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The Evolution of the High Fashion Hybrid

By Sophia Carr, Research Executive, GfK

As seasons change, so do fashions and in this ever changing world, it is imperative for brands to capture the attention of shoppers. Furthermore, in recent years the industry has seen a decline in high street sales, a shift towards online shopping and many changes in the outlooks of consumers. How have traditional high street fashion brands tackled this? What does the future of high street fashion look like?

One simple answer is to seek inspiration from the high-end. Though this may sound simple, and somewhat self-explanatory that high-street fashion designers are influenced by their high-end counterparts it can be executed in a number of ways. Through this we have seen the emergence of a number of ‘hybrids’ between high end fashion and high street fashion.

Consumers have a desire to be on trend and copy their favourite celebrities; almost a third of online high-street fashion shoppers, also visit high-end fashion sites, most often at the beginning of a shopping ‘session’. Department store sites like Selfridges are explored for inspiration, as shoppers are able to browse a wide-range of designer clothing. Once inspired, or perhaps daunted by the high price-tags, their attention is turned to lower-end sites, which are browsed for five times as long, allowing time to find the perfect items. (GXL data)

Since 2004, H&M have been collaborating with top designers, starting with Karl Lagerfeld and most recently with Alexander Wang in 2014, to offer collections to satiate appetite of shoppers wanting a designer look on a high street budget. Their success spurred on a number of copy cats from the likes of Topshop and Uniqlo; all these highly anticipated capsule collections opened the doors for shops and the wallets of shoppers.

Since then the high-street has been further dipping its toe into the high-end world. Brands such as Zara, Whistles and Cos have been selling ‘premium’ items made from quality fabrics at more expensive price points to meet the need of today’s shoppers who want quality, rather than quantity. Arguably this success story can also be attributed to the habits of British high-end shoppers, who accept and embrace these premium items despite their lack of designer label. This part of the hybrid evolution looks set to stay, with many stores now stocking ‘deluxe’ or ‘premium’ ranges to meet demand.

Additionally in the current landscape we are seeing online stores blending a variety of price-points into a ‘one-stop shop’ for high-street and high-end items. Online only retailers such as ASOS and Zalando lead the way in this space, catering for 21st century shoppers who prefer to browse online for their fashion fix. ASOS is already one of the most visited fashion retailers online (GXL), which is reflected in its growing stock prices; their offerings include not only their own products, but branded stock and vintage finds. We predict German hit Zalando will be one of the next big players in the UK fashion space, as they take full advantage of the high-end hybrid, stocking everything from Dorothy Perkins, to DKNY to Reebok.

Looking further into the future, the fashion space could move in the same direction as the beauty and cosmetics industry which is heavily focused on inspiration through user-generated content such as blogs, reviews and Instagram posts. The emergence and growing popularity of sites like Temptalia (GXL) could lead the way for innovation. There could be a move away from browsing e-commerce sites and into more conceptual, review based and personalised styling. Users would be able to find personalised recommendations based on their size, shape, budget and fashion influences and find duplicates of their favourite high-end pieces at a high-street price akin to the cosmetics favourite of ‘dupes’.

Evidently, brands will continue to seek inspiration from the high-end, just as fashion-shoppers do when they browse. The direction the next evolution of the hybrid will take is unclear, but with a nod to the beauty industry, it could become more personalised. 

Read more about the future of the UK fashion industry

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