Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Dark Side Of The Loom - Part 2

Part 1 of Dark Side Of The Loom discussed some of the difficulties facing up-and-coming designers today. Part 2 continues this discussion, also covering some of the business decisions designers have had to make in order to survive in the industry.

It's also a belief that the Australian market does not have the same appreciation for fashion as overseas' markets that value high-end designs.  This may be because people value other luxuries in preference to fashion, such as cars or holidays.  It also stems from a lack of understanding of and appreciation for the general value of how much high-end designers charge.
Cate Blanchett in the infamous
Romance Was Born blanket dress

I was recently reading a post by an Australian designer who produces their designs in Australia. This means that they are supporting the Australian industry at a cost to them, as production costs are more expensive to the designer. They said that a customer complained about one of their designs being too expensive. As well as the design being a one-off, it was a much better quality than many of the mass-produced item manufactured overseas. In an educated or more appreciative consumer market like Europe, the consumer might not see the item as expensive; rather they might see it as a good investment.

Obviously this is a generalisation of the Australian market, however it does pose a problem for designers who target the higher end of the market. In order to establish brand value they have to set high price points, however, this makes their goods unaffordable to many and they run the risk of losing business to established luxury goods houses like LV and Chanel.

Designers have turned to the overseas market to try to make up for low sales in Australia.  The issue is that they are subject to foreign currency fluctuations and freight and distribution costs, and do not possess the marketing power that overseas designers do. This means designers have very limited options when it comes to working out how they can make money.

Alex Perry for Diva

Recent trends have shown many designers collaborating with not only chain stores such as Sportsgirl, Cue (Dion Lee) Big W (Peter Morrissey) and Diva (Alex Perry), but some have also released diffusion lines in retailers such as Myer (Nicola Finetti and Jayson Brunsdon). This means not only can they take advantage of department stores’ bigger advertising budgets but it also broadens their consumer base. Even though this risks reducing their brand value, in order to survive many have no choice.

Designer Alex Perry indicates that today’s new wave of designers such as Dion Lee and Romance Was Born will have many challenges to face. In an already saturated fashion market, they need to stand out and attract editorial space and coverage. This often means that designs may be more couture than ready-to-wear, which is not going to sell well in the commercial market. It will be a difficult decision for designers to make. Should they compromise their design aesthetic in order to appeal to a wider audience?

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be talking to up-and-coming designers to better understand the challenges they face trying to make it in such a competitive industry.

Post your thoughts and experiences on the issues covered in The Dark Side Of The Loom. I'd love to hear what people have to say!

Images courtesy of and

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