Shoes, Shoes, Shoes!

For everyone out there reading my blog, you should be warned that I have a severe obsession with J. Crew–so on my daily perusal of their fabulously chic website, I stumbled across this gem of a video. I had to share it with my readers because I thought it was a great representation of the company, in terms of the aesthetic of the brand, the quality of the products, and the vision of the company from the perspective of its president and creative director.

The second reason why I wanted to share this video was to show women how much fun they can have with shoes–whether it be at work, for a special night out, or running around on the weekends. Shoes are a way to infuse personality and style into any outfit, no matter what you’re wearing. Of course, it’s not appropriate to wear six-inch, glitter-encrusted stilettos to work, but a vibrant floral print with a rounded toe and a chunky heel, paired with a tasteful, tailored ensemble, could be the perfect way to spice up your work wardrobe. It’s all about balance. Depending on your place of work, shoes can be an excellent way to introduce color, texture, and pattern into your wardrobe–and J. Crew has the best selection to browse through. And remember, shoes are among the best investment pieces–think about how often you wear them and how much joy they bring you!

Square, But Not So Fair.

Image

Source: Davis McCardle/Getty Images

I hate to say it, Ron Johnson, but I told you so. When Johnson was brought on as CEO of JC Penney, in order to give the brand a major overhaul, I was extremely skeptical. It comes as no surprise to me that Johnson failed in his mission to introduce a new pricing model to the antiquated department store, and now, is subsequently abandoning his post as CEO. Think about it, JC Penney has been around for decades, operating under the same value-based structure that is driven by the mass of coupons that can be found in the sectionals of your local newspapers. All of a sudden, Johnson changed that business model, which customers had grown to expect and appreciate–what did he think was going to happen?

First of all, re-branding JC Penney in any way or form was not a good idea. The fact that it’s been around forever, with the same mission and objectives, in addition to the products it sells, is a clear indication of that. Consumers have a set image of JC Penney in their minds–they associate it with particular words and experiences that they have accumulated over the years–and I can tell you one thing, those words are not “trendy” or “cutting-edge.” Johnson was trying to push a brand identity onto the department store that it simply could not stand up to.

A major issue with the re-branding of JC Penney was its pricing strategy. For years and years, shoppers would print out their coupons, or cut them out of the newspaper, and wait for the sales to hit, rather than purchasing the items at full-price. With the introduction of “fair and square” pricing, sales and coupons were eliminated altogether, replaced by, what JC Penney claimed to be, everyday low prices. But this did not bode well with consumers. Ultimately, it ended up being a sneaky way for JC Penney to mark-up its products, so as to make room for discounts down the road. The thing with consumers, though, is that they can be fickle, and oftentimes illogical in their purchase behavior. Customers’ perceived quality of a product, and the subsequent emotional equity attached to that product, is often determined by its price. For example, if a woman is browsing JC Penney for a new purse, she will likely think that the $100 option is of higher quality than the $25 option. But wait, it gets better. When that same $100 purse is discounted to $25, the woman feels like she is getting a great deal, and has justified the purchase in her mind. It is all very complicated. What JC Penney did in the process of its re-branding was remove the credibility that used to be associated with the products sold at its stores, and with it, the reliability that customers felt towards the brand.

I don’t know about you, but JC Penney’s “fair and square” slogan doesn’t sell me. Apparently the department store has begun to pick-up on the discontent of its customers, as it has sent out a slew of public apologies for its recent changes. Looks like the day of the coupon has returned. Happy shopping! 

 

The True Price of Cheap Fashion

The True Price of Cheap Fashion

Mere days ago, there was another devastating disaster in Bangladesh that resulted in the collapse of a garment factory, leaving over 400 workers dead. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, recently acknowledged the problems that riddle her nation’s garment industry–an industry that dominates the country’s income-generating sectors, bringing in $20 billion dollars and accounting for 77% of exports. Bangladesh cannot afford to lose the garment industry due to these recurring problems–only months ago, there was a fire in a garment factory in Dhaka, which resulted in the deaths of 112 workers. According to CNN reporters, there are only 18 inspectors that are responsible for overseeing the safety conditions in more than 100,000 garment factories around Bangladesh’s capital. These severe oversights on the part of factory owners and inspectors have led U.S. companies to second-guess the value of cheap labor. Walt Disney Company, for one, has pulled its production out of risky countries, such as Bangladesh–and it definitely isn’t the last to do so.

Think about the negative hype surrounding Nike when the media caught wind of its sub-par manufacturing facilities–this is ten times worse, because hundreds of innocent workers have died. The backlash surrounding Nike led the company to get serious about inspecting its overseas manufacturing facilities and ensuring the safety of working conditions and fair wages for its employees. Retailers worldwide, who rely on countries such as Bangladesh for its cheap labor, need to think twice about the payoff that dirt-low wages provide.

A big problem with this outsourcing issue is that American consumers don’t pay attention to where their clothes come from. Of course, the average consumer is not to blame for this oversight–countries of origin are often hidden inside a garment or left out completely. It simply isn’t something that busy Americans put much thought to. The problem ultimately comes back to business owners who would do anything to shave costs and boost profit margins. Retailers on a global level have been exploiting the cheap labor found in third world countries for years. Predominantly poor nations, like Bangladesh, rely on the income generated from labor-intense industries such as garment production–and workers will take any wage they can get their hands on. Unless we want to see these tragedies continue to unfold, U.S. retailers need to take a stance and demand better working conditions and more thorough inspections in the overseas factories where their garments are produced. Exploiting cheap labor results in the death of hundreds of factory workers annually, so companies must weigh the benefits between pinching pennies to mass produce their wares and stocking their shelves with metaphorically “bloody” clothing.

The Trendiest Addiction: Shopping

We’ve all heard before from countless girls how they have a shopping problem—inherited from their Mothers, reinforced by their friends, and affirmed by a closet overstuffed with colorful goodies. Of course for most people, this self-proclaimed addiction is a mere hobby or bonding mechanism between a mother and daughter or a girl and her friends, but it is becoming a certifiable problem recognized by psychologists. It sounds ridiculous, but shopping can be a real addiction that’s just as serious as dependency on alcohol or drugs—and it seems to be getting extremely popular. Books, movies, and television shows alike have begun placing more of an emphasis on this “trendy” disease. Take the film Confessions of a Shopaholic, starring Isla Fisher, which features a new college grad who has an extreme shopping addiction. For Miss Rebecca Bloomwood, shopping is more than just an occasional fun treat—it is what keeps her sane and functioning.

Just recently, I indulged in an episode of Kourtney & Kim Take Miami, where Kim Kardashian received a phone call from her financial advisor, warning her that her shopping addiction was starting to jeopardize both her retirement savings and her plans to purchase her dream house. Kim, the queen of shopping, was shocked to hear this news and was disturbed by how serious her harmless hobby had become.

As Kim’s sisters mention, the internet is partly to blame for Kim’s shopping addiction. For a celebrity like Kim, walking into a store on a whim is not a viable option, so she turns to the internet to aid in her addictive behavior. But I couldn’t help but wonder if online shopping has spurred this behavior in the every-day woman. If you think about it, online shopping is the answer to every woman’s problems—it is quick, easy, and anonymous, which sounds to me like an addict’s paradise. For a lot of women, shopping is a form of instant gratification and serves as a sort of therapy unmatched by any other. Why browsing through clothing racks or shoe departments takes a woman’s mind of her ailing troubles, I do not know—but I do know that it has the uncanny ability to turn your spirits around. And who doesn’t like a little jolt of happiness?

Fashionable Conversations

I recently stumbled upon an article that analyzed the existence and use of fashion discussion forums and came to a shocking revelation—I had never heard of such a thing. According to the article, these forums act as a combination between an internet chat-room and a blog. Users of the site must register and post under handles that are similar to Twitter in their anonymity, and have free reign to post as much or as little as they see fit, start their own conversation thread, and be as brutally honest as they like. For a fashion fanatic, this would seem to be a digital heaven—the freedom to let their voice be heard, their opinions known, and their knowledge shared on a global level—yet such sites aren’t experiencing much use. 

The article’s author seems quite puzzled as to why fashion forums aren’t being taken seriously. He speaks of the disconnect between registered users in comparison to active posters and wonders why people aren’t contributing to conversations; either users have a strong voice and post frequently or they go to the websites to simply educate themselves. Fashion forums could be a powerful driving force within the industry—not only can you find the typical threads regarding trends, must-buy items, and daily depictions of ensembles, but new designers to watch out for, global trends, and the state of the market. These are not your average fashion blog. 

In addition to the public’s lack of use of these sites, the article also speaks to retailers and bands who refuse to take social media seriously. Of course I can see why brand strategists would be skeptical of some of the information mined from fashion forums, since they are available to everyone, and thus, on a statistical level, not all of the posts will be credible or even worthwhile, but these sites could also prove invaluable for market research. Retailers in particular could benefit from close inspection of fashion forums—delving into discussions about what people are wearing, what kind of purchases they’re making, and what consumers are coveting for the next season could help predict which items should be stocked on store shelves and which will sell-out the quickest. Designers could also benefit from fashion forums—after all, aren’t they looking for honest feedback about their collections? Whether or not people are wearing their designs? If consumers consider their particular handbag or shoe to be the next hot item? Fashion forums are where this information can be found—and best of all, it’s free!Image

Source: Dianepernet

Fashion For a Cause

When I recently stumbled across Nina Garcia’s “Decoding Style” videos the other day, I was struck by the thought that fashion can be used to infuse so much good in the world, particularly in respect to women. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the fashion maven, Nina Garcia is the Fashion Director at Marie Claire and also a judge on the hit TV series “Project Runway.” A well respected fashion critic, Colombian-born Garcia is a force to be reckoned with in the industry. The premise of this series of mini-videos is to reinvent women who are having a tough time defining their style and characterizing their personal identity, in the hopes that they will recognize their true potential and embrace their individuality. The most recent episode features a soccer-mom and recent breast cancer survivor who is struggling to find clothes that flatter her new body and compliment both her lifestyle and personality. At the end of the segment, Nina Garcia has succeeded in reintroducing the woman with her self-worth and natural beauty, and has given her the strength and clarity to see the amazing, beautiful, brave woman that she is.

A TV series similar to Garcia’s “Decoding Style” videos is TLC’s “What Not to Wear.” The show’s hosts, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, scour the country for the worst fashion victims, and what they find, more often than not, is the individuals (who are nominated by their friends and family) that are chosen, are expressing their poor self-esteem and distorted body-image through their atrocious style. Episodes are typically filled with tears, heartfelt emotions, and ultimately, glorious revelations. What makes “What Not to Wear” a great show is not only the hilarious banter between the two hosts, but also the transformation that the individuals go through, both physically and mentally.

Watching both “Decoding Style” and “What Not to Wear” have made me see how much fashion and personal style can influence a person; clothes are not just superfluous extras, and having great style is not just a vain talent. Teaching people how to dress for their specific body-type, and in a way that expresses their personality, not only boosts their self-esteem and self-worth, but it betters their chances for career success, in addition to empowering them in the social sphere. Everyone should have the opportunity to feel beautiful and valued, and these shows are finally using fashion to its fullest potential.

Fashionably Rude

The fashion world is ripe with cyber bullies. The day after new collections are sent down the runway, designers hold their breath while they log online to read the reviews—the results often lie at two ends of the spectrum: really positive or really negative. “Trolls” rule this space within the fashion sphere and have the power to make or break designers’ careers and subsequently the success of global companies. Although professional critics are the ones who ultimately decide whether or not a collection fits within their confine of what qualifies as “good” at that particular moment in time, they have been known to be quite harsh. Despite cutting words from these critics however, words from the mass populace can prove to be equally detrimental. After all, it is the fashion-informed public that will be purchasing the items from such collections upon their arrival to retail outlets.

Not to overkill the topic of Saint Laurent Paris, but one particular designer who has received a noteworthy amount of heat from critics and fashion fans alike this season is Hedi Slimane. I’ve mentioned my opinion about Slimane’s immediate re-branding of the iconic YSL label in my post Why-SL?, and yet, I’m surprised by what he chose to send down the runway of his Fall 2013 Ready to Wear collection. According to critics, Slimane’s second women’s collection was an extension of his men’s show, and drew inspiration from the 90’s grunge era. Similar to the L.A. environs that dictated his vision, Slimane made sure that the venue was heated to a true Californian temperature and vibrated to the bass of true grunge rock. As reported by The Man Repellerrejections of this collection came fast and furious and included a few of the following:

What the hell is Hedi Slimane thinking?

 

Oh my dear Lord. Is this Saint Laurent, or an average girls high street wardrobe? I want to cry.

 

What the hell happened to YSL? I’ve seen people on skid row dressed better.

 

We did not need a Rachel Zoe x Marc Jacobs grunge resort collection.

Saint Laurent show, a huge joke on the fashion industry?

 

Women’s Wear Daily reports that Saint Laurent is relocating their Paris studios. Hopefully they don’t tell Hedi where they’re going.

Twitter, among other social media sites, were afire with disgusted fans’ opinions. Not only were YSL aficionados shocked by Slimane’s complete disregard for the house’s legendary aesthetic, but critics weren’t impressed by the old-school grunge look. In this sense, I have to agree with this overarching public opinion, but there is always another side to the story. Although his collection may not be of mine, or the collective public’s taste, Slimane stayed true to his vision—and based on his re-branding of the company, his vision would inevitably differ from Yves’s. Bashing on designers’ collections will never be void from the fashion world, but people need to remember that theirs is not the only opinion, nor is it necessarily the best. Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but people should try their best to express it in a constructive way, not through a nasty comment. Designers are artists and they operate with specific visions in mind, yet they are also creating garments for the public to clothe themselves in—they want people to admire and wear their clothes, just as much as they want to turn a profit.