The mixture of fashion world in UK reflects its variety of products, brands, shopping environments, consumers’ different attitudes toward fashion, as well as their shopping and consumption habits. British people are quite comfortable to embrace various trends and styles in fashion. Even though they might not like all of them, they choose to embrace them rather than judge. So in some sense, it is the openness of the embracing in fashion that make British people to dress and do shopping more confidently. Moreover, they enjoy the re-designing their own pieces with out-of-dated fabrics and accessories.
Besides, as an island country in Europe, in UK, the mixed culture originated from the immigrants and tourists from different cultures drives brands in fashion industry to mix the British vintage styles with the modern trends, which plays a vital role in reaching more audiences. Moreover, in UK, there’s a wide choices of shopping environment, including high-end department store, middle-level stores and flea market. Especially, the flea market provides more opportunities for the communication between salesperson and consumers about products and brands.
My culture code for the UK is individuality. While there were drastic differences between Manchester and London in styles, trends, and shopping habits I felt that both cultures placed a heavy weight on the individual and being true to who you are. In London people followed the trends but added their own twists to the trends. They weren’t afraid to mix it up and try something new and different. Also people stayed true to themselves regardless of class. People that could afford nice things would defiantly splurge and buy high end designers and brands. Even those in the lower and middle class stayed true to themselves. You didn’t see any lower cost brands trying to emulate higher end brands. The stores themselves also stayed true to what they were and were all very individual and unique. Each store gave the shopper an individual shopping experience different from other stores and brands. I think in both London and Manchester individuality was an important quality to the people, fashions, and stores.
If I could describe UK Fashion in one word I would pick confidence. There is a vibrant blend of colors and styles represented in London fashion. I saw confidence in women 40+ shopping in the same stores I like to shop in, and from what I gathered by the numbers, shopping for themselves.
There was a confidence in the pieces that people chose to put together. As mixed as they may have been, they always looked great because they wore their outfits with confidence. I have never seen a guy with a zip up hoodie under a blazer…but it looked great.
The other strong notion of confidence i saw was in terms of body. There was a sense of beauty within each person because I saw people rocking outfits that showed off their curves. There was a comfort with their own bodies that you don’t normally see and it made them even more beautiful.
There were subtle hints towards the fact that people chose their outfits because they liked what they were wearing…and if they were the only people that agreed with it, it was ok. I’m not saying people were poorly dressed because that is exact opposite of what we saw in London.
We saw a warped sophistication, with a twist of their own style, and with that I say Londoners are a confident bunch.
My individual culture code for UK fashion was contrast. The two most common types of contrast were between mixing old vintage with new and mixing different prints and textures of fabrics together. One way that the Brits differ from consumers in the US is that they have a lot less room to put their “stuff”. Accessories are a great way to tie two contrasting pieces together, and they play a huge role in UK fashion. It is not a part of UK culture to accumulate huge amounts of clothing generally, or large amounts of anything for that matter. Think about the amount of money people spend hiring organizers for their closets or buying storage units for their extra things; this is not a phenomenon that typically exists in the UK. For example, instead of buying a whole new spring wardrobe, someone from the UK would go out shopping looking for a few newer, trendy things that would go with something that they already have in an interesting way, or maybe that person would go to a thrift store looking for these pieces.
Here are a few examples I found of contrasts in UK fashoion:
“That is the key of this collection, being yourself. Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way to live. ” – Gianni Versace
Jeannie: Embracing and Loving the Unique
London was a great place to observe styles and trends because almost everyone had their own distinct style. While there were some patterns, I noticed that everyone had their own spin on the idea. Uniqueness is key. The mannequins in the store windows featured layers and mixtures of clothing, the stores themselves had wide varieties of trends, and I never saw an outfit repeated twice. Even if someone was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, they would add a piece of flair (brightly colored shoes, an interesting necklace, a colorful bag, etc) to spice up the outfit. Shoppers only carried a few items around with them and purchased what was true to their style because they were comfortable and true to their own unique fashion sense. They didn’t shop in large, busy groups – they were calm, collected, and accustomed to shopping for pieces that they wanted. London shoppers embrace not only their own unique style, but also everyone else’s.
Group Culture Code: Gin Martini
After brainstorming and bouncing ideas around, our group decided that the culture code for fashion in UK was Gin Martini. We were inspired by our visit to Vinopolis. We learned about Bombay Sapphire Gin and how London Gin, mixology, and bar tending were such a huge part of London’s culture and history. Therefore, we believe that Martini is the perfect cultural code to reflect fashion in the UK for several reasons.
The stores, consumers’ shopping behaviors and attitudes towards products, and the dressing styles in UK possess Martini’s most important features: the versatility, variety and uniqueness. A Martini can be customized and made in a million different ways but always begins with the basics of gin, vermouth, and shake or stir in some ice.
For example, the fashion market in London could be compared to a martini up with any added flavor such as a pom-pom martini, choco-tini, blueberry martini, etc. These martinis are specialized and have some added flare to a classic drink. Just as Londoners try to add their own spin to classic looks and trends. Martini is a very trendy drink and people in London were all pretty trendy and cutting edge with their looks. Not only were the people trendy, but the stores were trendy as well. The stores are like the glass of martini, creative, changeable and various. Martini is trying to find the best fit glass to reflect and strengthen its personality, which is the same with the shopping environment in UK. The cheaper vintage stores also aimed to be “the place to be.”
With Manchester on the other hand, one could say it is more of a dirty gin martini on the rocks. This drink is the same basic cocktail without the extra garnishes, flavors, and fancy glass. This drink looks pretty generic and yet when you taste it, there is a powerful kick with the potent olive juice. Manchester is a working-class city. The people, fashions, and stores there are like dirty gin martini as well. They are nearly as upscale and trendy as those in London. People prefer to buy what is comfortable and what they like and keep it traditional. However what the fashion lacks, they made up for it with spunky personalities and sense of humor. Ever the stores in Manchester are not what they appear to be. For instance, Affleck’s Palace looks like a big warehouse. But once you are inside the store, you will have an impressive memory of the unexpected interior and shopping experience there because of its uniqueness with vintage, goth, and trendy clothing along with eclectic accessories and gifts.
More generally, the experience of shopping in London is very similar to the experience of enjoying a martini. Going out for a martini is a calm and sophisticated social experience where a person can enjoy the company of their friends. It is a special event and a memorable one as well. Londoners go shopping for the social experience.