Mags Loves Jimi

“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” ― Frida Kahlo

Category: writing

Price and Power


 

In today’s politically charged atmosphere of 140 characters and things like Sienna filters, it is no surprise Fashion is wrapped in this fray. The American FLOTUS’s Fashion choices, or lack thereof, is a source of analytical contention. Questions like; Can privilege be bought? Is price indicative of this? Tom Ford was famously quoted saying his clothing was “too expensive for a First Lady to wear because they have to ‘relate to everybody.” Be that as it may, start-up brands and young designers can learn a lot about pricing themselves accordingly.

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Price and Privilege

To be honest, when researching these flashbacks of my Undergrad surfaced; lectures and tutorials dedicated to the rising cost of raw materials, COGS and markups. In Fashion, as any business and serious relationship, there is a give-and-take. A mutual agreement. This is the financial exchange made between the brand, retailers and consumers. Profit comes from markups, which determine the RRP (recommended retail price). Markups allow for ‘breathing space’, permitting more units to be produced and therefore a greater chance for more volumes to be sold. This increases your profit and ultimately satisfies any shareholders and stakeholders; especially for retail chains and luxury brands.

In BOF’s article on the rapid rising cost of Fashion it’s stated; “Gross margins for luxury companies typically hover around 65 percent — that sounds like a lot, but it’s what shareholders now expect. It also means that a $3,500 bag costs roughly $1,225 to produce and bring to market, all the way from materials to sale. There are many steps along the way that contribute to the final price. There are the costs of raw materials, design, manufacturing and fulfillment. Then, at retail, there’s the cost of prime real estate and sales staff. And finally, there’s marketing: those glossy fashion adverts cost a pretty penny to produce, let alone to place. Over the past 10 years — and particularly since the end of the recession — many of these costs have increased dramatically.”

There are three main structures of the fashion system when sectioning yourselves to the market. These are Luxury, Fashion and Premium, according to marketing heavyweight and academic Professor Vincent Bastien in his article for Entrepreneur Middle East.

The luxury strategy aims at creating the highest brand value and pricing power by leveraging all intangible elements of singularity- i.e. time, heritage, country of origin, craftsmanship, man-made, small series, prestigious clients, etc. The fashion strategy is a totally different business model: here, heritage, time, are not important; fashion sells by being fashionable, which is to say, a very perishable value.

The premium strategy can be summarised as “pay more, get more.” Here the goal is to prove -through comparisons and benchmarking- that this is the best value within its category. Quality/price ratio is the motto. This strategy is, by essence, comparative.

Taking these models into account it is very important that brands knows where they stand on the proverbial totem pole of the retail mix of ROI. Another article on Forbes also accurately stated; “One of the main problems with the launching a new brand is that you have absolutely zero pricing power – meaning that you have the market setting the price within a narrow range & subsequently have a high cost basis to manufacture product. This begins the most challenging part of this stage – the tweaking of materials to levels that deliver sufficient quality right up to the monetizable equilibrium between the quality of the materials, construction of the product, and the customer’s willingness to pay for these costs. Keep in mind that $0.50 in manufacturing costs equals about $2 at retail (2x markup to wholesale and 2x markup to retail).”

In business, profit is the main aim of the game. When composing your pricing strategy it is imperative you know the value of your product versus the cost of it. A bar of chocolate is valuable to many (myself included, believe me!) but to produce is a much smaller cost – per bar, pre-market. The cost of raw materials and staff required (yes, cheap labour is still rampant): $1.15 including tax. Value: $5+ for the average consumer. Taking these numbers into account you have a profit of $3.85 per bar. Once you understand your cost versus your value as per product, you can add other variables such as brand cache, customer demand and scarcity of product.

There is power in being truthful with your core objectives because it means when leverage does present itself (because of your great price strategy) the benefits; whether monetary or socially will have a longer effect. This will also aid in communicating with your retailers, wholesalers and stockists.

pricing catwalk bw

Profit and Personality

When we talk about ‘personality’ we mean traits that make up your behaviour. I have a ‘playful’ personality; meaning I can be a bit cheeky… perhaps even a little silly. Can you think of a brand with a similar personality? Moschino Cheap and Chic comes to mind. House of Holland. Mary Katrantzou. Kate Spade. Charlotte Olympia. Even Taco Bell is good at cracking a few jokes. Your personality, in branding, is what distinguishes you from your competitors, not unlike in real life. These traits are organically part of the brand’s DNA. The power in personality can be seen in the steady increase of profit margins.

Having a flexible, dynamic and profitable pricing strategy is an ongoing measurement; constantly in need of revision and reworkings. If numbers are not your thing (such as myself) then hire or have those around you that you trust and who are knowledgeable in finance – even if it’s your immediate family, to begin with. Your team is paramount to your success in the eyes of the public.

Some of the world’s most valued and loved brands hire hundreds of people all over the globe to research market fluctuation and value of raw materials, trend forecasting and political/social issues. All have a bearing on your pricing strategy. Price, psychologically, can be differentiated by the archaic yet still relevant class system – the haves and the have-nots, though, with the introduction and seamless integration of the internet and technology, this gap is becoming more and more ambiguous.

We can look at the Engineering Triangle as a basic example of the beginning stages of a ‘pricing strategy’ – if it is good and cheap, it is not fast. If it’s fast and good, it’s not cheap. If it’s fast and cheap, it’s not good. Does this apply to your business model and pricing strategy? If so ask yourselves how good are you to your customers if your item is fast and cheap? If you give products to your customers cheap, how good and fast can you accumulate profit? If it’s fast, how cheap and good will raw materials be? When we say ‘good’, we mean valuable and of quality.

All of these are valid questions that your core customers will care about… the ones who choose you over the others largely due to a perceived and curated personality, which most likely reflects your pricing strategy. To put it in Fashion terms; Hermes cannot be calling you Bae. In the same way a high street brand like Topshop cannot be trying to sell you a facetious fantasy because the two worlds are different and that’s okay. The Topshop woman can still be a Hermes woman; she just needs to be reached in different ways for different purses. Most of us in the industry have a basic understanding of this. The challenge is focusing on a flexible yet profitable pricing strategy while maintain that gleeful exuberance unkempt creativity allows us.

The truth is, you have to be true to your product, not expectations.

By Margretta Sowah


 

This article was written by Margretta Sowah; a freelance writer and Fashion Marketer based in Sydney. All opinions expressed are her own. She cannot be held liable for bad taste. She also likes to spin yarn from time to time. Read more at: Fashion Capital UK

Harder, Stronger, Faster

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“Hard is not relative. Hard is hard. Who can tell me that explaining to someone you just declared bankruptcy is harder than telling someone that you just cheated on them? Who can tell me that his coming out story is harder than telling your five-year-old you’re getting a divorce? There is no harder, this is just hard. We need to stop ranking our hard against everyone else’s hard to make us feel better about our closets and just commiserate on the fact that we all have hard.”

—Ash Beckham

Textalysers and Tantrums

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Begrudgingly, I admit to being a serial texter while driving, and I’ve had my fair share of text-n-drive related moments of WTF!? WATCH WHERE YOU ARE GOING… which leads to the good ol’ Facebook Status Update of ‘PEOPLE ARE SUCH SHIT DRIVERS! WAS ALMOST IN ACCIDENT BECAUSE OF STUPID DRIVERS’.

Yes, angry rants and grammar do not make-out behind the art block… having said that, the editing process is a lot like a one-night-stand – the experience is far better for the other person when it’s straight to the point. Though I’ve never posted a car rant on social media there’s plenty of personal fuckeries to choose from. I digress…

Morally I know the physical ramifications of texting while driving – possible broken bones, a totaled car, a disposed sense of self due to foolishness, but the reality is, these ramifications go beyond the immediate future. Australia is one of the leading countries for road-related accidents and injuries. A clever PR person might say Australians are ‘adventurous’, instead of ‘impatient’. ‘Social’ instead of ‘distracted’ – either or, it’s a case of semantics.

Victoria Police are considering the implementation of TEXTALYSERs – a new technology that allows authorities to check whether drivers are using a mobile while driving. Reports of this technology surfaced in 2014 at the product launch in New York. Subsequently NY Police authorities began pushing legislation for the use of these new TEXTALYSERs in precincts. Having researched the obvious benefits, Victorian police strongly believe Australia needs this new method more than ever.

According to CarAdvice.com.au; ‘data provided by Victoria Police shows that more than 34,000 infringement notices were issued last year to distracted drivers using mobile phones behind the wheel. A recent study quoted by Queensland’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety (CARRS-Q) claims that just having a conversation on the phone while driving quadruples the chances of having an accident.’

“We are interested in anything that could support us in our road to zero lives lost on Victorian roads… (and) constantly assessing technologies from all over the world to advance our road policing efforts” said Acting Superintendent Stuart McGregor. “It’s still alarming to see that more than 34,000 people think it’s okay to put the lives of others at risk just to check their phones [while driving].”

“The law states that a driver is ‘Negligent’ when he or she did not exercise the right amount of care and attention which would be reasonably expected from a driver in the particular circumstances. A simple example is when a driver failed to pay sufficient attention to the road at the time or failed to comply to roads rules and an accident took place.” 

Being a reformed ‘shit driver’ or as I like to call it – ‘a very involved driver; involved in myself and whatever I’m strumming to’ (the myth about writers being tortured artists is real) – I know first hand the damage negligent driving can cause. Let me be CLEAR, I have never killed or seriously injured anyone on the road or otherwise. I’ve been in three car incidents. One with my sister from another mister Samantha, which I, still to this day, have guilt over even though the fault did not rest solely on myself. The guy was a serial accidental-er – he had walked in front of a tram six weeks prior because he was looking down at his phone – which is what happened with me. Except it was not on a footpath, it was on a merging motorway lane in peak hour. It only takes a moment.

The second was by myself; a motorbike was behind me as I merged lanes in peak-hour traffic, once again. In his attempt to avoid the waiting game like us normal folk with four-wheels, sped between traffic and collided with the back of my Barina as I was merging. He came out unscathed – thank God, but it scared the shit out of me. Though I still hold my innocence, to a certain extent, when someone is hurt the blame game is irrelevant; at least until insurance gets involved.

It was then I truly understood the reality of driving: your own ass is not the only thing you have to watch, but everyone else on the roads ass as well. 

And lastly, a humbling experience I will never forget, due to road rage. Long story short a car illegally came into my lane after a turn. Naturally I was outraged and I flipped him off. Big mistake. He tailed me and as he rolled down his window to say something I hit into the car in front of me. Apparently the guy in front of him had pushed the breaks abruptly because he changed his mind. Needless to say the airbags went off and I came home looking like Mohammad Ali, if he had lip injections right after a heavyweight fight. Did I mention I had just lost my license for 3 months – I became a master at the Statutory Declaration – AND I was going through a difficult breakup. I remember wishing, after my brother had come to my rescue, I had changed my mind. Kept calm. Kept safe. Ego and impatience will enable you to do some foolish things *cheeky sigh of resign* #Sidenote: I still remember the disappointment in my loved one’s voices: You lost your license? That should have never happened. You were in a car accident? Didn’t you just lose your license for 3 months? Well, you can be a bit reckless at times… Life has a wonderful way of humbling us. Now I have two ‘battle scars’ on my chest (reminds me of rapper Eve’s tiger paws) from the airbag pressure. A possible permanent reminder… What a sobering experience to the effects of our actions.

The Victorian police are determined, reports say, to test any new technology useful in bringing the state’s road tolls down to zero. A lofty goal? No, but the outcome rests in the hands of the driver – literally. Victorian Police Superintendent McGregor emphasized the importance of younger drivers (particularly if on L’s and P’s) focusing their attention on driving safely and sensibly, instead of texting friends through traffic.

“Obviously that age group is already of particular concern to us, purely due to their inexperience on the roads… When you’re learning how to drive or driving on your own for the first time, it is essential to devote your full attention to the task at hand. Driving is a serious task and should be treated as such. You’re in charge of more than a tonne of metal and if you divert your attention for even a split second; it could have fatal consequences. No text message or social media update is more important than getting to your destination safely,” McGregor added.

Suffice to say, we can’t be in two places at once and so too we can’t be watching the rear-view mirror, side mirror, and front mirrors while texting. Plenty do but, speaking from experience in driving kerfuffles, it isn’t worth it. The shame you feel – whether in the wrong or not, – the money spent, the inconveniences of borrowing family and friends cars, hitching rides to normally easy peasy places. The premiums go up – and you just know every time NRMA is on the phone there will be judgmental disappointment when your file is opened. Passive aggressive, customer service shade. Not fun, even if you are ‘lucky to be with Amy’.

A representative of the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce (VACC), publicly announced their support of whatever new methods Police are investigating to make public roads safer.

“[The] VACC believes strongly in making commuting on public roads as safe as possible. Like with drink-driving, as soon as society can make activities like texting while driving unacceptable, the better off all road users will be. If people are going to make phone calls they should use approved hands-free devices. Technology solutions such as the breathalysers have been used with great success by police forces across the country. The ‘textalyser’ may be the next vanguard in road safety in Australia,” said by David Dowsey, spokesperson for the VACC.

There has been no confirmation of local installation of the TEXTALYSER but Victoria Police have resolved to investigate the devices’ potential. No life should be taken away because of carelessness. Hopefully this system will come onto our shores in the next 12 months. So called shitty drivers like myself will definitely benefit from new and effective technology like the Textalyser. But it isn’t just about preventative measures; educational videos, road safety workshops and advertisements showcasing the impracticality and selfishness of using a mobile while driving, regardless of age and experience, are needed also. We can ALL afford to be patient and alert as we travel together through this long winding road called life. As my dad always says; “wherever you are going; you will get there. Don’t rush.” #BestDadEver.

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This writer was afraid to share these stories because she was ashamed of being judged for stupid behaviour. Through writing this, I feel these experiences were not in vain or just a personal life lesson. Sharing enables others to grow too. This writer has resolved to NOT text while driving… I also reserve the right to get on my high horse and behave like a reformed smoker (just for the next two sentences, anyway); “You need to quit it. If not for yourself, for others you don’t know are affected.” Okay, this ‘positive take-away’ is done…

But in all seriousness:

DON’T DRIVE AND TEXT. DRIVE AND SING.  


This article was written by Margretta Sowah; a freelance writer and Fashion Marketer based in Sydney. All opinions expressed are her own. She cannot be held liable for bad taste. She also likes to spin yarn from time to time. Read more at: Blaire Magazine

Today I Am | #Forgiveness

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There is no greater power than forgiveness. Why? Because it allows you to not only fully receive your blessings, but others to receive theirs through you too. Forgiveness is a decision you make solely for yourself yet affects everyone you come into contact with, in one way or another.

Forgiveness is not acceptance. Forgiveness is a form of reparation (repair). You are telling yourself and God ‘I CHOOSE, despite what I have lost, to work with what I have TRULY gained, in this situation.’

Don’t worry, I struggle with it also.

“I lift my lids and all is born again…” | In Response

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I lift my lids and all is born again…

I sing to fit into notes –

letters of stories I have yet to forget.

Yes, I lift my eyes and paint your breath.

Wet with pigments of paper-made memories;

I write your name with brittle brushes

left to dry

in a room with little light.

Can I stay in slumber against you

once more my love?

*

#Kaafiyamilaao

To be faithful, to be fruitful… | #AdviceToWriters

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Be Faithful To Your Perceptions

It’s not that you get a cliché and then wiggle it about or use synonyms. You don’t take an ordinary decorative paragraph and give it style. What you’re trying to do is be faithful to your perceptions and transmit them as faithfully as you can. I say these sentences until they sound right. There’s no objective reason why they’re right. They just sound right to me.

MARTIN AMIS

#AdviceToWriters

More Issues (Than Vogue)

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By Margretta Sowah


I like clichés. I find there is a certain ambiance about them. I’m sure we’ve heard the usual ones like; you don’t know what you have til it’s gone, time heals all wounds, and my personal favourite, it is better to be safe than sorry.

My father is a Buddhist and I am a woman of faith, strengthened by my holistic household. This does not necessarily have any philosophical or religious relation to cliches; or why he insists on calling me Yoko even though I don’t look anything like the Japanese artist. What I remember about my childhood was my father reminding me ‘all that glitters is not gold’.  We had a story time ritual. He would tell me tales with meaning – issues that were relevant at the time told in African folklore. I understood the fundamental basics of his statement. Not everything is as it appears. Don’t trust everything you see. Even salt looks like sugar, read one meme.

All that Glitters is Not Gold: “Not everything that is shiny and superficially attractive is valuable.”

I have always loved fashion because of the story showcased through form, function and fantasy. At any given moment the narrative can change – have dramatic flairs, emotional frills and surprising reactions. Going back to younger years I’ve always found myself drawn to bold and bright colours. But like most impressionable teenagers it took a few summers before I began ‘feelin myself’ #Formation. For this to happen I had to trust the process of growth and creative expression. So what does this have to do with glitter not being gold? To quote my other article Brand Perception; what we perceive, we believe.

When considering brands I lust for, only a few come to mind. As a Fashion Marketing graduate the career options are endless as you develop skill-sets. Internships are one of them. I have done my fair share of internships – one was at this very publication #shamelessworkplug. The previous ones were at established fashion houses. There was one particular brand (I will not name for privacy reasons) that was a personal achievement for me – to be in their head office, at their studio and flagship store. To sit with the ladies and see the concepts I had proudly promoted by spending many (many!) a penny on their whimsical yet fierce attire… with love. I was convinced we, brand C and I, had a deep emotional connection. I thought the concept matched my confidence. Brand C would represent me as classy and sassy. They fulfilled their promise. I felt great as a consumer but not as an industry insider. The marketing mix done well is almost as potent as a wish on a star – undeniable but unexplainable.

It seemed to me the problem was simple: I took too much stock in the emotional connection and perceived benefits I received through their clothing. This is not to say my appreciation was misplaced but in terms of basing my professional opinion in comparison to my personal opinion, yes. It was unsustainable. I remember a teacher of mine (lets affectionately call her S) explaining the process of a ‘marketing mix’ with this quote:

“Consumers don’t buy products or product attributes. They purchase benefits and emotional meaning.” -Theodore Levitt

This was my experience when referring to brand C. I wonder how many of us do this unconsciously. I wonder how many of us do this consciously. The Fashion industry feeds off social structures and cultural norms – they break rules but are fully aware of the rules. They hold them in high regard as a reference point (as do I); no matter if Fast Fashion, Mid-Range, High-End, Luxury, Couture and all the channels between. The industry values its ambassadors – the ‘it girl’, the trendsetter, the model on the runway. This industry needs relatable representation to sell the dream.

When I read articles on skinny-shaming, fat-shaming, gender-shaming, financial-shaming (oh yes, you know when you walk in a store and there are no price tags on any items? As if to say, ‘if you are not prepared for the prices we are not prepared for the service.’), I wonder if Vogue, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar or Marie Claire will ever run out of content.

The industry and society is riddled with the issue of COMPARISON and PERFECTION. We all strive for a state of control where we are pleased with our efforts – perfection; and we all fall into the trap of praising other people’s blessings instead of honestly focusing on our own – comparison. These two issues make for a mean feast of insecurity. Is this what we want fashion to be thought of? I remember catching up with my then-partner and his old friends. I got to chatting with a woman in her mid/late 30s. She asked me what I did. I excitedly explained I was studying Fashion Marketing. She freely scoffed before saying; “fashion is so fickle and self-absorbed. I think it’s fake and frivolous”. I remember staring at her for several moments. Self-absorbed? Fake? Did I mention she was wearing a BRIGHT fluro yellow body-con KOOKAI dress? Girl bye.

This is the problem. Fashion has the power to transform like no other commodity. It has the ability to be political, radical, severe, soft whimsical, poetic but never unimportant. It has the ability to change lives and societies. It is a reflection of souls and cultures and should never be apologetic. We can’t deny it is a mirror to society, serving to show us how we can be democratic and inclusive (in terms of different styles and subcultures) yet highly selective and haughty. It is frustrating when society tends to agree with the glitz and slits of fashion but will not extend those thoughts to value the concept or vision. It is definitely challenging to be a creative of any kind as we progress into the future. I began to ask myself, can you love the story but hate the message?

To sum up my ‘open letter’: it is easy to place products, people or places on a pedestal in our emotional psyche because they evoke a mood within us. Is there anything wrong with that? No, but we definitely shouldn’t base our decisions on subjective feelings or ‘perceived benefit’ (confidence, connection, security of identity, approval) of a product, service, advertisement or slogan. At the end of the day Fashion is here to fulfill a need and, like any other industry, this is implemented through discourses by discretion and influence.

We need this industry. We need representation. We need fantasy. We need form and function. We need issues to dissect and discover again and again with new eyes. There is a tangible goal that needs to be achieved – image positivity and self-love, with products and services being a means to an end.

They say fortune favours the bold, but does glitter give you gold? No, but it will definitely give you something pretty to look at. And hey, that’s worth a bit of a nibble of the carrot.

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This article was written by Margretta Sowah; a freelance writer and Fashion Marketer based in Sydney. All opinions expressed are her own. She cannot be held liable for bad taste. She also likes to spin yarn from time to time. Read more: http://www.allmyfriendsaremodels.com/open-letter-to-the-fashion-industry/#ixzz4CYh1pZQu

Courage is Required | #AdviceToWriters

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You Must Have Discipline You Must Have Discipline

You must have discipline for writing. It is not an easy task. It is very lonely. You’re all alone. You are not in company. You are not enjoying yourself in that sense. You are enjoying yourself in another sense. You are delving into your depths, but you are profoundly lonely. It is one of the loneliest careers in the world. In the theater, you are with companions, with directors, actors. In film. In an office. In writing, you are alone. That takes a lot of strength and a lot of will to do it.

CARLOS FUENTES

#AdviceToWriters

*Painting by MICHAEL DUMONTIER AND NEIL FARBER