Archive for the ‘Yiting’ Category

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Group Cultural Code for Czech Republic

June 4, 2010

We started our group cultural code from puppets, goulash, cartoons, etc. Rather than figuring out the cultural code with metaphor, in the end, we came to functionality.

The functionality in fashion world is rooted in Czech people’s daily lives two decades ago. Before the revolution in 1989, under the rule of Communism, people dressed according to clothes’ practicality. Communism supports the core value of “being equal” and everything should be cheap. In other words, brands and to be good-looking are not their most important concerns during clothes purchasing, because everyone should dress according to what they need and where they work.

Men's Overall

For example, men rarely wore T-shirt and jacket in the past. However, they usually just wore overall, which is easier for them to work in the factory or farm. Also, for women, they often wore scarves, which helps to prevent dirts during working. So, before the revolution, on the one hand, Czech people didn’t have a lot of choices for clothes. On the other hand, their mindset and the culture indicated them to dress functionally and practically.

With the twenty-one years development till now, people have gained a lot of freedom for purchasing clothes and other fashion products. But it’s hard for them to change their shopping habits and mindsets immediately, especially for old generations. Most Czech people still live in small towns. It’s not that convenient to reach a lot of international brands. Also, according to the average income in Czech, a large number of people can’t really afford them. So they are loyal to local brands, markets and independent shops and functionality is still the key factor they will take into account during purchasing. In some sense, international fashion brands are just a symbolism of free market after revolution.

Everyone we’ve talked to has stressed the divide between the old generation and the new generation. Not only do these two groups of Czech people have different memories of the change in the country, but they have vastly different perceptions on fashion and shopping. The older generation is very traditional. They are loyal to local markets and shops. They don’t see the need to change their habits and don’t have an enormous desire to buy expensive fashion. The younger generation, however, is slowly but surely adapting to the new shopping experience. Hypermarkets and mega-malls are attracting more and more people as the younger Czech generation is becoming more interested in name-brand clothing. Young girls enjoy getting together with their friends and going shopping for a day, while the older generation still prefers shopping in local markets by their homes.

Sitting outside of Tesco, Lisa noticed something that contributed specifically to the culture code we chose. The Czech consumer’s process of leaving the Tesco was pretty unique. As many people exited the store, they immediately reorganized their purchases, and analyzed everything they had bought that day. We thought this routine action was really interesting because Czech people spend so much time choosing products pre-purchase, and now they were still analyzing those purchases even after they had been made. The shoppers would come out, look at their receipt, and refer back to the things that they bought one by one. One older man even stopped, took his glasses out of his case, looked over his receipt for about ten minutes, took them off, put them in the case, and then carried on with his day. This man probably brought those glasses along with him for exactly that purpose, which means that he does it every time he goes shopping. From these observations, we came up with the subject of Czechs as very price sensitive and interested in quality. Czech people will only buy something if the product’s inherent value is worth just as much, if not more, than the price that they are paying. It’s not that Czechs won’t pay a lot of money for something, but when they do, they will be sure that what they are buying is worth every crown it costs. As we learned through conversation with some of the staff at Garp, once a year, there is a huge sale for designer labels that Czech fashion magazines create special issues for. In these magazines are coupons for these sales. Czech consumers interesting in buying high-end brands will often wait all year for this sales period because it is when they will get the best deal.

It was interesting to understand Czech’s without knowing the language, but we used our resources with the English-speaking people at the agencies we visited and our assistant Honsa. Through our discussions with those people we realized a huge difference in American culture and Czech culture when it comes to brands. In the suburban America we know well it is common for people to buy a North Face just to buy a North Face. When it comes to Czech culture they care more about the price, quality and functions a jacket would perform for them. If it happens that North Face fits all the things they are looking for then so be it, but brand is not a primary part of their choices.

Czech people dress for the specific occasion they will be in. First and foremost, the weather condition and the amount of time they will be outside affects what they’re going to wear. Comfortable shoes are necessary if the walk to work is a long one. They’ll put on a coat if it’s cold, and not worry about whether or not it 100% matches their ensemble. Men don’t wear nice jackets, blazers, or shirts unless they’re going to a wedding, funeral, or other dressy occasion. Since many Czech people own cottages for weekend excursions, mountaineering clothing stores are very popular. Therefore, the ridiculously expensive pieces of clothing that don’t really serve a purpose are disregarded. This might be why there are not a lot of fashion ads. The Czech people don’t need to purchase the clothing, so they won’t appreciate the ad. They dress for a very specific, functional purpose.

Another one of the major points we observed was that practicality if very important to Czechs. Practicality goes hand in had with functionality because Czechs want to purchase clothing that is not only functional in the sense that it works best for them but also what they buy and where they shop needs to be practical and convenient for them as well. Clothes that make day-to-day life easier and comfortable are essential, since walking and public transportation are popular in the Czech Republic, residents are going to want clothes and shoes that are comfortable for walking and traveling. It doesn’t make sense for Czechs to wear some of the trends that may be popular in other parts of the world because they are not practical for them.

However, just because the Czechs may not be following all the latest cutting edge fashions and trends, it doesn’t mean that they are not concerned with how they look. Czechs still want to look good and look put together. While we observed that Czechs walking down the street may not have been as chic and sophisticated as the trend setters in London, they still looked like they thought about what they put on in the morning. The main point to take away about Czechs and looking good is that they go about looking stylish in a different way than other cultures. Czechs are not going to follow trends that are not practical and functional in their day-to-day lives activities. Also they are not going to splurge on trends that are overly expensive either because spending a large portion of their income is not practical either. Czechs are concerned with being practical in their clothing choices but also concerned with looking and feeling good about what they wear.

Overall, our cultural code for fashion in Czech is functionality. In some sense, the role of functionality also explains why there is almost no fashion advertising in Czech Republic. In this small market, for Czech people, fashion doesn’t stands for brands, but functions.

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Final Post in Prague

June 4, 2010

The discussion of the cultural code of fashion in Czech Republic is already pretty close. For this final post, I wanted to add several points through my observation in Parizska Street  and some prospects for the fashion world in Czech Republic.

Walking under the shades on the Parizska Street, I can smell, see, and feel the luxury of this street. The environment of the street really fits Pragua. However, I was wondering whether this street really be able to immerse into average Czech people’s lives and the fashion culture in Czech Republic.

When I walked into Louis Vuitton, rather than observing the people shopping there. Firstly, I smelt the fragrance of leather. For my perspective, this is a really good indicator of Louis Vuitton’s high quality in leather. The second important observation focused on the races of the people shopping there. The most often language I overheard was Korean, Japanese and Chinese. They were all middle-aged women. They didn’t dress up fashionably or stylishly.   Then I asked the guide standing in front of the store, “What kinds of consumers usually come to here shopping?” His answer didn’t surprise me a lot: it’s “Asian!”

On Parizska Street, there are shops offering cut glass, jewellery, cosmetics, clothes, etc. Everyone will find their own among the vast number of brands, be it a men’s suit, sports clothing, or an evening dress. The synonym for this street in terms of shopping seems to be “countless choices”. But “countless choices” works for tourists from around the world. For most Czech people, they can recognize the brand’s personality and do window shopping. But in most cases, they can’t afford them.

The general director from Ogilvy said, “Prague is not Czech!” Now I do really know the reasons: Prague is full of tourists. However, I have to admit young generations’ wishes to look  good and present their personal identities through dressing codes. I wish that the fashion industry in Czech could help to inspire and motivate young generations to establish the idea of brands in fashion, which are not just about functionality but also for emotion connection.

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Tesco and ASDA Across EU

June 4, 2010

The observation last time in London was more based on only one sensory– sight, which relatively put the limits on my effective observation through various angles. ASDA is the second largest retailer chain after Tesco in UK. The ASDA in London is quite price-oriented.

ASDA's Hallway - London

Walking down the main hallway in ASDA, the first thing I saw was the huge price signs along the two sides, rather than the category signs usually. The signs are in red and yellow, which are quite stand-out in the market. Also, in the clothes category, on each piece of cloth, it had a price-tag glued on the top. Most consumers shopping there are middle-aged and elder people, who are mostly price-sensitive. This is one of the most important reasons that ASDA target the audience with the slogan “Saving your money every day.”

Besides the point-of-sale displays in ASDA, which reflects its positioning as Britain’s most affordable supermarket, ASDA’s advertising campaigns also accord with its core value. For example, in the “ASDA price” campaign, customers tap their trouser pocket twice, producing a ‘chinking’ sound as the coins that ASDA’s low prices have supposedly left in their pockets knock together (http://www.tellyads.com/show_movie.php?filename=TA2532&advertiser=ASDA). Also in 2009, Asda TV commercials focused on price comparisons between Asda and its rivals through comparison advertising strategy.

Compared with the ethnography observation in ASDA and Tesco in London, the ethnography training in Tesco in Prague involved with the observation through five senses rather than just one.

Tesco in Prague is much bigger than the one we went to in London. It has two floors, one floor for grocery shopping and the second floor for other life necessities, like TV, clothes, cosmetics, bicycles, lawn mowers, etc.

There are two interesting points I want to talk about here. The most appealing thing in Tesco in Prague is the smell from the food, including bread, fish, bacon, which is rather different from Tesco in London. Here, consumers could see and smell the live fishes in the huge fishing jar. They can touch and smell the bread. From the perspective of Czech people, most of them shopping there are middle-class. They are concerned about the price and quality of the products. So the open displays of the food are able to provide them an opportunity to “measure” and feel the features of the products.

Also, grocery shopping is likely to be regarded as one part of family agendas. There is a number of mothers shopping with their kids. Occasionally, I can hear the screaming and crying of the kids. The emotions connected with family in hypermarket definitely plays a vital role in purchasing behaviors and decisions.  And the smell of food is able to intrigue consumers’ memory with family. For myself, when I was closer to the fishing jar, the smell of the stinky fish actually inspires my memory for the grocery shopping experience with my mom in Shanghai. I projected a picture of the market I used to go to with her in Shanghai.

On the other hand, when I was waiting for check out, I noticed that there is a large group of consumers using their own green bags or backpacks rather than the plastic bags from Tesco. I’m not sure how is the connection with Czech culture. But it’s quite different from consumers’ shopping habits in Tesco in London. I can guess that maybe the concern about environmental sustainability is also one component of Czech people’s daily lives.  As living in central Europe, they wish that they could make full use of the limited resources and make their lives better.

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First Post in Prague

June 2, 2010

I started my first ethnography observation in Palladium in Prague, which is regarded as a relatively high-end shopping mall for Czech people. I found out a lot of differences in shopping environment and consumers’ purchasing behaviors compared with those in UK. The first observation left me a lot of question marks: why is there almost nobody in the H&M, Topshop in Prague, however those in London are overwhelmed? Why most people shopping there are middle-aged? Why is there a lot of men shopping together? Why is there almost no fashion advertising besides those in-store?

In the Palladium mall, there were not so many people shopping there and most of them are middle-aged people. In general, consumers do shopping in group. They touch the products and talk with each other about them. But they usually just take 1-2 pieces to try on or none. However, in H&M and Topshop in London, most people there have more than 5 items in hands. And in Prague here, there were even no people waiting outside the fitting room.

Also, Czech people are price-sensitive. They are more concerned about the quality and price than the brands. In some sense, they cared about the exchange of the price and the product they can get in the end. The key question for them is whether this product is worthwhile. Besides, when they are purchasing a piece of cloth or an accessory item, they are likely to consider its usage frequency based on the combination of their current outfits. The more opportunities they will wear it, the more possibility that they will buy it.

Moreover, the service people behind the cashier desk in a lot of stores were often away from the desk. Nobody is there to offer the service for the customers. There is a possibility that the workers there have already have the assumption that there won’t be a lot of consumers shopping here and it’s fine for them to be away for several minutes. However, in the Topshop and H&M in London, there are not only 3-4 cashiers but also every consumer have to wait more than 10 minutes to check out.

The Cashier Desk in Topshop in Palladium

After talking with several Czech people and the acknowledgement of Czech culture and history, everything is beginning to make sense for me.

International brands are regarded as a symbolism of freedom of choices and free market. Before the revolution in 1989, people didn’t have a lot of choices in purchasing clothes. Nowadays, the free market provide them with more freedom of choices. However, even though in this modern megamall there are a variety of international brands, like C&A, Esprit, H&M, Topshop, etc, the products there are still quite expensive for most Czech people. The average price of a pair of jeans in Topshop is $70 and the average income per person in Czech every month is $1250.

Besides the concern about prices, especially for older generation, they are already used to the old shopping habits. They prefer to do shopping in independent and private stores and they have strong loyalty to local Czech brands, like the popular shoes brand Hannah. Therefore, most international brands are luxury for them. According to the manager from Remmark, international brands in Czech is regarded as a symbolism of freedom choices for Czech people. But they usually do not do shopping there.

The swim suit advertising we saw till now in Prague

And this might also be the reason that why there are less advertising about fashion in Czech. People tend to purchase products they need, which is like a part of life necessity, rather than the fact in UK that the outfit is the reflection of individual’s personality and identity.

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Group Culture Code Wrap-Up of the UK

June 1, 2010

Yiting: Mixture

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.

Lauren: Individuality

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.

Suz: Confidence

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.
Lisa: Contrast

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:

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“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.

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Individual Cultural Code–Mixture

May 28, 2010

United Kingdom is an island country, with the preserving elements of distinctive traditions, customs and symbolism. Also, with the impact of large amounts of immigrants and tourists from various cultures, British people started to embrace various cultures while respecting and keeping their heritages from the history.

British people are comfortable to embrace various trends in fashion. Even though some of them might not like everyone’s dressing styles, they choose to embrace them rather than judge them. There’s a 28 years old salesman I have talked with in a shoe shop told me that his first memory about fashion is a pair of sneaker, which originally is an important part of hip hop culture. He said, “When I was 10 years old, I want to buy a pair of sneakers, I like it so much. So I tried to do a lot of housework and persuade my mom to buy it for me. I was so excited to get it finally, but it was stolen in two days. I was more than sad. So it was my first impressive memory about fashion”. This is the first time he started to get the picture of pop culture in fashion world besides its British heritages.

Furthermore, the openness of the mixture in fashion styles makes consumers to dress and do shopping confidently. When British people went for shopping, they usually do shopping alone. The most important reason is that they don’t want to wait for others and they prefer to allot their own time and schedule. Also, British people are confident enough to create their own pieces. There’s one girl I have talked to in the TopShop. She told me her first memory for fashion is her best friend’s mom is a fashion designer. And she can get some self-customized pieces from her, which inspires her interest in fashion and she started to mix her out-of-dated pieces’ fabric into their new pieces.

Moreover, the mixed culture in UK also drives a lot of fashion brands to mix the British vintage styles with the modern trends. Such kinds of trends largely affect consumers’ shopping and consumption habits and preferences.

Finally, UK definitely provides consumers a large amount of options for shopping, including high-end department store, middle-level stores and flea market. For example, in the Top Shop and H&M in Oxford Street, space is as premium, which is definitely overwhelmed compared with those high-end markets. However, in luxury market, the concept is always: when a thing is scarce, it is precious. Consumers are likely to enjoy the spacious shopping environment, and then the shopping experience. Then, the most interesting market is the flea markets, which definitely provide consumers more opportunities to talk with the salesperson about the product. You can have the access to them quite easily because each stand is privately-owned and in small scale.

Therefore, my final individual cultural code for fashion in UK is MIXTURE, which reflects British fashion products, brands, shopping environments, consumers’ attitudes toward fashion, as well as their shopping and consumption habits. However, no matter what the trend is, UK people will never follow it blindly. They only choose the best fit piece for themselves.

Yiting

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@Afflecks Palace in Manchester

May 27, 2010

We left from the busy and crowds in London and head down to Manchester. Manchester is less busier and crowded than London and still owns its stories and identity. From the perspective of history, the south (mainly London) was much wealthier than the North (like Manchester), where was very much working class.  Regarding the fashion industry in these two cities, people in Manchester respect more of its fashion history. So they still largely use the application of vintage elements along with embracing the modern trends.

Manchester Attitude

Manchester is a city with cultural mix and diversity of young, old, many colours and races. It’s the people in Manchester that give this city its edge. According to the quotes from the Manchester Art Gallery, “Manchester is the city of radical thinkers, mavericks and trendsetters. Manchester attitude, the swagger on the street, colours the cultural landscape. It inspires designers, artists, musicians, writers to harness and express the tangible pulse that surges through the city.”

Afflecks Palace

One of the oldest fashion stores in Manchester, Afflecks Palace, which established in 1982, perfectly reflects Manchester attitudes. I believe that compared with the traditional market streets and department stores, the observation in Afflecks Palace will give me more insights into the fashion world in Manchester.

Afflecks positions itself as a “shopping mall” that integrates music and art, most importantly it keeps the origins from the history. Afflecks Palace stands out for its mixture with vintage and modern elements,
such as the boutique dresses with fancy colors, laces and different fabrics, Ho shoes (also called stripper shoes for dancing), as well as its accessories.

Entering the Afflecks Palace, I can hear that it is playing rock music. Unlike the stores in department stores, each stand in Afflecks Palace only has limited spaces for their products. The three stands I did my observation is No Angel, Thunder Egg and Pop Boutique. According to the salespersons from several stands, most people shopping here are students, ranging from 18 to 24. They are looking for uniqueness and different styles from those available in most traditional department stores. Most importantly, some of them are trying to find out the products with the hint of traditional British styles.

No Angel and Thunder Egg enjoy similar designs, focusing on vintage dresses. The several consumers shopping there were all shopping with friends. They wear blouse with bubble sleeves, jacket, Scotland skirts, skinny jeans, tights, flats and short boots. Also, they dyed their hair and have ear and nose piercing. Two girls shopping in Thunder Egg were already wearing Ho shoes and tights.

However, compared with No Angel and Thunder Egg, Pop Boutique has more causal dresses. The one couple shopping there are very young, around 20. The girl was wearing skinny jeans, All-star shoes, lose T-shirt and a bright blue bag. Another couple I ran into on the street also carried the shopping bag from Pop Boutique. The girl’s dress is far more impressive: red hair, blue headbands, fur coat, black tights and cowboy-style boots. Her boyfriend has dyed yellow hair, and wears red and white checked shirt, and black pants.

Therefore, the fashion world in London and Manchester both enjoy the openness and mixture. In some sense, the impact of multi-culture on fashion industry in London undoubtedly plays a vital role in the fashion trends and people’s attitudes in Manchester area. However, compared with the fashion trends in London, Manchester’s fashion trend is a little more reserved and limited to boutique and detail-focused dressing styles. They embrace the traditional British vintage elements in their dressing styles.