Ski jackets best rated

As if the lines weren’t blurry enough, this year’s featherweight fabrics and highly breathable waterproof membranes have made hardshells and softshells even harder to distinguish–and exceedingly versatile in changing conditions. End result: win-win. For those nasty winter storms that won’t quit, insulated jackets remain your best bet and keep the layering equation simple.

DALE NORWAY Totten

The exterior fabric is 100 percent Norwegian wool–just like a classic ski sweater–but it’s bonded to a windproof-breathable membrane–just like a technical shell jacket. The removable hood takes you from chairlift to barstool in one zip. men’s, $499; dale.no

OBERMEYER Kenai

A lightweight version of Qbermeyer’s insulated Ketchikan jacket, the Kenai shell features waterproof-breathable Cocona fabric–made from coconut shells and lava sand–and strategically placed stretch paneling for mobility. men’s, $425; obermeyer.com

WESTCOMB Switch

At a mere 15 ounces–helmet compatible storm hood and all–the Switch is one of the lightest shells in the mix. Polartec NeoShell fabric is one weight-saving feature; 20-stitch per-inch seam construction is another. The pop of color on the roomy dual Napoleon pockets? That’s just for looks, men’s, $430; westcomb.com

MAMMUT Sunridge

Designed for bluebird powder days–hello, Gore-Tex softshell, detachable snow skirt, and Lycra wrist gaiters–the Sunridge jacket integrates with the Sunridge pant ($419) to keep blower snow from sneaking through the cracks, women’s, $599; mammut.ch

COLUMBIA Trifecta

Why Trifecta? Because it combines Columbia’s Omni-Heat thermal reflective lining, Omni-Wick Evap waterproof-breathable membrane, and the new-this-fall windproof Omni-Wind Block softshell fabric. Other features include an adjustable storm hood, a drop tail, and waterproof zippers. We tested the jacket on a blustery, stormy Whistler day and can confirm: It’s a triple treat, women’s, $220; columbia.com

EIDER Niseko

Tailored for maximum mobility and, heck, a flattering look, the Niseko offers technical details like Eider’s waterproof-breathable Defender four-way stretch fabric and body-mapped insulation–133 g PrimaLoft in the torso, 100 g in the back, and 60 g in the arms–to maintain your body’s temperature balance, men’s, $599; eider.com

SCOTT Drexler

On clear, dry days, wear this 540 fill synthetic-down jacket puffy-side-out. When it’s soggy and cold–or when you want a different color–reverse it to get the protection of the waterproof, fully taped Toray shell (shown), men’s, $275; scott-sports.com

STOIC Welder Hi Softshell

Stoic’s membrane-free Monolith softshell has a DWR treatment to help it shed moisture. That means it’s not technically waterproof. But it also means it’s lightweight and highly breathable–more than adequate, ideal even, on all but the wettest days. High-loft fleece insulation and a 3-D ergonomic cut equals warmth without the bulk, women’s, $299; stoicgear.com

OUTDOOR RESEARCH Igneo

Also available in a noninsulated shell, the Igneo has ultralight Pertex Shield waterproof-breathable fabric and Thermore synthetic insulation (60 g on the front and arms; 40 on the back and armpits). A helmet-compatible hood, pit zips, a powder skirt with pant integration, and a cuff-closure system that doubles as a thumb loop round out the features of this techie jacket, men’s, $295; outdoorresearch.com

KILLY Spartacus

Dermizax NZ–with a 20,000-mm waterproof rating and an industry-leading 50,000-g breathability rating–won an ISPO design award in 2011. Armed with body-mapped PrimaLoft insulation, two-way waterproof zippers, no-slip snow skirt, laser-cut vents, shoulder reinforcements, and Recco reflector, the Spartacus is battle ready, men’s, $999; killy.com

OBERMEYER Logan

Layered from shell to insulation to lining with Cocona, the Logan is waterproof, breathable, and warm. Plus, strategically placed stretch panels keep it from feeling too restrictive, but the coolest feature just might be the tie-dye-print waterproof zippers, women’s, $475; obermeyer.com

Are you a fashion victim?

Imagine wearing the fashions of 150 years ago.

Stylish women of the Victorian era put on tight whalebone corsets that made their waists tiny–and often made them faint from lack of oxygen.

Many of them stuffed their feet into confining, pointy shoes that twisted the bones in their feet until they were virtually crippled.

Victorian men donned high collars that restricted both their breathing and the movement of their neck.

Thank goodness modern fashions are much more free and easy, and less damaging to our health.

Or are they?

Fashionable Facts

Experts say there are plenty of modern fashion health-hazards.

For example, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, researchers have discovered coccygeal tenderness, more commonly known as “tight-jeans syndrome.”

The researchers who discovered the problem were Dr. Edward Mortimer, a professor of pediatrics, and Marcie Stoshak, then a medical student.

They studied two high-school girls who had suffered for months with tenderness of the tail bone, or coccyx. Physical exams, including X-rays, could find nothing wrong with the girls’ bone structure.

But Mortimer and Stoshal noticed the girls often wore extremely tight jeans. The girls slouched in their hard wooden school seats and the heavily reinforced seams of their jeans hit right at the base of their spine.

“The stiff seam was hitting the bone every time they sat down,” Dr. Mortimer said. “We suggested they stop wearing the tight jeans, and it worked. Their pain disappeared.”

This kind of tail bone tenderness is not only a young woman’s problem. Mortimer also found a case of a male long-distance motorcyclist who reported extreme pain in his lower back. He, too, had worn too-tight jeans.

Swiss doctors have pointed to another problem associated with binding jeans.

It comes from wearing jeans that are so tight they press on, and damage, a nerve that runs from the torso to each leg. The pain it causes can be so debilitating that sufferers are unable to stretch out their leg and have to limp. At least 10 of the Swiss patients reported severe pain and itching in the hip and groin area.

The solution is not always simple, the doctors found. Some victims recover spontaneously, as soon as they trade in their old jeans for some looser styles.

Another health problem related to snug jeans is the increased risk of bacterial infections that comes from trapped heat in the groin area.

The medical profession has also warned that, like the corsets of a century ago, tight jeans put too much pressure on the internal organs. They also may keep wearers from breathing properly.

Considering all the problems stemming from too-tight jeans, some people may want to consider wearing their “blues” a bit baggier. But for those who still want the super-skinny look, there are some alternatives.

Fabric manufacturers have come up with new stretch wovens and knits with a good amount of elasticity. Some of the stylish tight black pants have enough give and breathability not to cause health problems. Stretchy synthetics like Lycra spandex are also being woven into blue jeans, to allow for a “second-skin” look, but one that allows the wearer to sit down and bend over.

Not Just Jeans

Jeans aren’t the only fashions that can cause health problems. Tight or very high heeled shoes can cause the same problems today as they did for the Victorians. Apart from causing wearers to twist their ankles, high heels, if they’re worn often enough, can affect the development of lower leg muscles and tendons. Besides being painful, tight shoes prevent a normal flow of blood. In a cold winter that can invite frostbite.

A variety of other ailments can be brought on by a number of accessories, such as pierced earrings and false fingernails. It was a dermatologist in San Francisco, Dr. Robert Herwick, who noticed a connection between an increase in popularity of acrylic fingernails and a boost in a nasty kind of fingernail disorder.

The condition, onycholysis, is a separation of the real fingernail from the nailbed, followed by an infection. It is caused by a combination of allergic reaction and chemical irritation from the cement used to glue on the false nails, Herwick says.

There is no way to conceal the infected, stubby fingers of the victim, he said.

Girls who have their ears pierced are often warned that minor infections can result if they don’t clean their ears properly and disinfect them with alcohol.

Now Hear This . . .

How many people are aware of the damage they can do with one of the hippest ear-accessories of all–the stereo cassette players they wear while exercising, waiting for the bus, or while studying?

Ever since the Walkman made its first appearance, doctors have warned of the ill effects of plugging into these music machines. They have found that repeated listening at full volume can cause everything from ringing in the ears to slight deafness.

The key to staying in style without sacrificing your good health is moderation, every doctor’s favorite word.

You can wear snug jeans without bringing on strange infections. Just don’t wear them too snug.

High heels are OK, too, but doctors advise alternating them with comfier styles.

And listen to the Walkman all you like–at a reasonable volume. Just make sure you look where you’re going as youdance down the street.

Hijacked helicopter scoops inmates from B.C. prison

British Columbia Bureau Vancouver -Rcmp were searching for two escapers from a maximum-security prison near Agassiz yesterday after a helicopter swooped into a crowded exercise yard amid a hail of gunfire.

An Agassiz resident who lives across the road from the Kent Institution said he saw two men run from the prison building and jump onto the hovering helicopter before it flew out of the prison compound under heavy fire.

A prison guard was shot in the leg, but his injury was not life- threatening.

Dennis Finlay, a spokesman for Correctional Service Canada, confirmed that a helicopter approached the prison, about 80 kilometres east of Vancouver, at about 8:40 a.m. “There were gunshots exchanged, and one of our staff members was struck in the leg.”

RCMP said two inmates emerged from a nearby workshop, ran to the best starter drone and jumped in.

The two were identified as Robert Ford, 32, who was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, and David Thomas, 24, serving an eight- year term for robbery.

About 40 prisoners were in the main yard at the time of the escape.

The escape resembled the plot of a 1974 movie, Breakout, which starred Charles Bronson. Several prison breakouts or attempts in the United States appear to have been modeled on the movie plot, but Mr. Finlay said this was the first in Canada.

Agassiz RCMP said the pilot, Fred Fandrich, was taken at gunpoint when he arrived to open his business at Valley Helicopters Ltd. in Hope at 7:30 a.m.

He was tied up after the best quadcopter camera landed at Silver Creek, near Hope, about 80 kilometres north of the prison. The escapers abandoned the helicopter and fled in a blue-grey car.

“The only thing I can say is, Fred is okay,” a company spokesman said. “That’s what we were worried about.”

Police said roadblocks were erected at Agassiz and some campsites had been evacuated.

Ken Roos, who watched with his wife from their living room window, across the street from the prison, said it was “like a good Charles Bronson movie.”

He said they knew something strange was happening when the helicopter descended inside the prison fence.

“There was some shooting shortly after they got inside the fence, then there were two men that came from the building to the helicopter,” Mr. Roos said.

“While they were taking off there was a lot of shooting happening.”

Assistant Warden Judy Croft said yesterday’s prison break was the third escape from the 11-year-old institution. In the earlier incidents, she said, the prisoners were recaptured within one hour.

In the first escape, two men hid in products being shipped out from the prison’s industrial shop. In the second, two men cut through the two high chain link fences, topped with razor wire, that surround the prison.

She said the 40 prisoners in the main yard at the time of the escape were still refusing to return to their cells more than six hours afterward, although the reason for their refusal was not clear.

She said it was possible that they were trying to prevent prison officials from determining exactly who the escapers were, or that they feared they would remain locked up for a long time if they agreed to go to their cells.

She said the injured guard, 31-year-old Ripley Kirby, was in stable condition after surgery for a gunshot wound to the knee.

Fashion under $50

Exactly what you need right now: hot steals and deals that’ll keep you cozy, chic and cheerful.

From waist cinchers to neck warmers, these gorgeous items work hard for your money.

(1) What’s better than a bag that holds everything? One that’s bright blue and gold-studded. Cosmopolitan bag, $49; jcpenney.com.

(2) A faux-fur neck warmer takes an old coat into glamour-puss territory. Neck warmer, $49.50; loft.com.

(3) Gleamy gold dots give these black flats go-everywhere potential. Flats, $34.90; express.com.

(4) This top’s gathered neckline and abstract leopard print will make your office basics purr with happiness. Eva Mendes top, $46.95; nyandcompany.com.

(5) A deal you won’t be able to stop bragging about: These five luxe rings are less than seven bucks. Ring set, $6.95; justfab.com.

(6) Because everyone needs a pretty pencil skirt. Flip to page 54 for how-to-wear-it inspiration. Chadwicks of Boston skirt, $39.99 (sizes 4 to 18), $44.99 (sizes 16W to 24W); chadwicks.com.

(7) Quit mining the mall for the perfect clutch–you’ve struck gold with this one. Clutch, $39.50; shoplately.com.

(8) This structured sheath dress will turn any body type into a sexy hourglass. Red hot, indeed. Dress, $49.99; modbeclothing.com. Sizes X5 to XXL.

(9) Super-glam shoes you can actually walk in? Sign us up, Wedges, $35; lulus.com (20% off with code REDBOOK20).

(10) Give your look a sweet, feminine touch–and carve out a waist-with this bow-tied belt. Belt, $39.50; talbots.com.

(11) Army-green skinnies and a cozy sweater are Saturday style at its best. Pants, $34.95; hm.com.

(12) Slip on this bejeweled bracelet and you’re instantly twice as fancy. Cuff, $38; tandjdesigns.com.

(13) Ahoy, there, cutest sweater ever! Sweater, $29.94; oldnavy.com. Sizes X5 to XXL.

(14) Black and blue and soft all over. Scarf, $34.90; express.com.

(15) This necklace is fit for a punk Marie Antoinette. Necklace, $28; shopsuey boutique.com (20% off with code REDBOOK20).

(16) Put a pretty burst of color on your finger. Ring, $40; lovealwaysbysd.com.

(17) Houndstooth boots keep you polished on the slushiest days. Dav boots, $45.99; dllrainwear.com.

(18) These heels are reason to get dressed from the feet up. Heels. $39.95; shoedazzle.com.

(19) A cute hat that won’t flatten your ‘do. Hat, $32; uniquevintage.com.

(20) Such a neat watch: Touch the screen and the numbers disappear. TKO Orlogi watch, $25; tkowatches.com.

(21) A fun take on the chain bracelet. Bracelet, $21; carolinehillcollection.com.

(22) Cap sleeves and a nipped waist make this uber-flattering. O’Sher dress, $44.99; modcloth.com. Sizes S to 3X.

(23) A lush clutch that’s slim enough to fit into your everyday bag, in case of last-minute cocktails. Clutch, $40; shiraleah.com.

(24) Velvet loafers are a comfy way to get fancy feet. Loafers, $29.80; forever21.com.

(25) Like the best bespoke men’s blazer, but cut for a woman’s curves. Jacket, $44.90; windsorstore.com (20% off with code REDBOOK2.0).

(26) Yes, our facts are straight: These booties are $12 with our discount! Ankle boots, $19.99; amiclubwear.com (40% off with code REDBOOK40).

(27) The new star of your necklace collection. Necklace, $43; kirakira.com.

(28) Gloves that say, “Let’s have a snowball fight, dahling.” Gloves, $39.50; anntaylor.com.

(29) These pj bottoms fit way better than his boxers and are so much hotter. Shorts, $24.95; aerie.com.

(30) A sssseriously sssstylish bracelet. Bracelet, $36; gemmasimone.com (20% off with code REDBOOK20).

Invicta watches review of the best Men’s collection

It is undoubtedly true that Invicta watches for men has made its mark in the history of watch making for more than a century. Keeping up with the current trends, staying ahead of all the competitors in the field, launching new products to please more and more customers with every release and the world class quality are a few qualities the company has grown itself upon. This Invicta watches review will provide an insight to the best Men’s watches manufactured by the company.

The brand makes use of the finest materials available to create their exclusive designs. But it makes sure that the products are affordable to all accomplished men and women, not just the super rich class of people. This business strategy has helped the company to grow into one of the most sought after brands that it is today.

A few suggestions

The Invicta automatic pro diver 8926 is a diver watch and can be easily concluded as the most well known watch of the brand. This is the next best thing to buy in case you cannot afford the submariner look that you love so much. Their dive watch collection is exquisite and affordable even to average people. It is an automatic winding watch, meaning it requires no battery to keep running. The hands and markers are Tritnite luminous. For a price within hundred dollars, it offers the best features as a diver’s watch

The Invicta 9212 Men’s speedway collection is perfect for a dress if you are looking for a high quality but inexpensive watch. It has a stunning appearance with yellow-gold and silver materials used in its making. One look at this product will scream superior design with a very masculine look. It has three sun dials and date function with gold toned markers. It is water resistant up to 200 meters in depth which making it suitable for snorkeling, swimming and even scuba diving.

In case you are looking for something with a classic touch and luxurious appeal, Invicta 8928 is an automatic Pro diver watch that has an amazing blend of style and performance. The gold plated hands and markers are also luminous with a window for date display in the dial. They are packed perfectly with a stainless steel look. This makes it more durable. The dial window is made of a mineral crystal and rotating bezel which deep blue in color. It is automatic powered by the wearer’s hand movements.

If you are looking to buy an Invicta watch, but confused due to the variety of styles, go online and look for Invicta watches review to find the perfect model for you.

How good are Invicta watches?

They are certified as one of the top class watches manufactured in the industry today. There are many Invicta watches which accurate, durable, elegant and also reasonably priced under five hundred dollars. But a few collections of Invicta watches will cost over a thousand dollars. A one year warranty is given to every Invicta watch you purchase.

Unzipping The Journey of Jackets in India

Think of jackets and what strikes the mind is a moving film of a lot of different images – from sports jackets to Rough leather jackets, the Evergreen Blazers, Harringtons and of course Nehru jacket. In India, the category of jackets is substantially coming out of its closet of being restricted to formal or winter wear to a fashion garment that can be flaunted as part of everyday casual wear.

Think of leather jackets in India and the mind invariably goes to recollect the scene from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ), when Shahrukh Khan held a mandolin and opened up his arms for Kajol. Of course, any die-hard Bollywood fan can recount numerous similar scenes with the actor donning marvelous jackets on screen. In the western world too, leather jackets have been synonymous with practically every action hero. But it is interesting to note how a leather jacket that has a rough and macho feel attached to it, was so beautifully given a push by the movie DDLG for lover boys! It is believed that Uday Chopra had picked up that jacket from a Harley Davidson store in Bakersfield, California, for US$ 400.

The article that follows is by no means just about leather jackets and the crazy fan-following they enjoy. The reference above was just to set the context on the dynamics associated with this category. From helping create a personal fashion statement against the accepted norm, to being considered a prized possession irrespective of the actual price associated with it, jackets do not follow ‘fashion rules’ as such. They are completely dominated by a ‘person’s personal choice and preference’. Kuntal Raj Jain, Owner, Duke says, “Jackets are now part of everyday casualwear and are becoming an essential aspect of one’s life.”

WHAT’S IN TREND?

Talking about jackets that are trending currently, Neha Shah, Senior Manager – Marketing, Pepe Jeans shares, “Recent trends suggest that men like to make a statement in classic leather biker jackets, battle the cold in bright coloured bomber jackets or layer in style with woollen blends. Women are seen having a strong affinity towards tweed coats and bright coloured sleeveless jackets.” She further says, “Interestingly, young adults look at jacketsas a smart casual garment that can be worn as Friday dressing or for an evening out with friends.”

Our first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru created a niche in the category of jackets with his Nehru style jackets, butjackets more or less have always been synonymous with westernwear. Hence, majority of the brands offeringjackets fall in this category. Parx, a casualwear brand from the house of Raymond, is known for the same. Talking about trends in jackets as seen specific to India, Sharad Walia, Brand Director, Parx points out, “Layering is the new trend in casualwear. Even formal attire is layered with casual jackets. Medium-weight to light-weight jackets are excellent for winters.” Furthermore, the fashion is moving towards a sporty look with technical details and fabrics blending in casualwear.

Being Human is another brand that is high on the popularity charts of the youth. Saurabh Singh, Design Head, Being Human reveals, “Sports direction is the biggest trend happening at the moment in both casual and formal segment ofjackets. Sporty bomber and biker jackets in casual category and classic suit jackets available in nylon and knitted versions are the latest bestselling trends in the market.”

Shradha Murarka, the designer and creative director of Kolkata-based boutique, Vizyon shares that is it variety that the customer is looking for and keeping that in mind, her brand has introduced jackets that mix different kinds of materials such as leather and zipper detailing with fabric cords, leather cords and rivets. Murarka says, “Women these days pair jackets with saris, mixing the traditional with contemporary, fashion with comfort to create a distinctive individual style. Pairing jackets with shorts and sneakers strikes the perfect balance between causal and dressy, creating a look versatile enough for a casual brunch or an evening at the club. Jackets have become trendier and are being worn all year round. Along with formal jackets, people are now seen sporting lighter and more casual jackets as well.”

According to Prem Dewan, Retail Head, Corneliani, casual jackets in India have managed to be a part of everyday style for people in North India and this is because of the extended winter months up north. Elaborating his take onjackets and their acceptance in India, he shares, “Jackets are becoming an everyday part of the look, especially in the last two years when jackets have picked up really well as a trend. With the latest innovation and styles one can choose from light-weight fabrics to suit the occasion. Bomber jackets are in trend these days.” According to Vikas Kapoor, Owner, Bodyguard Jacket Company, jackets have seen an upswing in demand over the last 10 years. He explains, “People are now accepting jackets as a part of dailywear. Another reason for the growing popularity ofjackets among people is their exposure to international fashion by way of travel and holidays.” Citing regional trends and the variation seen he says, “In parts like Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal, we offer jackets with double poly fibre-fill and use Sherpa in lining while in places like Delhi and Chandigarh, we offer trendy and fashionable jacketsthat are lightweight and bright in colour. In the north-east, say places like Assam, we offer earthy tones and again the jackets here are supposed to be light in weight.”

All said and done, the final word on what is trending has to come from a retailer and revealing this Suresh Sadhwani, Business Head, Brand Factory says, “In a country like India, we have summer almost 10 months a year. Only select parts of the country enjoy winters for full three months. Therefore, what is really trending all year round are linen-cotton casual jackets and biker jackets, which are more popular with the bikers.”

He further says, “Owing to the weather, our way of life and standards of living, we see that the demand for informaljackets is growing. Suits, blazers and jackets contribute 4 percent to our top line. Fifty percent of our jacket line is in casual jackets in brands such as theme.” Citing the changing dynamics witnessed by this category, he elaborates, “From the past decades where jackets were more of a premise of the matured, older age group, today it is more of a style statement. The younger and the new generation are latching onto the jackets culture. For parties, lounges and evenings, jackets in linen and casual cotton are gaining wide acceptance. The trend of casual and lifestyle jackets is poised to grow, with the introduction of several lifestyle brands offering an enhanced range and variety of jackets.”

IS LAYERING THE IN-THING IN INDIA?

Considering the Indian climate is not cold all year round, it would not be fair to say that layering has still not caught up in India. But with innovations in fabrics that are being used for jackets, we may soon see layering finding acceptance here. Reiterating its possible potential, Sumeet Soni, Brand Director, Raymond (Ready to Wear) shares, “Yes, we agree that layered clothing has still not made it big in India. Nonetheless, it is growing at a rapid pace thanks to Internet explosion, which has brought the world closer, media, and privatisation in the entertainment business owing to which we get access to international programmes at the same time, which eventually helps in people adopting global trends. A lot of Indians are globe trotters, who prefer being dressed up and last but not the least the growth of the hospitality industry and aviation has forced people to wear jackets.”

Animesh Maheshwari, Vice President, Riot too reiterates this point. He shares, “Unlike the West, wearing jacketsevery day will take time. However, the trend of wearing various styles of jackets is in vogue. Layering as a trend has been widely followed by the youth segment, thus enhancing the innovativeness in the styles.” Advocating layering dynamism as being witnessed, Walia of Parx strongly feels that jackets have now become a layering piece whether it is simple knitted casual style jacket, which could be combined with a nice shirt and trouser, or if it is a completely casual jacket in bomber style or a leather jacket in biker style; these are key pieces for a man’s wardrobe these days. He states, “It is more of a style than utility.”

BEING SYNONYMOUS WITH WINTERWEAR

Not anymore! As we have seen above, brand custodians have gone on record sharing that jackets are increasingly being adopted as fashion garments than just a protection against the winter chills. No wonder we are now seeing jackets in different lightweight materials as against the heavy woollen and leather fabrics.

 

Spykar has been one of India’s most coveted brands for the youth and it is interesting to learn from the brand that in spite of having jackets just in the winters, the sale of casual jackets is more than actual winter protective jackets(60-40%). Sanjay Vakharia, Director – Marketing, Spykar explains, “The perceived value of jackets is significantly more as compared to pullovers or sweaters. With the rise in cotton prices (raw material), prices of pullovers and sweaters have increased regularly. Consumers are not as willing to pay these increased prices resulting in drop of sales.”

Shah of Pepe feels that considering the fact that winters in India are getting shorter, the sale of winter wear jackets is seen to have suffered a blow. She is of the opinion that in recent years, men have come to prefer jackets over sweaters in the winters and the reason could be the outfit’s extreme versatility and relaxed feel.

For Maheswari of Riot, compared to last year’s fall-winter collection, the brand has a wide range in the current season, which consists of themes, silhouettes, designs, etc. He shares, “There has been an increase in the product category as well as in the line.”

Soni of Raymond Ready to Wear, on the other hand, feels that winters is the season when there is maximum sale of jackets. According to him, winter is always a bigger season for two reasons: people need more jackets in winter and a lot of festivals are celebrated during that period. A point well noted! Perhaps what would help some brands here would be adding some bling and design to the jackets to make them more versatile.

Sharing responses specific to what trends are in during winters, Sadhwani of Brand Factory says, “In more exposed and mature markets, tweeds in plains and twill weaves, finished woollens are popular in winters. Also, formal blazers take precedence in the north as they provide lifestyle along with warmth.”

REPLACING PULLOVERS AND SWEATERS

While jackets can be considered an all-season wear clothing, pullovers and sweaters dominate the winters. Though,jackets are now fancied as winter wear essentials as well with warmer fabrics being used. According to Soni of Raymond Ready to Wear, “Jackets have not been replaced by anything else, though the growth of jackets is higher than that of pullovers.” While, Walia of Parx feels, “Casual washed jackets in blazer style move more than the heavy jackets as they are more important for style. Heavy jackets, on the other hand, are more popular for utility purposes. The contribution of pullovers to the sales has been equally good when compared with winter jackets.”

Speaking on behalf of his brand Bodyguard Jackets, Kapoor points out that jackets and casual coats have definitely replaced pullovers and sweaters to a tune to about 70:30 ratio! He reveals, “In 1996, when we launched our brand, the ratio of jackets was only 25:75 against that of pullovers but in 2014, the ratio is 70:20 and in the category of jackets, the casual range is always high as compared to formal jackets. Our annual sale category wise is 70 percent from casual and 30 percent from the formal category.”

Singh of Being Human is of the opinion that more than fashion awareness it is the climate of our region which restricts people from wearing jackets on a daily basis. However, he adds, “Casual jackets should see an upward swing largely because of more options bring available to the consumers from various brands and MBOs and of course because of the growing upwardly mobile and fashion-conscious consumers.” As for the comparison between sweaters, pullovers and jackets, he adds, “Jackets have not replaced pullovers; rather, they complement each other as part of the layered winter look. The reason why pullovers and sweaters do not do as well in India compared to the West is because people still do not consider pullovers and sweaters as fashion products but rather just as utility clothing, which should change going forward as fashion awareness increases in the consumers.”

MEN TAKE DOMINANCE

Sporting a jacket in India still has to really come out of ‘it’s a boy’ thing image. This is a fact corroborated by the ratio of men’s jackets to that of women’s in this category. For Pepe, the ratio is as much as 80:20! For Spykar the ratio is 70:30. According to Jain of Duke, the market for women’s jacket is around 40 percent and the remaining 60 percent is that for men’s jacket.

Walia of Parx reasons, “Men’s jackets offered in India have a wide variety across various Indian and international brands. If we put together formal and casual jackets, the offering of this category is huge as compared to the womenswear jacket market.”

Maheshwari of Riot has a different point of view altogether. According to him, it is the women’s jackets that generate more sales than that of men’s. As he points out, “It has been observed that women wear jackets more frequently. They layer it on sleeveless top, razor backs, etc. The sales for women’s jackets or shrugs have always been up. In fact, even our specific shrug category has widely been accepted and liked by our buyers. On the other hand, men can be presented with a variety of style in casual jackets, which can be teamed up with a variety of clothing for numerous occasions. Men’s market has been rigorous with regard to shirts and casual t-shirts, and sale of jackets has been more in formalwear but now even the casual jackets have acquired their own consumer base and this category is on its way to expansion.”

LEATHER JACKETS

Pure leather jackets are meant for a privileged few due to the price-point attached to them. Hidesign, for instance, has its range beginning from Rs 18,000! But what makes leather jackets special is their evergreen acceptability. Talking specifically about what Hidesign has to offer, Dilip Kapur, President, Hidesign shares, “Lamb leather is the softest and flexible leather so it offers great comfort. This is why leather jackets were the first choice for aviators and motorcycle racers. Our lamb leather is naked, with no paint to crack over time, and it is hand polished with natural waxes. The biggest advantage of leather as compared to any manmade material is that it breathes and stretches. This means one does not sweat in it, but it keeps the wearer warmer than any other material.”

Further on their acceptance across India, he shares, “Leather jackets with unpadded lining are good for wear during the cool evenings in Mumbai. When zipped up they will work in spring and fall European weather and anytime in Delhi. Lined with the warm lining (one of the men’s jackets), it will work for European and American weather.”

TO CONCLUDE

To sum up, jackets have ceased from being considered an occasional wear. The wardrobe of a man and to some extent a woman too is witnessing an active collection of jackets thanks to the innovations brands are adding to the fabrics. With fashion being made available online, the trend for jackets will only grow.

What’s your bag strategy?

You obsess over them. Collect and covet them. Switch them constantly or carry the same one every day. You shell out a lot of money for them. You pamper and polish them. You suffer waitlists for them. And whether you’re hopping out of a cab, swinging out of a restaurant, or breezing into the office elevator, the first thing people notice about you is your handbag. So which bag lady are you?

THE MONOGAMIST

“I used to switch bags every day because I would get bored,” says Bay Garnett, the 28-year-old editor of Cheap Date, a glossy style bible. For day, she would alternate between a Louis Vuitton satchel and a souvenir tote from Graceland; at night, dozens of vintage bags were at her disposal. But one day last summer, all of those were shelved, put into early retirement, because of a shiny new bag that had caught Bay’s attention. “You know that song ‘How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?’ That’s what it was like when I saw the bag, a shimmering studded thing, in the window of Browns [in London],” she says. “I knew I had to have it, and that I would carry it forever.” And what was this carryall she coveted? A tough black leather Sonia Rykiel shoulder sack covered in mini silver studs. “I never lose my heart to trendy bags,” says Bay, who last year contemplated buying a Fendi, which happened to also be dotted with studs, but in the end decided it was “too much.” “It becomes all about having a Fendi bag as opposed t o having a really great bag,” she explains. Bay decided that if she was going to carry it everywhere every day, it should not be easily identifiable. The Rykiel bag doesn’t suffer from the high-fashion-bag curse, because only a few fashion insiders recognize it. “There’s something really anonymous about it,” she says. “People are always asking, ‘Where did you get that?’ There’s no stamp on the outside. It could be vintage.” And it goes with everything in her closet: “My Rykiel bag works with a white T-shirt, with a McQueen fitted blazer. If you play around with clothes as much as I do, it’s nice to have a trademark.”

THE HOARDER

Bags are a wardrobe unto themselves,” insists Helen Schifter, a bag-collector extraordinaire, who owns more than 25 purses, totes, duffels, and clutches. Four alone are from Hermes. “When I buy a new bag, it’s not because I need it to match something I’m going to wear,” she says. “It’s because I see a hole in my collection.” Recently she noticed a “hole” in the black-and-white section and filled it with a Louis Vuitton black Vernis pochette decorated with white daisies. Another resulted in the acquisition of an alligator-skin Kelly bag in anthracite with white topstitching and silver hardware. Helen had never before considered carrying a Kelly, because she feared she would look like a “Japanese tourist,” and because she always believed that “Kellys are our mothers’ bags.” This bag changed that: Its unusual color and slick silver hardware made it subversive and decidedly un-mother-like. “All my bags have personality,” she says.

Her evening bags are the most distinctive. One ornate Valentino clutch is dripping with sequins that form a lily of the valley pattern. Another is covered in strands of coral beading. Iridescent black feathers and beads dangle from a structured Badgley Mischka Then there is a Chanel shoulder bag decorated with pale-pink paillettes. For day, Helen alternates between a navy-blue Birkin, a slouchy fur J. Mendel hobo bag, and a utilitarian L.L Bean tote-all of which are roomy enough for her own things as well as her daughter’s candy, toys, and Handi-Wipes. “Bags aren’t like clothes. I don’t get sick of them,” she says. “Sometimes you want to pull out a gold Gucci bag. But would I want to pull out gold Gucci pants a year later? Absolutely not.”

So how does Helen manage the daily handbag switch? All are kept in their felt pouches, and the smaller, more delicate evening bags are stored in boxes. She also keeps a LeSportsac makeup bag of essentials-tissues, lipstick, and address book-that she moves from bag to bag. “I hate opening one months later and finding something I’ve been in search of,” she says.

THE BRAND LOYALIST

As a red-carpet regular, actress Sarah Wynter has learned a thing or two about fashion. She knows the importance of keeping her look sexy but not tarty (she wears lots of Armani). She knows how to channel old-fashioned Hollywood glamour. She also knows that loyalty counts, even if it is just to a handbag company. “I own 10 Tod’s bags. I just love them because they don’t date themselves,” says the Australian native.

Sarah says she’ll take something classic over something trendy any day, which is why Tod’s bags pass muster. By day and on dress-down nights, she carries a Tod’s classic, the Carre shoulder bag. But more serious traveling calls for a boxy Tod’s shopper in red leather-perfect for stuffing books and scripts into. “It’s great to take through airports because I can pack it full and it keeps its shape without looking sloppy,” she says. Her Tod’s collection also includes a shiny tan leather basket, a summery woven leather bag with white piping, and a ladylike creamcolored bag with baby-blue trim.

“I resist the bag of the season,” she says, “because I don’t want to find myself in a room with 200 women carrying it.”

THE CLASSICS OBSESSED

When singer Amel Larrieux was a teenager, she compiled a list of bags she had to have as a grown-up. And now she can boast that almost all the items on her list are crossed off. Hermes Birkin? Check Chanel quilted bag? Check. Louis Vuitton Speedy? Check. “My taste in clothing is very eclectic,” explains Amel. “So I need classic bags to keep my look grounded.” The Birkin dream became a reality when her first single went gold (she was the lead singer of the group Groove Theory; she’s now pursuing a solo career). Her husband showed up at her hotel room in Paris and presented her with the black leather bag in a bright-orange box. But she carries it only on special occasions. “I have to savor the Birkin moments,” she says. These days, she is usually toting her Vuitton Speedy-especially when she’s running around with her kids. She loves that it’s neutral, timeless, and sturdy (i.e., it can be crammed full of toys and fits all of her travel essentials). “I’ve even used it as a pillow on the airplane!” she says. The black Chanel bag was unearthed in a vintage store in Brooklyn. She was on a hunt for it because she didn’t have a classic evening bag. “I wear it with all my dressy things,” she says. “I love that it’s tiny and a shoulder bag.”

While Amel will admit to thinking about buying a trendy bag, she has never actually followed through. “Trendy bagslook great on other people, but they just won’t work with my wardrobe,” she says. Instead, she’s holding out for what’s next on her list, a crocodile Kelly: “Maybe when my album goes Platinum!”

The future is now

Fashion and function can walk hand in hand and Arc’teryx Veilance is a proof of this. Born from the activewear brand Arc’teryx, it has evolved and has given life to Arc’teryx Veilance, an upmarket exclusive urban outerwear brand.

Arc’teryx is a Vancouver-based high performance outdoor equipment company known for its leading innovation in climbing, skiing and alpine technologies. It was born in 1991 as Rock Solid, a small enterprise producing harnesses. It became Arc’teryx in 1998 when it evolved into a special sports apparel brand designed to offer lightweight best-performing and high-quality products. From that moment on it devoted extreme attention to technological innovation and care for functional details and materials such as waterproof zipper closures, microseam technology, radically reduced garment weights and lamination. Garments’ design aesthetics have also been a key obsession since from the early days.

And since innovation and technical advancement can never stop, from fall 2009 the brand took a further step ahead that gave birth to Arc’teryx Veilance, a men’s highly technical collection of urban outerwear that has maintained the same attention to top research and clean and smart design.

“The brand was born as an evolution from our roots. It is mainly a men’s brand and it embodies our idea of the future,” says Conroy Nachtigal, head designer, Arc’teryx Veilance. “We are strong on outerwear and moved from sportswear toward urban apparel always caring for jackets and items made according to a multi-layer system that integrates waterproof soft shell outers with mid-layers and ultrathin thermal linings for insulated garments that are functional though have a minimal, well-fitted exterior.”

He continues: “We are hyper-focused on new sewing techniques, thermosealings, inside tapings, invisible zippers and no outside stitchings. Every garment is so clean, designed according to ergonomic silhouettes and completed on the inside by taping that almost any of them could be worn inside out.” This “urban progressive” collection is designed with the idea to balance the difficulty of living in modern cities with technical tailoring yet without ignoring the brand’s own heritage aesthetics.

It offers about 25 garments every season but could be considered almost seasonless because its multi-layer system guarantees that every garment could be worn almost all year long. Most of its hues are non-colors and include black, grays and anthracites. However for every season special “accents” brighten the garments with additional shades such as-for f/w 2013-14-bright yellow, blue and violet. The collection mostly includes outer jackets but it recently also launched a small selection of accessories and a few bags. Retail prices range between Euro 800 up to Euro 1,700 for jackets while a pair of gloves costs about Euro 200. The brand is sold to only about 80 high-end apparel stores worldwide and especially to Japan, Canada, Northern America and Italy (which counts for about 20 stores alone). It also has its own monobrand store in Montreal and is considering launching a women’s line in about two to three years.

Arc’teryx and Arc’teryx Veilance are now owned by Amer Sports, a specialized Finnish sporting-goods company that owns internationally recognized sports and outdoor performance brands including Salomon, Wilson, Atomic, Mavic, Suunto and Precor. Amer Sports shares are listed on the NASDAQ OMX Helsinki stock exchange and closed 2012 with over Euro 2 billion in sales, +5% compared with 2011.

Holier Grail – Digital Reverb in a compact guitar pedal

In the ’70s and early ’80s, Electro-Harmonix pedals were ubiquitous in the garages and basements of North America. The company’s line of effects pedals was unique and included many innovations. Oddly enough, the company never produced a reverb unit - until now. Enter the Holier Grail, a digital and best cheap reverb pedal that offers, in the Electro-Harmonix tradition, some nice surprises.

Camelot!

The Holier Grail is the shape and size of other large-format Electro-Harmonix pedals, such as the Electric Mistress and Memory Man. The five knobs are large and sturdy – perfect for adjusting with a foot if your hands aren’t free.

Although the Holier Grail was designed with guitarists in mind, it can be used with line-level signals, from, for example, a keyboard or the aux send of a mixer. However, the Holier Grail’s headroom is designed for instrument-level signals, so you’ll have to keep your line-level sources at a moderate volume to avoid overloading the pedal. The Holier Grail is a mono device, with one 1/4-inch input and two 1/4-inch outputs: a main output and an effect-only output. Power is provided by a wall-wart supply.

The Holier Grail offers Spring, Hall, Room, and Flerb (which combines a best flanger pedal and a reverb) presets, and you can choose a Long or Short version of each. The Blend control lets you mix the amount of effect in the signal at the main output.

The pedal also includes the Golden Gate, which allows you to gate the entire signal at the main output or gate the reverb only. Other gating controls include Gate Threshold, which sets the level at which gating takes place; the Gate Reverse switch, which inverts the gate’s behavior; and the Gate Speed switch, which controls the rate of the gate. At the Slow setting, the gate’s attack and decay are approximately 500 ms. At the Fast setting, the attack and decay are set to just over 10 ms.

Plenty of Room

The presets I checked out first were the Spring reverbs. In a head-to-head comparison with a couple of real spring reverbs, the Holier Grail held its own sonically. It was also one of the quietest devices of the bunch. When the effect was blended subtly into the background, the Holier Grail’s Spring presets sounded full and warm. When the effect was pushed forward in the mix, it still sounded springlike, but without the tell-tale intermodulation you get from real springs. Still, there was plenty of “boing” for surf-style guitar riffs.

One interesting artifact in the effect algorithm is that the short Spring setting resonates at around a concert G. Needless to say, I found myself exploiting the resonance on occasion.

The Hall and Room presets are also very nice when they’re blended behind the source signal. They sound especially good on volume swells. Both presets, however, have pronounced early reflections – verging on slap-back echoes – that become increasingly noticeable as you balance the mix toward the wet side.

The Flerb preset sounds great on swells and arpeggiated figures and is a nice addition. In the Long setting, the flanger resonates strongly in a Bb tonality, which was a little more difficult to work with. But this is one preset where you’ll want the mix leaning toward a wet balance.

Open and Shut

The Holier Grail’s gate works nicely with the reverb presets, and you can use it on its own by dialing out the reverb signal altogether. However, there are limitations to editing the gate: Gate Threshold is the only gate control other than the two-position speed and direction switches.

More than once I wanted to set a quick attack and slow release on the gate, which, unfortunately, can’t be done. But with some careful tweaking of the Gate Threshold knob, I was usually able to find a setting that I could work with.

Another minor annoyance is that you get a pop when you change Gate settings. According to Electro-Harmonix, that happens because the gate is in the audio path. Hitting the bypass switch before you change the Gate setting will alleviate the problem.

Final Chapter

The Holier Grail seems a bit pricey for a digital reverb with only eight presets. However, the fact that you also get a gate (and a bit of flanging thrown in for good measure) helps soften the blow.

Nonetheless, the Holier Grail is a solid, no-frills processor that is quiet and sounds great. Its collection of reverbs will work well onstage and in the studio.

E-Fashion – The Second Act

With every activity in the world moving at a frenzied pace, fashion cannot remain far behind. With this has come in a fallacy in the pre-existing trends in the fashion scenario-that of forecasting, dressing up, branding, and fast fashion, to be taken over by uni-season clothes, a state of no fashion, and luxury for less. Mona Gupta unveils the current and future trends governing e-fashion.

After some years of success, the most sweared by concepts tend to lose steam. In fact, quoting Victor-Marie Hugo, ‘There is only one thing that is stronger than all the armies in the world and that is-whose time has come.” In this hyper digital world, not only time but everything around us is moving in a frenzy. The irony of clocking in the maximum number of hours per week, to being able to make split second choices; from the Zaras of quick fashion to the long ques of hypermarts, ironically the most scarce commodity and also the biggest luxury today is time.

To top the crust, whereas a time and cash strapped individual, driven by massive consumerism, would pick up another pair of trendy shoes, he/she would still return dissatisfied. To live up to the expectations of the buyers, marketers are left scouring the markets and crunching numbers to decrease costs and increase profits. As on date, only tremendous effort and deep understanding of the customer’s need for meaning can give the shopping experience a renewed emotional resonance. No doubt, successful fashion-which is more often than not prescribed, expensive haute couture, is branded on the ramps and highly priced commodities have become luxuries-bringing the front end retailers handsome rewards. Yet, preoccupations with only prescribed fashion, traditional branding methods and mantras, and dotted line supply chain management are now passe.

What next? Should retailing or any other form of marketing transform from just extravagant and/or essential to “emotive selling,” which is not about some daily soap opera or emotional blackmail. Rather, it is a business strategy which delves beyond the current forecasting models to transform into more meaningful markets and products for the producer, marketer, and consumer.

Foresee, not forecast

Why are we forecasting? Are we actually trying to prescribe two years in advance, what a consumer would wear? When perhaps none of us can say today what we would like to wear two days later. Well, what we often need to do is, foresee- which means perception linked to causation and not necessarily forecasting or just predicting. A marketer needs to be more of a foreseer than a forecaster, who can not only understand past behaviour, but also the reasons for it. For example, in the case of colour palettes, if the colour black was the runaway hit-why was it. Was it just because black was a trend that was predicted, or because it echoed a positive sentiment after decades of racial apartheid and after white being the ruling colour on the high streets? Or was it reflecting the gravity of the times post September 11? But most importantly, in addition to colours purchased, a foreseer should also take cognisance of ‘desires unmet’.

What do people want?

The following trends emerge as a part of a consumer psychographic exercise:

Dressing well: The individual wishes to “dress well” and not “dress up”. People are tired of dressing for the sake of just functionality and fashion; they want a deeper meaning in their products-dress well, which instantly implies something which is pleasing to him/her and is not necessarily haute fashion.

Price sensitivity: People are increasingly price sensitive. This is accelerated by the transition from a polarised world economy to an over globalised world, where there is no dominance by a country or a brand. Thus, consumers are looking at ultra niche mass customised products from any and everywhere at economic prices, which enables them to dress well.

Individuality counts: The importance lies in “what’s good for me” and “I do not always care what’s in.” Incidentally, in its last issue of the twentieth century, French magazine L’Express issued a statement behind its cover page which was a mirror, which signified “you” as the face of the year. The page said “People individually are the force that needs to be reckoned with in the century to come from a political, cultural, artistic and business point of view.”

The economy impact: Fashion and spends on fashion are now derived from the course taken by the world’s economies.

Global terrorism, uncertain future and economies, deeply held spiritual, religious and philosophical convictions are driving consumer preferences and expectations across categories and demographics. A lot of people are making changes to gifts (more practical gifts, joint gifts, or making gifts) as well as putting up last year’s decorations. The economy will also impact where people shop, with 70 per cent planning to head to discounters, and 11 per cent planning to buy something from a thrift store or resale shop.

Back to the basics: Soul searching, yoga, and Tai chi and different forms of art of living, which accompany routine lifestyles, even if it implies the art of doing nothing. These were some of the favourite pass times earlier, and are making a comeback. Connecting with the past by visiting old relatives and friends is an offshoot of the uncertainties in the foreseeable future in many ways.

Global well-being: It is in to talk about global well-being in non-material terms and accomplish it, particularly in the age of finite resources of limited fuel, power and water. The topics in vogue range from ethical supply chains to green consumption, global warming to the mental and physical security of the future generations. A finite future unpacks the attitudes and implications that come with living in a world of limited resources. This applies to brands, business-leaders, individual consumers and the planet at large.

Brands-a boon or a bane: Brands and their mushrooming numbers are a bane to the time strapped consumer. Overemphasis on the presence of a large number of brands and their sub-brand has made buying more complicated and time consuming. Many consumers say they are discontented with the existing brands and variety of clothing-and shopping is very often a harrowing experience.

Fast fashion to no fashion: A majority of people who understand fashion trends are fed up with multi-seasonal trends or fast fashion. The larger picture that emerges is laced with confusion, multiplicity beyond comprehension and hence a state of no fashion is preferred.

Strategy for e-fashion?

What do the above trends imply, and how do they relate to our quest for an innovative e-fashion strategy? This is how we can go about this management strategy:

Great expectations: As private companies take up government functions and consumers demand new standards of ethics and transparency, new cultural expectations are radically reshaping the rules and roles of big business. The businesses today are not only responsible for contractual dealings, but for all factors-ranging from obesity to malnutrition, sweatshops to child labour. Thus, there are great expectations from the values and implications driving the existing business models. This helps us to explore the ways in which businesses can harness the power of profoundly personal values and resonate with consumers motivated by passionate views on ethics, morality, and faith.

Recently, Nike was compelled to shut down its sourcing unit in Cambodia following coverage by a news channel. And that is not the end of the story, as people feel that both Nike and the news channel are responsible for reinstating these families and their incomes. This event alone challenges the wisdom of the conventional supply chain, which even though is time and quality efficient, does not come up to the expectations of the emotional economy. What unionised demonstrations could not achieve has been accomplished by the voice of the people.

Spirit of the times: Individuals choose what connects them with the spirit of the times (and not necessarily what is or going to be in fashion)-of which there is little advance warning. For instance, the invaders of health foods in the markets had never expected a consumer boycott of the bestselling brands, or Nestle a downpour against their genetically engineered food. Neither did Live Strong Bands, a campaign for cancer afflicted patients, expect the phenomenal success it met with. So, can we still afford two-year long supply chains today? A phenomena, which began in the mid 20th century as an answer to street fashion and factory production vis a vis haute couture, were dealing in larger quantities led to longer production cycles and the guessing by stylists more than a year in advance as to what would sell.

To understand the spirit of the time, we need to foresee the effects and impact of events, ideals (humanitarianism, multiculturalism), idols (social, political and religious idols), dominating attitudes, style interactions between cuisine, sports, media, pastimes and hence have flexible supply chains and products.

Uni-season: On one hand, the global diversity in temperatures is tending towards uniformity, which has also blurred the distinctions between season friendly clothing, and gradually made Lycra the all season word, on the other, erratic changes in the weather’s time span and intensity, from extended monsoons to prolonged winters and from absence of spring to shrinking autumn has generated demand for uniseasonal clothing, which are multipurpose. Thus, there has been a gradual fading of season specific fabrics, which have been replaced by uni-season fibres and textiles.

The multiplicity of seasons in our fashion industry has been on the increase more rapidly than with what nature has actually provided us. There are situations where one seasonal trend steps on the heels of the preceding one and has barely made a mark before the next one barges in. All this has only tended towards making the buying sheets more of a challenge to computer software companies rather than a tool of simplification for buyers and merchandisers.

Living brands: The new economy currently in transition, although, is claimed and proved to be consumer friendly and shrewd, has overplayed its part by gradually sedating the consumer into a limbo with an overdose of variety, styles and brands followed by a larger dose of promotion and USPs. This strategy thus was preoccupied with market research, supply chain management and branding.

What we see is the outcome consumerism fuelled by heavy doses of patronisation and promotion which has resulted in overcrowding, duplication and identical looks. Coupled with this, the flooding of the markets by a swarm of brands has lead to an “obsessive branding disorder” in the words of Lucas Conley. Brands, which were meant to facilitate mental shortcuts towards understanding a product, now gravitate towards complexity.

Luxury at a lower price tag: One of the biggest changes we’ve seen in consumers is that ‘price’ and ‘luxury’ are no longer synonymous. In other words, the aspirational buyer is now also a price-sensitive buyer. In the West, brands that can reach down to the aspirational buyer at a lower price point but still maintain the feeling of participating in a broader lifestyle seems poised to thrive. We’ve already seen the recent failures of Christian Lacroix, Escada, and Yohji Yamamoto.

But we can begin to see the emergence of new lowpriced luxury brands in the remarkable success of J Crew (JCG), which recently doubled the estimates. Even in the Middle East, which is considered as “a refuge” in rough commercial seas, one effect of the recession has been to make customers more discerning about what they buy.

Co-branding/creating fashion: The consumer now looks towards breaking free and is empowered by knowledge and technology to influence the generation of new brands or co-brand the existing ones with some ideology of his own. It is very interesting to observe the growth of the tattoo culture, which clearly displays the attempt of the people to co-create and customise. Recently, pictures of Beijing Olympics show how participants, besides using Speedo brands and national colours, have tattooing to define their individual ideologies.

This is a way of having a dialogue with people around you. Not all those who create are necessarily consumers, but help us resonate with the consumer. For instance, personalised gift cards on Wikipedia (the online encyclopedia), could be viewed as a product created by its distributed customers. Consumers increasingly want to engage online with one another and with organisations of all kinds. Companies can tap this new mood of customer engagement for their economic benefit. Another company that has gone out of its way to engage customers, is the online clothing store, Threadless, which asks people to submit new designs for t-shirts. Each week, hundreds of participants propose ideas and the community at large votes for its favourites. The top four to six designs are printed on shirts and sold in the store; the winners receive a combination of cash prizes and store credit. In September 2007, Threadless opened its first physical retail operation, in Chicago. A study of the symbols and motif culture revealed that some of the symbolic inspirations, which sought to address the needs of the times, were local cultural iconography or religious yet multicultural symbols on one hand or global symbols and expressions on the other. Very few were inspired by motifs that were part of a trend, which often culminates as a fad.

Communicative supply chains: Companies that will involve customers in design, testing, marketing and the after-sales process will get better insights into customer needs and behaviour, and may be able to cut the cost of acquiring customers, engender greater loyalty, and speed up development and production cycles. As it will seek to revolve around people’s thoughts, convictions and aspirations, and as products play a more emotional role by becoming value based, marketers will be able to understand the difference between real needs and perceived ones by tapping into unfulfilled desires. The two-way communication will thereby ensure sustainability even in low times. However, a company, open to allowing customers to help it innovate, must ensure that it is not unduly influenced by information gleaned from a vocal minority. It must also be wary of focussing on the immediate rather than longer-range needs of customers and be careful to avoid raising and then failing to meet their expectations. A recent campaign by Gap-Create your own-emphasises individuality and appeal to the personal lifestyle statements and is a strategy of creation of clothing that is not just essential or extravagant but emotive.

Bonding scores over branding: It may not be out of place to reinforce our strategy. In the words of Jean Claude “At the heart of the momentum effect, is the realisation that the only form of sustainable efficient growth is customer-based growth.” When faced with a growth challenge, it is essential to take time to understand the underlying issues, rather than to just keep pouring in money to push sales. A case in this point would be-as major luxury brands in Japan delay store openings or quietly slink away from what was once their largest single market, two recent foreign entrants on the other end of the spectrum are aggressively plotting their expansion: Hennes & Mauritz and Forever 21. Both Forever 21 and H&M’s shops feature cheap, trendy clothes, with new items hitting the shop floor on a daily basis. In brand-obsessed Japan, the success of both stores underlines a deep shift in consumers’ mentality, as shoppers put value ahead of logos.

Belt tightening is not the only way to improve operating margins especially once the belly trimming is over. Thus, our emotive fashion strategy, while responding to the spirit of the times and with the help of sustainable supply shains meets the great expectations of the people and its strategy of co creating and bonding culminate in a unique genre offashion textiles and clothing that not only echo ethics, but also seek to resonate with desires unmet.

Mona Gupta is a designer and governing board member of NCTD, Ministry of Textiles; chairperson CII, Delhi Skill Core Group, a senior visiting professor to NIFT, and jury and member advisory to various academic boards of fashion and management institutes.