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Author's profile photo Bekki Binley

Is there such thing as a global fashion customer?

Is the world getting smaller or larger? The rapid pace of globalisation has brought us closer to other countries than ever before, suggesting our worldwide community is becoming stronger. However, the closer we become, the more we understand the differences between nations – especially when it comes to something as subjective as fashion.

It’s no surprise that globalisation remains very high on the fashion industry agenda. At this month’s upcoming Drapers Fashion Forum, for example, senior personnel from Adyen, Fitflop, HGA Group and Zalando will take part in a panel debate on international fashion.

Saturation in Europe and North America’s fashion markets is driving retailers to explore the new frontiers of global retail – Asia, the Middle East, Africa – but how easily do western styles translate into these markets?

Certainly there are trends unique to each region, and it’s essential to understand what drives shoppers in each geography to infiltrate local fashions.

India, for instance, is incredibly brand driven; a recent Times of India article claimed that its consumers would rather purchase one shirt featuring a prominent label than two without, as the branded version showcases their social standing.

Chinese shoppers are also driven by brands, but a new wave of ready-to-wear clothing and European luxury brands have seen designers such Victoria Beckham, Chloe, Miu Miu and Valentino rapidly rise to the fore.

Interestingly, the motivation behind designer label affinity is changing in China. Whereas once, like India, it was an indicator of wealth, now Chinese consumers see premium brands as a mark of taste and style.

The emerging market of African fashion tells an even more intriguing story. The continent’s fashion week event, due to take place in November, may have been canned, but appetite for global brands is unstoppable.

Cultural pride is paramount to African fashion, and consumers are increasingly growing tired of ‘bland consumerism’, instead seeking to wear their hearts on their sleeves, in the form of statements that reflect their beliefs.

So how do fashion retailers adapt their offering for these disparate markets, without sacrificing their global identity?

The truth lies not just in understanding how people shop and what they buy, but being able to adapt quickly to these trends. Consumers’ preferences are constantly evolving, and retailers’ business models must keep growing with them.

Creating an adaptable business model that can respond to patterns in consumer behaviour means having sustainable retail operations in place, with fast and flexible supply chains that can meet a continually developing customer engagement strategy.

As we outlined in our recent Faster Fashion report, tomorrow, the world – how to do fashion everywhere, too many fashion brands simply ‘lift and shift’ their operational model into new territories and wonder why it’s not effective.

Instead of trying to put a square peg into a round hole, it can be much more effective to focus on the customer first, and find ways to engage with them – just like a start-up would.

By building an agile model and tightly integrating it across regions, retailers can start to identify local behavioural patterns on a global scale, creating a ‘best of both worlds’ experience that is created around the real-time needs of their customers in each market.

Essential, given that all consumers have one thing in common, globally: the propensity to change their mind!

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