We are surrounded by fashion. We see designer advertisements in our favorite magazines. We see billboards and catchy windows in the streets. We wish we were invited to the fashion shows, and finally, we must get dressed every day. But what does fashion really mean? Understanding this question is fundamental in order to understand what makes fashion companies so successful, and why the fashion business logic is different than any other industry’s. Now, take a few minutes, and try to give your own answer. Keep it simple as if you had to explain it to a ten year old kid. Done? We asked the same question to a bunch of international students attending Bocconi courses. Here is what they said. Hello everyone. My name is Nabeel Bendago, and we are here at Bocconi University. I'm taking a Master’s in, basically, fashion and luxury at Bocconi. Today we are going to interview and ask students about exactly what they think of fashion in a few words. We are going to ask them individually, and then we will get you the response and share it with you. To me fashion is creativity. To me fashion is a business. I think fashion is a format born to create trends. To me fashion is being different. Personally, I think that fashion is a way to show who you are. I think for me, fashion is the ability to create styles that last. I think fashion is the ability to feel comfortable with yourself and with your personal style. Fashion is a way of expressing inner beauty. For me fashion is about self expression and it is very similar to art I think. Fashion, for me, is a way to express your personality. I think fashion is what we want other people to believe about us, so it's a sort of status. Creativity and also business; trends, something that most of people share, but it is also a way to express our personality. As for all important complexes it seems that everything and their opposites could be said. So there is no consensus about what fashion is. It can be said that it is about glossy magazines and fashion shows, but also about creating jobs and wealth. It is about designers, but at the same time, everyone can create their own fashion. Let us now try to better figure out what makes a company fashionable or not. In order to do so let us ask a little help from some friends: Some very important people that throughout centuries have elaborated on what fashion is. As we are in Italy, I would like to start from our main philosopher Seneca. 2,000 years ago he wrote, “We live not according to reason, but according to fashion.” Somehow Seneca created an association between fashion and emotions. Fashion is not just about functionality. We do not dress ourselves just because we need to, we buy into fashion because we desire so. I am sure that, especially for the women following this lecture, you can understand this concept very well. Every single morning you wake up and look at our closet. Despite it being full of dresses we feel that we have absolutely nothing to wear. Thanks to Seneca we understand that this is because fashion is about impulse and desire. Now to Geoffrey Chaucer, an English poet: he wrote, “There's never a new fashion but it's old.” Fashion is a balancing act between the past and the future. Most of the time, trends refer to the previous decades. One season is the salon atmosphere of the 50’s. The next season is the flowers of the 70’s, then could be the disco glitter of the 80’s and so on and so forth. What makes a company fashionable is its capability to take inspiration from the past, and then to give this past a contemporary flair. You need a heritage, you need an archive, but then you need to adapt the product to the contemporary needs. You need to use different fabrics: lighter and more comfortable. You need to evolute it, maybe not revolutionize the shapes of what you are doing. Now, by far my favorite one, Oscar Wilde: a poet, a writer, and as well, a very elegant gent. He wrote, “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it very six months.” He gave the perfect explanation of a very important theoretical concept. The one of planned obsolescence. Fashion companies succeed in persuading us to buy new products every six months because they are able to associate the idea of change not to the physical usage of the product, but to the idea that aesthetics should vary accordingly to the new season. That is because there are new aesthetics and we should express our personality in a different manner. The artificial shortening of the product’s life cycle is what explains why fashion companies are able to sell more and to sell better than other industries. So, to have an increase of their revenues and profitability in the short term and of the brand equity in the long term. Coco Chanel, one of the most talented designers ever, a very inspiring powerful woman and yet, a very successful brand. “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” Coco Chanel understood that fashion as a business logic is a treatment that can be applied to many different industries. Fashion is not only clothing, and by the way, not all clothes are fashionable. For example a white tee shirt with a five a denim pocket pair of jeans are basic, they are products that we could wear every day. They do not follow the seasonal trends I was referring to. There is also the possibility to apply these seasonal trends to many other product categories. Today fashion companies sell fragrances, they sell handbags, eyewear, watches, and jewelry. More and more, they do not only sell products, they sell experiences. So they open hotels, clubs, and many other different territories. The possibility to extend the brand into many categories is what makes these companies very profitable. I also have to add that fashion as a treatment is not limited to a specific price range. In the lecture about business models, we will go more in depth about the industry segmentation; but fashion is a concept that applies from the luxury at the top of the market down to the mass market. “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” Yves Saint Laurent, another very talented designer made the difference between a trend and a style. A style can be defined as a permanent combination of materials, colors, proportions, and occasional views; as such it may apply to many different industries. For example, in art we can differentiate between Baroque art and Pop art. In the car industry there are station wagons and city cars. In the clothing industry there is the minimalism style: whose designers prefer geometrical-clean shapes and understatement; and there are other designers that are more in the exuberant in their style, more into showing off and more characterized. Somehow those styles stay the same for a very long time. They become fashionable just in the specific moment in which they are adopted by the vast majority of people. Style is always there while trends are short-term and because of that they change. Now, a very important challenge for the fashion companies is that on one hand, they have to build their own, unique, recognizable style. They need to have a personality, they need to have some stylistic cause the customers will forever associate with the brand; On the other hand, in order to stay fashionable, they need the style to evolve. The challenge is to be able to adapt and filter the trends throughout their own eyes, throughout their own personality. If you want to be fashionable, you definitely must be contemporary, you must be relevant for consumers as they are today. “Fashion is like a fruit, you couldn't eat it a day before and you can't eat it a day after; it is just about today.” This is what Albert Elbaz said and it very clearly explains why fashion is about today. “I don't design clothes, I design dreams.” Ralph Lauren, an American champion in brands, He clarifies the difference between the product, the company selling, and the brand the consumer is buying. In his words, fashion is about youth, it is about aspiration, it is about change. It is about creating emotional worth people may refer to. I suggest watching a very inspiring video of Ralph Lauren in which he explains what is behind a new collection.