Thursday, July 7, 2011

Zara - the Apple of fashion?

How neglectful of me to miss commenting on the BIGGEST EVENT TO HIT MELBOURNE THIS YEAR - the opening of our own Zara store. Only months earlier, Melburnians sat smugly in their lounge rooms, dismissive of the rampant consumerism portrayed by the thousands of Sydneysiders as a similar event occurred in their city. Then we went into the same frenzy!

I can recall a similar 'happening' in Melbourne in the 1990s. Richard Branson won't thank me for reminding you all of the 'Virgin Megastore' opening in Bourke Street. ROFL as I think of the crazy notion of a megastore full of music CDs - especially with the hindsight afforded by the phenomenal success of iTunes and more infamous music download and shareware sites. By the way, what did happen to Brash's?

As Zara, the flagship of the Spanish fashion armada hit our shores, in other parts of town, stores in the Colorado Group's fashion stable were closing their doors. Various marketing dudes and receivers (who know lots about marketing!) piled in on the act to describe how Colorado had lost its way, along with other brands in the group, like the venerable Mathers footwear chain, JAG and so on.

Colorado had been brushed off the plateau of outdoor apparel by brands that had simply driven a crampon into their space, taken a firm grip and clambered over them. Brands like Kathmandu come to mind as owners of the space that Colorado should have secured long before.

And JAG - what a sad mess they made of that. I remember buying JAG in the 1970s. If memory serves me right it was a brand set up by Adele and Rod Palmer. I remember the high quality of the JAG range in those days. Much of it was made in Australia. In fact, there were a few brands around back then that carried locally made lines. A bit more expensive generally, but high quality.

Unfortunately, JAG just became another in the conga line of Chinese garment distributors that proliferate in retail these days. Yes, they all have their 'unique' designs, thanks to the busiest people at fashion launches these days, illustrators who have to get sketches to China by SMS by the end of the night. The result for designers: Originality 1 v. Commercial Advantage 0. Sort of like watching Arsenal play beautiful football, but never winning a trophy!

It will be interesting to see what Zara does to maintain the rage. Positioned as a retailer that brings the latest fashions to market fast and cheap (thanks to those busy illustrators!), its a position that could easily be challenged by other stores if they really focused on it. Let's face it, Target has been doing the same thing for years with Stella McCartney.

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