Thursday, 6 October 2011
Mens Formal Wear My thoughts about the future of our industry
Having some discussions with the Brides and Grooms, who have been coming to collect their wedding suits today for their weddings at the weekend, has got me thinking about our little business here in Essex. It seems most of these couples have traveled huge distances (by U.K. standards) to come here and hire or buy suits, in my rather naive attempts to understand this phenomenon, I simply asked "why?"
Why come to our shop when they must have driven past a 100 other menswear shops to get to us? They quite happily replied that no-one else does what we do, no-one else has our designs, our quality and our quality of customer service.
This is obviously a good thing for our business but quite sad for the industry as a whole. The Formal Menswear business by its very nature has always been quite stagnant, never as fluid or organic as the fashion industry. The hire sector has always been the most rigid of this already stagnant industry because they are expected to be worn numerous times, the designs, styles and fabrics are slow to change. But do things really have to be this way?
When I first started in retail, I remember going to a college one day a week to pass my NVQ in retail. The training was incredibly old fashioned, even by the standards of the early 90's. We were shown videos (VHS not Betamax, i'm not that old) narrated by a gentleman in a 3.piece suit who kindly explained the difference between Menswear and the Fashion industry. The fashion industry was for women but menswear was a separate industry which was not influenced by the catwalks of Milan or Paris but rather more influenced by how chilly (or warm) a gentleman might feel on his way home from a hard days work. At the time I found these things old fashioned, sexist and unrealistic. I was a teenager and I knew how much we (my friends and I) would spend on our clothing when we went out for the night. I knew that certain shops would fall in and out of vogue with our group of friends depending on the look we were trying to achieve. Anyway within a few years a whole new sector, Men's Fashion not only emerged (it had already existed for everyone but the establishment) it has now become the standard. Men are not becoming more fashion conscious, they have been fully conscious for some years. Men are as susceptible to all the marketing and subconscious desires as women and why should they not be? After all the digital revolution has allowed us all to become acutely aware of our personal images and even manage it, to a certain extent if we wish to. We do this everyday without even considering it.
My point is this. If men are no different to women (when it comes to fashion, image and self awareness) why do we have an industry that refuses to evolve? why do we accept men's fashion everyday in our lives (consciously or subconsciously) but when it comes to wearing a suit for the most important day of our lives do we consider something out of touch with fashion and reality?
Here at Jack Bunneys we are carefully evolving our designs each wedding season. We are always eyeing the fashion industry and attempting to stretch this stagnant industry towards that end goal of having new designs each season which are unique for that time.
This is our dream and our future.