Tag Archives: Fashion

John Lewis and the value of “Beigeness”

India Knight has written an excellent piece in her Sunday Times column today. It’s all about John Lewis thinking about changing it’s image to broaden it’s appeal, to shake off it’s “fuddy-duddy” image. Craig Inglis who is Director of Marketing at John Lewis is reacting to the accusation of John Lewis being “beige at times”. John Lewis is embarking on the biggest revamp revamp of it’s marketing and advertising in 147 years according to an article in Marketing Week Magazine. India is somewhat aghast at the notion that John Lewis is going to change it’s approach and lose it’s “Beigeness” to compete with the likes of Tesco and other large supermarkets. India presents a good set of arguments for not making such a change, all of which I agree with.
Never Knowingly undersold
If john Lewis did greatly change it’s approach I would be somewhat dismayed. John Lewis is not that “fuddy-duddy” or indeed that “Beige” yes I’m sure it needs to revamp and update many of it’s stores. We have a lovely John Lewis store in the Grafton Arcade in Cambridge, it is modern, well stocked and very popular and not just with “ladies of a certain age”. John Lewis in my mind occupies an almost unique position in British retail, it has a personality, this is expressed really well through their staff whose attentiveness and ability to provide excellent customer service is well documented. I cannot think of single other high street retailer that currently has such an effect. Marks & Spencers is an obvious direct competitor to John Lewis and Waitrose, but even though they are good, they don’t have the same level of personality that John Lewis has.

John Lewis has managed to maintain it’s retailer dignity rather than be consumed by the retail commerce conveyor belt and the shallowness of celebrity glamour and instant satisfaction that others seem to suffer from. People buy from people. John Lewis is all about people. You go to John Lewis because they represent in no particular order; quality, top products, fabulous customer service and reliability. Its not a shop to rush around in, it is a lovely browsing experience and you’ll always discover or spot something new that you didn’t know they stocked. They don’t get everything right but they are streets ahead of other retailers on actually having a personality.

Tesco is totally soulless, it represents a core function, the weekly shop – which we all need – and that is fine, it has it’s place too. They are very good at what they do, they are cheap, obviously lots of people like that. However they don’t have the best quality produce and they’re not great at customer service, that may be fine for their customer base. So I hope Mr. Inglis knows what he is doing, I’m not saying don’t change anything, change is proactive and should be happening all the time BUT be very careful about changing the personality of the retailer, especially one with such a unique reputation. If John Lewis has to stoop to the level of Tesco to compete on the high street at the expense of it’s personality then it will be a sad day for British retailing.

In setting up our online business we have modeled our philosophy on certain elements of a number of retailers, elements that we admire and feel are important to customers. John Lewis is one of the retailers that we admire. Tesco’s isn’t.

So next time you are in John Lewis, have a little think about why you’ve gone in there, how you feel while you are there and what you like about shopping in John Lewis. Appreciate it because it may not be the same in a year’s time. Please feel free to add your comments to this post so others can read your thoughts about the importance or not of British retailers having a “personality” and don’t confuse this with “brand” or “marketing” because it’s not actually the same thing at all.

This post is inspired by India Knights Sunday Times Column on Sunday 5th June 2011 titled “Sing – nice and softly, mind – if you’re glad to be beige”

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Plus Size dress (18) from Vida Moda

Will the fashion industry change its manufacturing methods to produce clothes that fit properly?

This is question has never been more relevant than today. The fashion industry is still largely focused on young and trendy consumers and that is what they put in the mainstream media. However people’s body shapes are changing and ultimately the fashion industry will have to change to meet demand from the marketplace. Whether or not we’ll see this change in the way media represents fashion remains to be seen.

Fashion retailers (along with the airline and automotive industries) have funded research into how body shapes are changing. Cornell University in the USA have been collecting anthropometric data by using body scanning to study variations in body size and unsurprisingly the results show wide variations.

Body Scan Image

(Image: Cornell Body Scan Research Group)

It has not been possible for the fashion industry in the past to base their designs or manufacturing processes on anthropometric data simply because it has been too time consuming and difficult to collect. This will probably be different in the future as technology improves, but it does depend on a number of factors.

    • Will people be prepared to have their body scanned to so that clothes can be made to fit properly?
    • Can designers apply their skills to different body forms and still satisfy their artistic desire?
    • Where does the cross over point between artistic intent and function?
    • Does artistic intent cease to matter when designers are faced with designing plus size clothes and does that result in clothes for plus size women that are poorly designed?
    • Can technology be used to create clothes on the fly that are specific to a persons size and shape? (automated tailoring)

Is the fashion industry going to change it’s philosophical approach to designing and producing clothes? Currently fashion houses design based on the target market they trying to reach, usually reflecting a lifestyle and price perspective. They then produce a model based on “regular” sizes, and you can be pretty sure this isn’t a plus size. They take their designs and scale them upwards and downwards to produce their garments in a range of standard sizes. Quite often this does not include plus or petite sizes. Why is this? Either because they don’t want to be associated with plus or petite sizes, those sizes aren’t their target market, OR the designs do not lend themselves to be being manufactured in plus or petite sizes. Designing clothes that work as a design statement across a wide range of sizes is a challenge for designers. Manufacturing variations brings its own cost challenges too.

Luckily there are designers out there today who do recognise the needs of their customers and do make beautiful clothes in plus sizes. They look beautiful and from a design perspective they work across a range of sizes, including plus sizes. They may not always make it to high street chains and they may be more boutique fashion but they are available. The internet is offering more choice if you are prepared to look and over time the internet will level the playing field and provide better choice for clothes that “fit and flatter” for plus size women. This is one of the things we are aiming to do with our online shop http://www.vidamoda.co.uk

However the time is coming where the growing variations in body shape and size will force the industry to change because “standards” won’t work any longer, people are demanding and indeed expecting to have a choice. Considerable variation is occurring in different countries but this is being balanced by emerging and growing markets that the fashion industry can tap into, but we do think things will eventually change.

What are your thoughts?

    1. Do you feel you have adequate choice for fit and size of clothes?
    2. Would you shop in a store that used body scanning and made clothes to fit your shape and size?

Leave a comment and let us know what you think :-)

Information in this post references and is informed by the following article from Cornell University http://www.bodyscan.human.cornell.edu/scene7354.html
Body scan image courtesy of Cornell Body Scan Research Group

Plus Size dress (18) from Vida Moda

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