Autumn is here and with it, the autumn fashions are finding their way into shop windows and consumer closets. Anyone still mulling over what to wear on those cold days is spoilt for choice: subtle earth tones or perhaps brighter colors? Synthetic fur, or soft silky fabrics? Time and again, the question is – do I go for the brands or the no-name items? Anyone deciding on the former and digging deep into their pockets to pay for particular labels will do it first and foremost for considerations of style. To Germans, brands remain the hallmark of style quality. As status symbols, however, only a few can afford them.
It is no secret that in general, people are prepared to pay for what they like. And when Germans have found a fashion style they like, they tend to remain loyal to the particular brand in question. A good 60% of consumers are prepared to spend more on branded clothing, if the style of a particular label appeals to them. More than half of the just under 7,500 respondents surveyed clearly identified with the attributes reflected by the brand: some 54% went for certain manufacturers because they felt the cut, fabrics or colors of the clothes suited their personal style and reflected their personal type. Quality and fit are what around 50% of consumers expect from their favorite brand and for this, they are more than willing to pay. These are the findings of a current survey carried out by GfK Textilmarktforschung.
Sometimes, it is not so easy to find your favorites among the hundreds of manufacturers. This is where the brands cut a clear path through the fashion jungle and for this, around 42% of consumers are prepared to pay. They would rather pay more than wade through the huge ranges again and again every time they make a purchase. When buying, 38% not only consider their own personal reputation, but also that of the brand. They feel it is important that the clothes of the manufacturer they choose to wear daily and which are clearly identifiable, reflect the right image. Distinguishing an article of last season’s clothing from the new season’s “must haves” is something that Germans are evidently rather good at identifying for themselves. As for the question of “is that for me?”, only about one quarter of consumers need to reassure themselves with a brand name, while all the others don’t need a brand to tell them they are on style. And even as a status symbol, the most expensive label can only convince up to a point. Germans prefer understatement: they wear and pay for brands for many different reasons, but less often because they want to stroll along the street wearing a visible logo.
It is true to say that in this respect, men under 30 are the exception. While on average, only 20% of Germans want to show off a brand logo, around 42% of younger men value a clearly visible name. This is not the case for women of the same age, with only around 28% buying a brand in order to display the logo. However in this, they are still above the overall German average. Young men place a significantly higher value on the reputation of the brand, frequently worrying that they are damaging their own image by wearing the wrong label. More than half the men in this age group are prepared to pay more if the reputation of the brand is right, but in women of the same age group, not even 40% believe this to be important. However, younger men swear by a known name for other reasons: they seem to be more insecure in questions of fashion style than women, or older men. A good 60% buy clothes from a well-known manufacturer because they know that the style suits their type. With increasing age, the approval rating drops, and apparently, older men place less value on the brand. From around the age of 50, 15% opt for a label in order to reassure themselves that they are wearing the right outfit for their own personal type. In addition, just under half the younger men go for a particular name to stay in fashion, but as they grow older, this figure also declines. At overall German national average level, only 28% of consumers regard a brand as the guarantee of a fashionable appearance.
Irrespective of gender, it is evident that younger fashion enthusiasts are trying harder to make sense of the fashion jungle. This is also confirmed by a glance at the professional situation of the survey respondents. Those still at school, in training or studying are more inclined to assure themselves that they are in fashion when it comes to the subject of brands than people already launched on their careers or those who have retired. While around 40% of school pupils and trainees opt for a brand to reassure themselves that they are keeping up with fashion, for 25% of working individuals, this is a reason to spend more money. Those who are not working are even less willing to buy brands to be “confident of their fashion style”, while the good reputation of a brand is more likely to tempt school pupils and trainees into the shops than older and working individuals. It is clear that the older and more (professionally) experienced consumers are, the more confident they feel in their selection of clothes.
But what of all those who are not working? Do they place less value on branded clothing? In fact, overall, they do ascribe less importance to this. When it comes to quality, fit and help with style choices, those not in work clearly tend to choose the brands more rarely than those working with colleagues on a daily basis. For example, whereas more than half those surveyed engaged in professional careers said they went for their favorite labels because they expected better quality, only 43% of those not in work gave this as the reason for choosing particular labels. However, as the guarantee of a good fit, this group gave the labels a lower rating, with 41% saying they would choose a label, while among those in work, the figure was in excess of 50%. On the subject of “status symbol”, however, opinions seemed to be relatively unanimous, with individuals in work only placing a slightly higher value on highly visible labels.
Yet it is not only age and profession which are the deciding factors as to how strongly individuals are immersed in the world of branded fashion. Origins also have some part in this. Both east and west Germans believe that the salient points about branded clothes is primarily that they are appropriate for them and that they like them, although consumers from the former East Germany are ahead in this. Even more marked are the differences on the subject of fit and here, half of west Germans rely on the brand, while in the case of east Germans, the figure is 43%.
In order to stay in fashion, just under 30% in both east and west Germany opted for branded goods, even if they cost more. Perhaps the current positive economic climate making the headlines has contributed to this. On the other hand, it might also be the case that, as the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, put it: “A fashion is nothing but an induced epidemic”…but evidently one which those of us in both parts of Germany are happy to be infected with.
Data source: GfK Textilmarkforschung (August 2010)
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