“What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.” — Miuccia Prada. Astro guru and business strategist digs deep into the dynamics of fashion industry to help you understand if it is something that you can put your big bucks into

Turn fashionable, make your statement

Fashion is meant to make a statement. Be it extra luxe haute couture or a fashion trend that kicked off from the street, fashion is to make an impact, to make heads turn and leave an impression. From ancient times, all countries have had distinct styles of dressing, adding a huge history to the materials, cuts, and designs of outfits. Big designer houses look into the minutest of details to set their designs apart. Thanks to the Western influence, now fashion houses all over the world divide their wear into spring, summer, autumn and winter collections. This dictates the fashion trends for the rest of the world.

“I like my money right where I can see it…hanging in my closet.” —Carrie Bradshaw

Business consultant, astro-strategist and business guru answers some FAQs to help you understand the ins and outs of the fashion industry. Read on…

1) Why is the fashion industry important?

Fashion is defined by different designers in different ways. But the bottom line is to have a style quotient that is unique and elegant, as fashion is about all things beautiful and eye-catching. The industry is the most glamorous and, in fact, one of the most underrated industries. However, it has to be remembered, from intricately made custom attires to retailers buying from high-street fashion stores to picking stuff off flea markets, every individual is a direct customer of fashion. It is also a huge provider of employment opportunities to qualified and unqualified, skilled and unskilled people associated with the fashion world.

2) How big is the fashion industry?

The global apparel market is projected to grow in value from 1.3 trillion dollars in 2015 to about 1.5 trillion dollars in 2020. It’s a clear indication that the demand for clothing and shoes is on the rise.

3) How to build a hi-end, luxury brand that is sustainable in the long run?

It indeed sounds daunting, but the idea is to have a clear plan in place to identify a niche customer segment and project brand’s symbolic value. One can see in India, there is an ever-growing market for apparel that is a must-have for big, fat Indian weddings.

Similarly, there is a huge potential in Asia to differentiate and position new, iconic luxury brands in the market.

A recent example is that of China’s Shang Xia, which produces high-quality products with a contemporary twist on traditional Chinese aesthetics.

When one buys a luxury product, it is not just about splurging money or extravagance. Instead, it allows the investor to pursue a passion or associate with the brand’s image and aspiration.

Establishing this connects and bond from the word go, is my secret mantra to success in the long run.

4) Is digitization disruptive to the fashion industry as we know today?

The answer is yes and no. However, the brand needs to be able to express the same emotion that can resonate with luxury customers. While both the concepts seem like opposites, the brands can combine both and reap huge benefits.

In fact, it would be interesting to make a study of future trends to keep yourself updated and watch out for what the luxury brands will have to offer in the next five years to come.

5) Some industry specific tips to stay on top…

a) select a lucrative segment

One of the fundamental principles of effective branding is to select a lucrative segment that they want to target and then go for enticing positioning. Luxury brands offer high symbolic value to select segments of consumers that are focused on high status associations, then the underlying price. The idea is to identify a niche segment and devise offerings that are valued by their affluent customers.

b) Luxury? Then differentiate.

Luxury brands must aggressively differentiate their brand experience. As they have a high level of customer loyalty, differentiation that luxury brands carry out ought to be powerful, distinct and focused on the symbolic value that it offers to customers.

c) functional and symbolic values

It has to be remembered that brands offer two types of values – functional and symbolic. Functional value highlights the baseline value that customers expect when they buy a brand over a commodity or a store, because of its underlying promise of quality, reliability, and trust. One very good example is Ralph Lauren brand. Starting out with making rags into ties, the American label is truly the rags-to-riches American dream personified. “I don’t design clothes, I design dreams,” said Ralph Lauren.

d) Perception of exclusivity

It’s always important to retain the perception of exclusivity. Perceptions of exclusivity are created in terms of unattainable prices, limited geographic availability, barriers to possession, or even limited supply. These enable those who patronize the brand with having a special status. A good example is that of Hermes. The aura of exclusivity comes from its aim to ‘always remain ultra-premium luxury, available to only few.

e) Systematically talk on all brand promises

One of the biggest challenges for any brand is to consistently deliver on all brand promises. Successful brands create supportive organizational and operational structures that facilitate implementation of strategies to deliver on the promises. They need to have consistency and continuity at every touchpoint.

6) What are the secrets of successful luxury brand marketing?

1) Performance

A luxury brand must perform at an experiential level, ie, the emotional value of the brand the consumers buy into, beyond what the product is to what it represents. For example, Rolex stands for symbol of heroic achievement, while Tiffany & Co is a symbol of love and beauty.

2) Pedigree

A rich pedigree and extraordinary history are often inseparable from a brand’s mystique. This is usually built around the exceptional legendary founder character of the past, making up an integral part of the brand story and brand personality. So, for example, if consumers buy a Cartier or Chanel, then, it is because they are subconsciously influenced by the brand’s rich lineage, heritage and years of mastery.

3) Paucity

Many brands try to maintain the perception that the goods are scarce. Tactical driven paucity is more promotional in nature such as limited editions or special series to generate artificial desire and demand.

4) Persona

The visual brand identity captures the brand’s personality, mystique and emotional values in a nutshell. Therefore, luxury advertising not only needs to generate the desire for the seasonal collection, but at the same time, it must also enhance the brand’s cool-quotient, thereby making it aspirational.

5) Public figures

Public figures and celebrities are often employed as one of the marketing mix in the luxury segment to garner attention, credibility and impact. Instead of appearing to be selling, these brands combine the lifestyles of celebs to project their products, affecting consumer attributes, brand value and purchase intention.

6) Placement

Luxury branding is all about heightening customer’s brand experience and amplifying the brand aura. Starting from choice of store location, the chain of touch points that consumers interact with, the salesperson’s presentation and the impact of each touch point is critical in creating unique indulging experience.

7) Public relations

Sophisticated branding includes maintaining ongoing relevance and dialogue with the luxury customer, especially in fashion, technology and seasonal trends-driven categories.

8) Pricing

Pricing plays a big role in the way the consumers perceive luxury brands. Consciously or subconsciously, consumers tend to generate a mental luxury stature or image with the price range that the brand operates.

7) What are the emerging fashion destinations?

Cities like Sydney and Adelaide in Australia, Cape Town in South Africa, Stockholm, Sweden, Los Angeles, California are some hubs. Western and Southern Africa are also big on fashion. Kenya, Medellín, Colombia, Tel Aviv, Israel and Barcelona, Spain are also developing into promising fashion hubs.

8) Where do you think wearable tech will be in the next few years?

It will be seen more in sports and allied industries. For all we know, we could be wearing tech someday soon.

9) What trends do you see for fashion?

It would be mostly digital. There is bound to be accelerated digital marketing and new sales channels will evolve.

10) What are the business prospects for the fashion industry ?

Though we mentioned a figure in earlier questions, a more reliable response would be that much of it will depend on the vaccine and how soon it reaches the masses. The impact is undeniable.