GUEST EDIT: CARLO QUINTILIANI’S HISTORY LESSON
HISTORY LESSON: A CASE FOR CHANGE
By Carlo Quintiliani, EVP at Harbour International
Early on in wholesale, I had the good fortune to work with Ed Glantz at GFT, who at the time headed the Giorgio Armani USA division. During a media interview, he was asked his opinion on the best part of the movie “American Gigolo.” The questioner fully expected to hear about the signature scene in which Richard Gere coordinates his extensive wardrobe of gorgeous Armani clothing, furnishings and accessories. Instead, Glantz simply quipped “the closing credits,” underscoring the importance of brand recognition and good press. I was reminded of when as a buyer at Saks years earlier, how we were all swept away by the overwhelming success of our launch of the designer. There was a customer laying in wait, anticipating the brand, and likely more knowledgeable than we were in understanding its lifestyle and attitude.
Over my many years in this business, I’ve observed that major shifts in men’s fashion have occurred about every 20 years — parallel to the time between generations. Since these waves of change now seem to be happening at a greatly accelerated pace, it’s more important than ever that retailers be ahead of, or at least on top of, the curve. Today’s upscale, forward design sneaker phenomenon, for example, reflects a total attitude and lifestyle shift among younger customers, a shift that involves not just contemporary fashion but also digital marketing, online selling, customization and more. If one connects the dots and projects ahead, a much larger opportunity is emerging.
Can we predict with certainty what’s next based on fashion history? Consider the French Designer emergence of the 1960s with its theatrical flair, the aforementioned Italian impact in the 1980s, the American Designer ascendency in the new century. This and previous period looks reflected the time and society they served; it could even be argued that the fashion itself impacted societal changes.
These days, however, we’re talking not just changes in fashion but changes in how fashion is created, marketed, tested, purchased and sold. For department stores, an appropriate action might be to establish a self-contained section of the selling floor that’s set up and administered in a totally different manner than the rest of the store. In addition to cool clothes, it might incorporate e-kiosks, media lounges, personal fashion consultants, social media concierges and more. It would serve as a transition to the store of the future that can hopefully compete with the virtual world of global commerce at everyone’s fingertips today.