As I’m writing this blog, my partner and I are actually making last minute plans for our buying trip this week. Last week’s blog was about how we translate the latest fashion trends and put our own stamp on them to suit the needs of our customers. Pouring over fashion magazines, watching fashion runway shows and deciding what to include and what to leave out in our collections, is all homework; preparation in anticipation of our upcoming buying trip.
We know of other local fashion retailers that do not travel overseas to buy their merchandise. In this internet age, even wholesale purchases can be viewed and ordered discretely and transacted safely online. It certainly saves time and money, factors of survival for small fashion businesses as ours. No need to pay for flights, transport, accommodation and all those extra cost that an overseas trip automatically incurs.
So why do we keep up with our buying trips? Here’s our rationale…
The biggest reason we persist in making physical buying trips as opposed to the convenience and cost savings of buying online is because we feel that fashion is as tactile as it is visual. Everybody knows that style is a visual language, but at B&M, over and above looking good, we also want to offer styles that feel good for our customers. We believe that when it comes to fashion, touch and feel is crucial.
There are so many beautiful fashion photos on Instagram and online fashion retailers always use beautiful models to sell clothes, so of course, everything looks hunky dory. Then again, every online savvy customer knows of the wonders of photoshop and it’s anybody’s guess exactly how comfortable the clothes really are! That’s why most reputable online shopping sites offer free shipping and lenient return policies to encourage shopping.
Unless, we personally go and touch, see, feel and try the styles for ourselves, we’ll never really know how they feel on our skin, whether the fabric scratches or stretches sufficiently to cover our multitude of imperfections. Lets face it. How many of us have “model” proportions? We need our clothes to do the work for us so that we can be confident and stylish in real life - not just look like it, in Instagram or Facebook posts. Our customers are real women with real (busy) lifestyles and demanding careers. The last thing we want is to spend our merchandising budget on styles that look great on paper but are uncomfortable to wear in real life!
Another reason for this upcoming trip is because when it comes to our Fall Collection, we have to be extra careful in our selections due to our weather restrictions. Cooler temperatures for the rest of the world means that fashion designers and manufacturers alike produce styles that are appropriate for colder climates. The fabrics get heavier and warmer. The coats, scarfs, hats and boots look great in photos but are hardly practical for those of us living in sunny Singapore. Even if the online description says cotton or rayon, we wouldn’t know how hot and thick the clothes are unless we try them on ourselves. I always tell interested parties that at B&M, we edit the essence of Fall and translate them through our Singaporean sunglasses so that the styles we offer are wearable in our weather! In our opinion, there’s nothing stylish about a woman who’s wilting in our tropical sunshine, even if she’s dressed in the latest Chanel tweed jacket! A smart woman’s gotta dress for the life she’s living right?
Truth be told, I’m a bit OCD when it comes to details and quality. That’s why after a decade in the fashion business, we still insist on fitting all our samples ourselves. The logic is that if the styles can make us (with all our imperfections) look and feel good, then they’re probably great pieces for our customers too! The devil is in the details, and these details are sometimes hard to see clearly online. Of course, if you are slim, young and pretty, then almost anything goes. But our customers are real women with real budgets and style challenges, so as far as possible, we want to ensure that we continuously offer a current selection of fashionable clothes that fit our customers style needs comfortably.
Lastly, and truthfully, we enjoy shopping! Truly! It’s great to have a change of scenery (even with the insane hours of factory visits thrown in). Travelling in itself is an education. There are many more ideas, styles, fabrics, concepts etc where those online posts are coming from, and no one posts everything online all the time! Sometimes to be honest, we don’t know what we’re looking for until we see it!
I love the spontaneity (sometimes impulsive nature) of merchandising (even though we always go prepared with style ideas). Sure, we can communicate much faster through facebook, emails and wechats, but you can’t fax a handshake, and I rather do business with all my 5 senses, for as long as I can anyway ;)
The exciting thing about the fashion business is that it’s always evolving. Like this buying trip we’re going on. All that we have planned is exactly that - a plan. If things go according to plan, well and good; but if they don’t, we’ll simply have to be open to changes and adapt accordingly. If that happens, I’ll be extremely glad that I was physically present to assess the circumstances and react, rather than read about it in an email and respond with a mouse!
Have a great week everybody, and wish us well on our buying trip!