Following a study of 1500 European women in 2011, the French Institute of Fashion explains why women are essential to the growth in the apparel sector, what drives them to buy and the different approaches to style in each country.
Fashion – an essential preoccupation for Europeans
In Europe, women account for 50% of the average amount spent on clothing (a sector whose annual turnover is estimated at 15 billion Euros in France). The trend over the last decade is an increase in the number of clothing purchases, thanks to a drop in prices (-13% between 2000 and 2010). This is reflected in the favourite European brands: even If Prada and Longchamp are the favourite brand when it comes to bags, people prefer to do their shopping at Zara and H & M.
Alexander, Laurent and Raphael Elisha were all destined to work in fashion: their father, Tony, is the founder of the brand ‘Comptoir des Cotonniers’, and he soon involved his sons in his adventure. In 2008, the three brothers developed some strategies (advertising in pairs), adapted their target market (young and trendy couples), and The Kooples was born. Three years later, it is one of the fastest growing textile brands in France and abroad…
It was from word of mouth that The Kooples became known: even before opening the first store, the brand had launched a major advertising campaign featuring couples, with no mention of the brand. It was to attract attention, but also to show the originality of the concept: one shop for both men and women, with almost mixed collections, as shown in the slogan “A locker room for two.” Heterosexual or homosexual, young or old, all types of couples were represented. Their only similarity? Style.
Thanks to her fashion and make-up brand Agnès b., created with her husband Christian Bourgois (from where the b. of the brand name originates), designer Agnès Troublé has an estimated fortune of 65 million euros… and a brand that speaks to all women, as our expert Françoise Carré explains.
Agnès Troublé always knew that she wanted to create clothes that would make the woman wearing them glow. A journalist at Elle, where she hated the atmosphere which she found to be competitive and mean-spirited, she fine-tuned her fashion culture before opening her first shop at the age of 34. Her items are classic, simple and elegant, of high quality and with an extremely polished finish, like the press stud cardigan invented in 1979, which became a key piece of the brand: “What is remarkable is that Agnès b then put this cardigan back into all her collections. Like putting a record back on that you love. Like the shirt dress: if the customers like an item, she keeps it year after year. This is how emblematic clothes are created: this cardigan was made from flannel and three press studs (of course, diverted from their usual use, with an excellent range of colours), and it became a hit and a symbol,” explains Françoise Carré.
A stylist, a writer, a Commander in France’s Legion of Honour – Sonia Rykiel is all that at once, but above all else, she’s a woman like any other, and she hasn’t forgotten that.
She advocates the “old-fashioned approach” – adapting fashion to the female body and her own style, instead of bowing to the diktats of big designers – and created a stir when she asked her models to smile on the catwalk.
In short, Sonia Rykiel is an atypical designer who has always fought for women’s freedom, and it’s perhaps from there that she owes her irrepressible success.
Sonia Rykiel publicly supports the freedom of women ever since the opening of her first boutique in May 1968.
Her creations are spectacular but always adaptable to everyday life – for proof, look no further than her capsule collection with the high-street brand H&M in 2010.
But even in her traditional collections, Sonia Rykiel has always wanted to create clothes that women could effortlessly make their own. Her key creation is simply the knitted sweater, and she even created a less expensive sportswear corner in each of her shops, to offer women on all budgets the possibility to dress in Rykiel.
The changing room is a pretty pointless place for men: most of the time, they already know what size they need in their favourite shops and buy without trying. This is unthinkable for women who try on 11 pairs of jeans, on average, before finding the pair that fits their body shape (Levi’s study). For a woman, the changing room is therefore a place that gives rise to a specific ritual, with an outcome that can be either enriching or demoralising.
She enters the changing room, hangs up her (potential) future purchases, carefully draws the curtain, and begins trying on the clothes. She then becomes distraught if she spills out of them, or delighted if they fit perfectly.
Every woman has gone through this inevitable experience when out clothes shopping. Yet, there are different “trying on” types, which don’t all have the same meaning for women.
Women in high-level professions and leadership roles are being targeted by the fashion industry due to their purchasing power and affinity for stylish, high-quality clothes.
Since current trends are moving away from traditional business atire (read: pantsuits), labels like Céline, Diane von Furstenberg, and Max Mara have expanded their lines to include more business-friendly items in their ready-to-wear collections.
Some French women in the news have also began to set their own trends: from Carla Bruni’s perfectly tailored dresses and Louboutins, to Anne Lauvergeon’s leather jacket, womens’ business outfits are sure to keep evolving.
The brand of the crocodile, which has been around since 1933, wants to re-energize its image by diversifying and attracting new customers.
Target #1: women, who represent only 25% of sales, but are actually 80% of their clients.
The strategy: first, hire designer Felipe Oliveira Baptista (previously at Max Mara) to change up the style. Next, fashion show at New York fashion week.
The brand is also redesigning its 1100 store locations by making them more friendly to women, and expanding their childrens section in order to attract mothers. Only time will tell if this strategy will bring back some ROI.
Over 70% of women surveyed say they never or rarely dress sexy to go to the office; while opinions are very divergent on the matter, women in the TestConso.fr survey all noted that being well-dressed was a gauge of credibility and competency.
The number one important factor for women at work is thus their professional image, which many say is extremely important to them. What is surprising, however, is the amount of sexual tension that women in France have experienced at work; almost three fourths of women surveyed said that they had been aware of sexual advances from a superior, but 90% have never acted on it.
In the end, most women agree that sexuality is inappropriate for the workplace and are working hard to maintain professional relations while at work. To read some more specific verbatims from the study, continue on to the article here.
Websites catering to fashion are becoming more and more popular with european women, who are searching to get inspiration online from style blogs and fashion magasine websites. A quarter of French women view blogs as a source of inspiration for their style, and more women are putting trust in style websites as their foremost tool to help them decide what to wear.
The recent street style phenomenon is certainly picking up pace as over half of European women reported getting style tips from others they saw on the streets. A trend to put it all in perspective, though: three quarters of Italian and Spanish women had never shopped online; this trend is reversed in England and Germany, where a large majority of women appreciate being able to shop 24/7 and find good sales.
Fashion icon Donna Karan is delving into the nonprofit world with her new brand, Urban Zen; 10% of all profits are donated to her charity, the Urban Zen Foundation which funds research against cancer.
Her own friends’ battles with cancer pushed Karan to create a high-impact line and foundation in order to give back to the community that helped her.
To tie the clothes with the spirit of the charity, Karan organizes the Urban Zen fashion shows in the foundation’s offices, with a whole event planned around yoga, health food, meditation, and the sale of artisanal objects.
Karan says it best herself: “I’ve spent my whole life dressing people, now I want to talk to them.”