company, we’ve got to learn how to sell clothes and food.
Jeff Bezos

Amazon also has its own subscription box program akin to Stitch Fix called Prime Wardrobe, where users can pick out a handful of clothing items, try them on at home and then only pay for what they want to keep, shipping back what they don’t want.

And just last month it launched an artificial intelligence tool called “StyleSnap.” Within Amazon’s app, users can either take a photo or upload an existing image of an outfit, and StyleSnap will use machine learning to “match the look” with clothes for sale on Amazon.

Making shopping fun

Still, analysts and fashion experts agree that navigating Amazon’s website for clothes often is more arduous than it is enjoyable. The website’s design isn’t desirable for discovering new things or new brands. Most people shopping on Amazon go there knowing exactly what they’re looking for. With fashion, Amazon must figure out how to make the experience more fun.

There’s also reluctance for brands to partner with Amazon because they lose autonomy over pricing and marketing, founders have told CNBC.

On the whole, it hasn’t been easy for Amazon to entice popular fashion brands to sell there. The majority of product listings on Amazon’s fashion page are from third parties. This is likely one of the reasons why Amazon has been incubating so many of its own apparel and accessories lines in-house. It has more than 60 today, according to tracking by TJI Research, like Core 10 for women’s leggings and sports bras, and Goodthreads for men’s khaki pants and button-down tops.

More clothing sales shifting online

Separate data from eMarketer shows Amazon is on track to grab nearly 30% of the market for apparel and accessories sold online in the U.S. this year, up from 22.7%, or about $18.38 billion in sales, in 2016.

But remember: U.S. e-commerce sales still represent less than 15% of total retail sales, according to eMarketer. The majority of purchases are still happening in bricks-and-mortar stores.

RBC Capital Markets’ retail team is predicting 40% of apparel sales in the U.S. will take place on the internet by 2023, up from closer to 30% today. Currently, RBC says e-commerce accounts for roughly 20% to 25% of clothing and accessories sales for most retailers. For specialty retailers it’s closer to 29%, for department stores it’s about 24%, and for off-price retailers it’s just 2%, according to the firm.

And in a survey of 1,000 consumers in the U.S. ages 18 to 34 released in June, RBC found more than 50% of respondents say they start their searches for clothing online on platforms carrying numerous brands, rather than directly from a single brand’s website. That could end up boding well for Amazon.

“We believe Amazon could have a material presence in fashion, over time,” RBC said in a recent note to clients. “That said, we believe that Amazon would need to respond to changing style trends at a faster pace, especially with its own private label inventory. … Also, Amazon could improve its browsing experience for fashion customers — try searching for ‘women black dress’ and you will get over 350 options.”


From kawaii to fairy kei: fashion goes beyond the kimono at Hyper Japan

Attendees at Hyper Japan, the festival that celebrates Japanese fashion, culture, food, music and more.

Attendees at Hyper Japan, the festival that celebrates Japanese fashion, culture, food, music and more. Photograph: Dave Stevenson/Alamy

Ten years after it started in 2010, the UK’s largest celebration of traditional and modern Japanese culture, is returning to London today for three days.

Hyper Japan, which is now a twice-yearly event, offers traditional food, anime merchandise and a cosplay zone, as well as an array of attractions for fashion lovers. The Asakusa culture section will be home to the vintage kimono brand Fuji Kimono, where guests can buy traditional Japanese clothing.

Although the kimono may be Japan’s most recognisable garment, plenty more styles and style tribes have come out of Harajuku, Tokyo’s fashion district. Harajuku is also the name Hyper Japan has given to its fashion zone, which includes brands from the UK and beyond, selling “kawaii” – meaning cute – clothes, accessories and other merchandise. Kawaii is a subculture in Japan, characterised by pastel colours, soft fabrics and adorable mascots. Hello Kitty, Aggretsuko and Gudetama are just a few of the characters from the genre that have made their way into western culture.

Hyper Japan’s Christmas market in 2015.
Hyper Japan’s Christmas market in 2015. Photograph: Guy Corbishley/Alamy

Some of the most popular Japanese fashions are lolita, fairy kei and decora. Lolita takes various forms, one of which is “elegant gothic lolita”, inspired, in part, by rococo-era fashion. Fairy kei involves layering pastels on pastels with cute motifs, such as moons, stars, sweets and teddy bears. Decora is an explosion of bright colours and accessories, making wearers look like walking rainbows.

“Kawaii culture and J-fashion has always been an aspect of the event we’ve fostered and encouraged, with exhibitors such as Tofu Cute and the J-fashion community,” says festival director Ken dos Remedios. “When we started in 2010, it was a minor subculture that only a few knew about. Since then, it’s grown to where most of our attendees know about it and it has a strong following on social media. We’ve noticed it moving from a subculture enjoyed by a minority in the know, to a subculture with the ability to influence fashion beyond its immediate community.”

Kiri Raimona from Tofu Cute, a kawaii store based in the UK, says: “Kawaii culture has boomed over the past 10 years, with exposure to all things kawaii becoming more accessible than ever before. People of all ages are exploring bright colours and cute characters, adapting them into their everyday lives.”

Japanese pop duo Yanakiku at Hyper Japan in 2013
Japanese pop duo Yanakiku at Hyper Japan in 2013. Photograph: Keith Larby/Alamy

This year, there is a new addition to the fashion and kawaii zone – the Hyper Kawaii Contest. Artists and crafters have been given the chance to submit their handmade kawaii or Japan-inspired work via Instagram in the months leading up to the event. The finalists’ work will be on display for festival visitors to vote on, and the winner will receive prizes including a kawaii subscription box service and an instant camera.

The festival also provides a place for J-fashion enthusiasts to socialise, show off their outfits and get inspiration for future looks. On Saturday and Sunday, there will be two fashion shows featuring festival attendees who were selected by organisers after submitting their looks online. The J-Style Collection fashion show has previously featured guests from Japan, such as fashion designer Kurebayashi, who is also a model for yamikawaii (“dark cute”) brand Listen Flavor.


Prominent fashion council honors Barbie

Prominent fashion council honors Barbie

The Council of Fashion Designers of America honors Barbie for her influence on fashion. (Source: Mattel, Inc.)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) – After 60 plus years of gracing the toy industry with her evolving looks, Barbie continues to make power moves.

The Mattel fashion doll will join Gloria Steinem, Cecile Richards and Michelle Obama in being honored by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, according to AP news.

The idea for honoring Barbie with the Board of Director’s Tribute award came from her inspirations and influences on style in America and across the world, the council says. This also goes along with the doll’s 60th anniversary, which she acknowledged in an Instagram post on Monday (May 6).

“From shimmery silks and satins to tailored tulle, Barbie has always made a statement that shines. Here’s a look back at some of her favorite gowns from the past six decades.”

On Thursday (May 16) the council’s President and CEO, Steven Kolb said Barbie “has had such wide influence on American fashion and culture.”

Kolb, also congratulated the doll on her award with an Instagram post.

Barbie will be honored at their 2019 Council of Fashion Designers of America Fashion Awards on June 3rd in New York.

The CFDA is a not-for-profit trade association that consists of hundreds of America’s most prominent womenswear, menswear, jewelry and accessory designers.