Category : Business Analytics | Date : 6/24/2018 7:58:59 AM | ID : BLOG812595

What Melania Wearing Zara Tells Us About Today's Consumer



Earlier today, first lady Melania Trump visited migrant children near the Texas-Mexico border wearing a jacket with large letters on the back that said, “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” Being among our least voluble first ladies in memory, any statement from her of any kind gets a lot of attention. I’ll leave the meaning of the words on her jacket to others. What's more interesting is that she’d wear the jacket at all.

The jacket is made and sold by Zara. Here’s a woman who can wear any clothes in the world she wants and today she chose this one. No doubt she considered that visiting indigent children is better accomplished in less expensive clothing but there’s many other choices she could have made. There are lots of brands that are less mass and more designer that would be in good taste in that environment. And yet, Melania chose the Zara jacket.

You may be too young to remember this but it wasn’t that long ago that a billionaire’s wife wouldn’t wear that brand of garment. If you were rich, your clothes had to say it, your handbag had to say it, your house had to say it, your car had to say it, everything you touched or owned had to describe your station in the world. That mentality is no longer dominant. Consumers know that your things don’t describe your socioeconomic status. Now they are much more representative of what you care about and less about what you have or what you’ve done.

That makes being a high-end brand much more challenging. It used to be true that if you had established your brand as a luxury product, your customers had to have it or something of its ilk because they couldn’t be seen in less status-y clothes. But now the world is much more open, anyone can wear anything and it doesn’t reflect on their status one way or the other. In that way, the status of clothing has been flipped on its head. Now it’s chic to mix designer with shabby and people identify less with their objects than in the past.

What clothes do reflect on is what people believe and what they value personally. The proliferation of values messaging on social media has made status clothing more obsolete than ever and meaningful clothing more important. Clothes that convey a value like caring about the environment, or that workers were paid a full wage, are important, regardless of where on the status ladder they land. The ability of brands to present themselves and their employees as involved in causes has changed the way consumers think and shop. No one is immune from this change, no matter how rich or powerful.

Adapting to these changes has proven more difficult for legacy brands than almost any other change in the last 50 years. It’s why we see big brands being chipped away at by nimble, young companies that convey what they believe more effectively. Companies that are founded on beliefs are outperforming crass commercialism.

There’s no going back now. Grafting beliefs on to large, established brands is hard because it looks fake. Consumers get that. Whatever her intention was with her jacket today, Melania gets it too. The only question is, will the big brands get it and how will they compete effectively now.

My firm, Triangle Capital LLC, does mergers, acquisitions and capital-raising for companies in fashion, retail, and consumer products.