The marketing professor at EAE Business School points out that fashion has been made banal, entering a spiral of low prices and informal style.
Banal, cheap and casual. Mariano Íñigo, a lecturer on the Master’s Degree on Marketing Management at EAE Business School, explains that fashion continues to be one of the most recurrent gifts of Christmas, although realistically, it has lost importance because the perception people have of it has changed. According to Íñigo, the sector has entered a dangerous price war and that is hard to get out of.
MDS: Is fashion still the star gift of Christmas?
Mariano Íñigo: It still is, yes… to some extent. More than 50% of people will buy a clothing item for Christmas. So, it still is, but the difference now is that there is one more sector whom a high number of people resort to for gifts, and that is technology. Fashion is no longer the only option, now there are much more, like electronics. Some time ago, that product category required a consistent investment, but not anymore.
MDS: What has technology done properly?
M.I.: It is also an element of consumption. Previously, the way of dressing was the only indicator of status, but now so are your phone and your computer. Some time ago, having Burberry or a Ralph Lauren clothes was highly regarded, whereas now there are many other elements involving the psychological perception of status in consumption. That is, one can spend the same amount of money in the last Burberry trench as in an iPhone 6 at the time of making a gift, but the perception from the one receiving it is that the person gifting you with the phone is being much more generous, even though it is not even the last model.
“Previously, the way of dressing was the only indicator of status, but now so are your phone and your computer”
MDS: Does the complexity of selling fashion sell full price affect this perception too?
M.I.: Generally, Zara has become affordable fashion because it enables people to buy seasonal clothes. And ultimately, there is the feeling that, if someone wants to spend less, he or she buys fashion. Zara’s prices are so important that, if some time ago we talked about McDonald’s index to calculate the country’s purchasing power, now we refer to Zara’s one.
MDS: There is also luxury in fashion…
M.I.: Luxury exists and will continue to do so. There will always be people paying for exclusivity and who will get in line to buy a handbag. But now, one can access fashion in a much more affordable way. Designs have massified.
MDS: Has Black Friday or even mid season sales affected the low-price perception of fashion?
M.I.: They have definitely impacted it. But so has the Internet, where fashion is already the category in which Spanish people spend the most, right after leisure and travelling. You know the date of your entrance to price war, but not of your departure. And someone always ends up dead, because someone will always be cheaper. The sector has entered a spiral from which is hard to get out. Although consumption rates have recovered, prices have not gone up… But that’s not something fashion-specific. It also happens in alimentation and other sectors of consumption.
“There will always be people paying for exclusivity but now, one can access fashion in a much more affordable way”
MDS: But in any case, people still pay more than one thousand euros for a phone…
M.I.: The textile sector is much more affected by prices than technology, because technology is still a need and because it has a minor capacity for replacement. That means that, you can probably tell me twenty notorious fashion brands, but, contrarily only two technology ones.
MDS: Do you think that the trend will turn towards a concentration of brands?
M.I.: Fashion needs concentration, for sure. During the sixties, half of the family budget was destined to alimentation. As the rent has increased, food is not even on the top three of priorities. The first go-to choice for expenses is leisure and, specifically, Internet and telephonic related. Every time we look at our home’s telephone bill, we get scared.
MDS: Why is fashion no longer a priority?
M.I.: When I went to college, in the sixties, we liked buying clothes in London because we found different things than in Madrid. However, that doesn’t happen anymore. It is really difficult to stand out today. Some people claimed the end of fashion came when Yves Saint Laurent said that they would no longer dedicate to dressmaking because it was no longer profitable. Fashion is no longer a priority for people to spend in. We have made it banal.
“The textile sector is much more affected by prices than technology, because technology is still a need and because it has a minor capacity for replacement”
MDS: Democratising is making something banal?
M.I.: It is going from causal to informal. Just take a look at how politicians dress. The future of garment is based on looking for new markets and new distribution methods, like Inditex is doing. Design no longer revolutionizes fashion.
MDS: Will there ever be a comeback? Dressing in a formal style and paying for it?
M.I.: Without any doubt, but I would not guess when exactly. Fashion changes, no one would have believed us if we said thirty years ago that coming all the way from Arteixo, someone would compete with the global textile industry. Everything is linked to a physical aspect, and it has varied throughout history. Nowadays, being thin and tanned is a synonym of elegance, but it is the completely opposite from what was believed in the 17th century. Perhaps more people should dress more appropriately… But now it’s quite hard: there are sneakers which are more expensive than a good pair of shoes.
MDS: Have millennials changed the rules?
M.I.: I see it in my students. They have radically changed the way they dress. If someone can spot one person wearing shoes, I’ll give them an award. No one wears a shirt to class anymore. Opinion leaders have also changed their style completely
“My students have radically changed the way they dress. If someone spots at least one person wearing shoes, I’ll give them an award”
MDS: Who are these opinion leaders?
M.I.: Just take a look at the leaders of the four political parties in Spain. They are always seen in suits to show off their looks and how handsome they are at forty years old. And that is not something exclusive of Spain. The same thing happens in France. Winston Churchill today have no place in the present, and neither would Helmut Kohl. The patterns have changed. Or else, remember Steve Jobs, who never wore a suit.
MDS: Despite all of that, people still blame the downfall of fashion expenses on e-commerce…
M.I.: The Internet is many times availability, and knowing that what is being sought, will be found, even if they have to bring it all the way from the other side of Europe, it takes three days to arrive and shipping costs ten more euros. Sometimes, even if the purchase is more expensive online, people buy it on the Internet because they assume the costs of opportunity.