The Curated Wardrobe

Some of you who have signed up for The BusiChic Bulletin have asked for more fashion trends, so I am delivering a double-serve today made up of (1) photos from the LMFF Menswear Runway and (2) a thought leadership piece from the Editor in Chief of Fashionising.com.

(1) Farage Autumn/Winter 2011
First up a collection of smokin’ suits that James Bond would be proud of. Whether it’s in the boardroom where I’d advise opting for the more subtle fabrics or important function where you could make a statement in that bold pinstripe, the ensembles presented by Farage certainly had me impressed. Take a look at the images below which I bring to you in the same order shown at LMFF, complete with Helena Christensen who was the Menswear Runway show’s drawcard.
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(2) The Curated Wardrobe
Now for those times one can’t be at the fashion shows, I can highly recommend the site Fashionising.com which has its finger on the pulse of all things, well sartorial. Daniel P. Dykes editor of Fashionising.com and his team have written many a piece I’ve bookmarked, including the most-read guide to men’s suits on the internet. Now Daniel has written a manifesto on a shift he observes in the concept of luxury, which he terms The Curated Wardrobe and which I’ll share with you today as BusiChics would be an interesting crew to get thoughts from on this.

For a long time it was exactly the opposite: a big wardrobe was the hallmark of the haves and the have nots. Those with wardrobes bulging at the seams were those who lived a life of luxury. They were also often the rich. So for lots of people the desire for a wardrobe that contained every potential shoe and shirt combination became their desire, became a point of envy.

But society has moved on.

I highly recommend you take the time to read the manifesto here.

Daniel writes of a time where the novelty of fast fashion has worn off. Where consumers are fatigued by the abundance of poorly-made crap and like the backlash against fast food, want clothing that is of better quality. In this age Daniel speaks of, consumers will be curators of their wardrobes. Rather than buying the latest trends, the fashion-forward consumer will place emphasis on identifying the looks that best suit them and invest in better made pieces that will last season after season. In this space, the luxury we aspire to is to have a cultivated sense of personal style that is timeless, rather than getting our hands on the latest thing off the runway. Best of all; we don’t have to be rich to achieve it as The Curated Wardrobe is about buying what you need as best you need it.

So how is this relevant to BusiChic? Personally, I get frustrated when an item of clothing I’ve bought doesn’t last a number of a seasons, let alone the one I bought it in. It’s a waste of my money and time -not to mention the natural (and not-so-natural) resources expended to make the garment. As such, using Daniel’s manifesto – I feel like I have a responsibility to steer BusiChics towards curating a work wardrobe of well-made clothing because I know that I’ve wasted money on the past on things that did not last. By the same token, I also believe in being a smart shopper and like one of my BusiChic mentors, keep an eye out for the sales. I also purchase vintage because clothing in those days was built to last and often doesn’t cost as much as a new item in a chainstore these days.

I like the concept of The Curated Wardrobe for many reasons, it has sustainable leanings but quite simply I think that it is sensible. It’s asking consumers to think more about what we are spending on – “will this piece actually suit me? Does it work well with the other pieces in my wardrobe”- rather than being driven to mindlessly consume en masse [ as an aside I hope that The Curated Wardrobe will lead to better personal finance management because a quote like “I like to keep my money where I can see it – hanging in my wardrobe.” gets glamourised but kills me.] It’s asking retailers and shop assistants to offer better service “so you’re looking for x, we can help you source that.” It’s asking fashion designers to give us something special or the basics we all need- but made better.

However, I see a number of obstacles in the way of The Curated Wardrobe being embraced as the luxury that consumers aspire to and would appreciate your thoughts on the few I’ll outline below:

  • Too hard – remember that ad where the average-type-bloke walks into a suburban milkbar asking for milk and after being overwhelmed by the options available splutters “I just want milk that tastes like real milk.”? Like fast food, some people don’t have time to think about what’s good for them – they are busy enough with life as it is. They just want to eat and whatever is easy or arguably more importantly, within the budget, will do. In terms of fashion if it looks good, fits alright and is at the right price – that is what the consumer will buy. And I think that those who are aware of quality in food and fashion, given the reality of financial constraints will be more concerned about what they are putting in their mouths than on their bodies…
  • Creativity – Try telling Lady Gaga to reduce the quantity but up the quality of her ensembles. That said I feel like she’s already operating at a very high level. However for those of us trying to find out what our style is – investing too early could also be expensive. Sure we could go straight to building the foundation of our curated wardrobe but what about the fun in exploring and experimenting to work out our own style (for those of us who find this fun)? As such when experimenting to find the personal style, op shops and the high street will still be the number one stops for both teens and those with only so much to spend (or similarly, who only want to spend so much). And not everyone wants to op shop [that said the quality of clothing in op shops will improve if everyone bought better-quality pieces in the first place…].
  • Retailers – I asked Daniel some questions about the impact of the new luxury on retailers which he answered here. While I agree with part of his response that designers will benefit from the emphasis on quality-rather-than quantity – I see two challenges with respect to retailers. Firstly those retailers who support The Curated Wardrobe will have their work cut out explaining to consumers how new pieces offer real value in order for this concept to be embraced as the new luxury. However we don’t want to run the risk of getting the emperor’s new clothes; all pomp and little to nothing to show. As such clothing needs to be “reasonably priced” and those higher prices transparent so that customers can see that they are indeed getting a superiorly made product (fabrics, workmanship etc) and that what they are paying benefits all stops in the supply chain- that it is not only a generous mark-up by and for the retailer, who sure talks a lot. On the flipside, not all retailers will support The Curated Wardrobe. Making a profit in the cut-throat business of retail is all about economies of scale and there are many who are making a pretty profit from the current model of fast fashion. For every *sensible* person who starts curating their wardrobe and buying only what they need, the industry is stacked with marketers who work will continue to work hard to keep up mass consumption as the desirable. High street shops are already doing this now by employing high profile models to market their wares in high-gloss campaigns – they position their products to look like quality and only so many consumers will be concerned by the poor fabrics/workmanship.

Something which I thought was worth noting though is that The Curated Wardrobe doesn’t mean that we each have to create our own unique look. While we each can, we could just as easily find the celebrities/style bloggers we most wish to emulate and stick to that look – that uniform of sorts -but in quality pieces.

So what do you think? Do I have a responsibility to share quality clothing and accessories with BusiChics or should I be sharing a range of quality and subsequently pricepoints to allow you to make that judgement call for yourself?

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