In the last few years, the world of fashion has changed. Large corporations and multinational brands no longer dominate. Because of the West’s economic fall, people are tightening their belts and paying more attention to how much items cost. They’re also demanding better designed products that are made to last. This has led to many cheaper brands becoming more successful, while other labels have gone out of business trying to balance design cost with cheaper retail price points. Consumer’s have noticed this and adapted. Some have begun getting into DIY and crafts, creating their own clothes and blogs. Others have found unique clothing at a reasonable price, and a whole host of individual designers across the world. Suddenly those who made ”crafty” goods have become popular, offering something different and new.
I returned to London last month, the city I grew up in, and I was surprised and disappointed to find that the shops and retailers that I always considered the leaders in design were only offering “safe” items. Those who used to push boundaries and set trends now offered bland clothing. In order to not make any mistakes, buyers seem to be playing it safe in the designs they choose to stock. I actually felt bored wandering around the shops. Where has the innovation gone? Where is the ”I need that” appeal? Thankfully it hasn’t disappeared, it’s just moved.
A New Source for Unique Fashion
In London one of the oldest historical markets still exists. In recent years Spitalfields market [pictured above], which is set in East London, has become known for its innovative design. The area has always been part of the artist scene, and the market was always home to innovative design and creative people. Today, the market and surrounding area is a vibrant, creative hub for those looking for something different.
I went there in the hope of finding some remaining part of London’s well-known fashion industry. What I found was a vibrant, colourful and innovative fashion scene. The market was bursting with stall holders, hand-made items, unique designs and beautiful creations. What struck me the most was the increased presence of smaller, individual stalls selling hand crafted items. The market has always been popular with individual sellers, but there were more there than I ever remember seeing in the past.
From my time in London and from my observations over the last 6 years, I’ve noticed a shift in the fashion industry. Either because of a particular passion, lack of job prospects, or because of a change in society, the world is moving back towards individual crafts. People are creating products and selling them to a small number of devoted fans. Of course, I believe that the large companies that exist today will remain, but I doubt that there will be a new large multinational anytime soon. It’s easier today, than at any other time in history, to start a website, blog or online shop. People are realizing this and they’re taking advantage of it. Easy access to technology has allowed thousands of people to create their own businesses, and this trend doesn’t look like it will slow down. Whatever your passion is, whatever you want to make, now is the time to try it out.
International Fashion Trends
What about other parts of the world? Well Spitalfields has existed for a few hundred years and has always been a market. Only in recent years has its theme shifted towards the encouragement of unique artistic expression. In Hong Kong, where I live now, craft markets don’t really exist. Most of the markets in Hong Kong sell mass-produced goods from China. Only a handful of places make their own goods, and the ones that do have no place to sell them to the public. However, society is changing. Hong Kong has seen an upsurge in people beginning a creative career and an even bigger number of people starting their own businesses. Many other countries in the world are the same. With online retail now responsible for an enormous amount of total sales, smaller shops can make a profit, if they can be found…
E-commerce is the fastest growing retail market in Europe, with sales in the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, The Netherlands, Italy, Poland and Spain expected to reach a combined total of £111.2 bn in 2014 (€155.3 bn or $212.8 bn). We expect online sales in the US to reach $306.0 bn (€224.0 bn) in 2014.
From 2014 Center for Retail Research http://www.retailresearch.org/onlineretailing.php
I believe that in terms of creativity and craft, people are going online to express themselves and promote their ideas. Other countries are following in the footsteps of Hong Kong’s uniquely dressed populace. They’re looking for their own style and the latest “wow” item to show off to their friends. More fascinating fashion trends are starting on the street and the world is searching for something new and unique to wear.
Looking into the future, I don’t predict the fall of established retail brands, but neither do I see a large rise in their popularity. People are no longer interested unless it’s something basic, cheap or essential. The luxury market will continue to have its core brands and new designers who rise and fall, but the real future of fashion lies with the individual who creates handmade, unique designs.