Can clothing brand differentiation be reflected by “fashion”?

The power behind fashion is the "latest difference". Although brands cannot keep the "new", they can keep the "difference". What we can do is to extract the concept of differentiation from fashion brands, and then transform fashion into people's habit and become a tradition. Only in this way can the company achieve a long-lasting business and the brand will not die out with time.

Table of Contents

In the 90s, the early traditional down jacket market was one-sided, and the wearers were like “walking dumplings”, and the market lacked personalized fashionable down jackets.

In 1998, Elayi brand was dedicated to solving this market problem at the very beginning of its establishment, meeting consumers’ needs with personalized fashion products. Create a new concept of “fashion down jacket”.

Let each piece of down jacket is fashionable and vivid, Elayi’s fashion new wind, that year in Zhejiang, Shanghai and other places once the trial sale is well received. Since then, Elayi has started the road of differentiated brand.

The label “fashion” seems to have become a fixed label of Elayi, which is also a brand moat.

As far as clothing is concerned, the importance of the concept of “fashion” is self-evident. But after 20 years, why is Ellei becoming more and more unappealing to consumers?

It is undeniable that Ellei has experienced the stage of “fashion” perception. Today, however, this perception is no longer present.

In the stage of establishing fashion perception (2000-2010), compared with other down jacket brands, Ellei has two objective differences in the perception level, which play a key role in shaping the perception of “fashionable down jacket” and are very helpful for Ellei to enhance its fashion sense.

The first is that the headquarter of Ellei is located in Shanghai, which is the highland of fashion awareness, and the competing brands are located in Changshu, Jiangsu, Lushan, Jiangxi, Taicang, Jiangsu and Qingdao, Shandong, etc. In contrast, the cognitive advantage of Ellei is very high. In comparison, the cognitive advantage is high and low.

Another advantage is the focus on women’s down jacket. At that time, Elayi was the only brand in the industry that focused on women’s down jacket, and the focus on women’s down jacket helped a lot to improve the brand’s fashion sense.

At one time, Alai became the second brand in China’s down jacket industry and the absolute leader in women’s down jackets. Many girls were proud of owning a piece of Elayi. But nowadays, Elayi seems to be not as popular as it was back then.

I don’t know when, domestic clothing brands, one by one, are not too willing to call themselves “fashion brands”.

I think back then, the 90s and 00s all called themselves “fashion brands”, and into the 2010s, we hear less and less called “a certain fashion brand”. Even called up will have a little earthy taste.

Why is that?

When it comes to brand differentiation, it is a commercial decision of the company to differentiate its products in terms of special features, cultural orientation and personality.

There are many factors that determine brand differentiation positioning, however, “fashion”, does not become brand differentiation positioning.

Fashionable appearance does matter, whether for apparel or other categories, especially in this age of face value. Therefore, it is not a high level truth that consumers need fashionable brands and fashionable clothing, nor is it a secret that only a certain company knows.

This is because of this, since about 2000, domestic clothing brands almost always find ways to make their brands fashionable and look to cater to consumer tastes.

There is no doubt that brands are more fashionable and easier to cater to consumers.

But what is not certain is that “fashion” can be a positioning concept?


“Fashion” is a perception, but perception is not a positioning. Cognition is a subjective concept, which must depend on an objective positioning.

In simple terms, “good quality” is a cognition, but “good quality” will not become a positioning concept. To establish “good quality” perception, brands must rely on “leader” or other positioning concepts to achieve it.

Take a domestic brand example.

Lily is a women’s fashion brand, adhering to the concept of perfect fusion of fashion and business, with a fresh, bright, modern and simple style, for young urban professional women to design business fashion “just right” for business occasions.

Note that Lily emphasizes the word “appropriate” rather than “fashionable” in general.

LILY is the first Chinese women’s fashion brand to propose a “business fashion” positioning, focusing on the diverse expression of women’s dressing in the workplace today. Note again: “diversity”.

So, business fashion ≠ fashionable business wear. The differentiated positioning is diversification, not fashion.

Why fashion itself can not be a brand differentiation positioning it

1. “Fashion” is subjective

The core reason why the subjective concept cannot be occupied is that it is constantly “moving” and it is difficult for brands to target it.

Because “fashion” is too subjective, different consumers have different definitions of it, different cultures have different definitions of it, and it is also influenced by age, region and gender, so in fact, each consumer has different views on fashion, so it is difficult to reach a consensus on cognition.

As a simple example, for example, most of the fashion in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen will be about half a year faster than in other areas, and some new trends appear, but when they are really shown to some areas, there will be temporary non-acceptance or rejection because of the acceptance of fashion.

Moreover, there is often a discrepancy between what consumers think is “fashionable” and what designers offer as “fashionable”.

As far as fashion is concerned, the definition of fashion has no boundaries and is very vague. Each person has his or her own taste in fashion, and the taste of fashion cannot be generalized, some people think that simplicity is fashion, some people think that following the trend is fashion, some people think that wearing trendy brands, wearing big brands is fashion.

There are a thousand opinions on fashion in the eyes of a thousand people.

It is very likely that there is a situation, for example, this year the designer buyers think that modern style is fashionable and ahead of the trend. But consumers think that French style is fashionable.

2. “Fashion” is dynamic

The founder of ZARA, Amancio, defines fashion as:

“to satisfy the consumer’s need for fashion in the shortest possible time. Speed is the lifeblood of the fashion industry, fashion is fast, and if a company wants to be timeless, it must walk with fashion.”

Because the homogenization of products in the fashion industry is more serious, it is the brand awareness and reputation that constitute the important factors of product differentiation, and the control of the brand also enables the company to stand at the top end of the value chain.

Zara’s position is “fast fashion”. This also means that “fashion” is not a positioning concept, so “fast fashion” is used to explain it. It is more accurate to describe Zara’s positioning by “fast update”.

But the so-called “fashion” is not the advantage of ZARA’s positioning, but just “fast”.

The rapid fall of ZARA’s performance in the past few years also proves this point, simply using “fast” to exchange “fashion” is absolutely untenable.

Due to the dynamic nature of fashion, the brand must quickly track it and maintain a closer relationship. A concept that changes frequently cannot gain a foothold in the mind and is too difficult for any brand.

3. “Fashion” is uncompetitive

Even if the brand has fashion, is it really competitive?

In addition to the cognitive bias of consumers and companies about the concept of “fashion”, another reason is that the concept of “fashion” lacks competitiveness in some categories, especially in the category of practicality.

Purely speaking, “fashion” is enough to attract consumers, but for the brand can not ignore the competition. Especially in the more competitive categories, the essence of brand competition is the competition between positioning concept and positioning concept.

Banana is such an example. Whether it is positioning, or design creativity, copywriting these links are very well combined.

The “sexy style” promoted by Vimy is not suddenly not popular in the past two years, but the aesthetic of the entire female lingerie market has gradually diversified.

I have always believed that the core competence must be not just one aspect, but a seamless link and high combination of multi-dimensional things.

It is worth mentioning that it is important to be clear about one’s own positioning and then think about how to build core competencies.

For example, mass casual (Uniqlo), style design is hardly the first core competitiveness. For example, the brand fashion (Masefield), cheap and good quality is also almost impossible to become the first core competitiveness.

The value of core competitiveness can only be fully released by the right person, at the right occasion, at the right time, and in the right way.

In different product positioning, we need to comply with such attribute rules, otherwise the result is that our value is undervalued.

Therefore, “fashion” for some brands and categories is the icing on the cake, but not the key power to influence the choice.

4. The life span of “fashion” is short

The Elleh, mentioned at the beginning of the article, is already defined in the perception. The case of Ellei shows that even if a brand has the perception of being “fashionable”, its life cycle is very short and does not stand the test of time.

In practice, brands that occupy an identity in the mind usually do not lose it in a relatively short period of time.

Dior has had a feminine look for over 70 years, Chanel has had a taste for elegance for over 100 years, and Hermes has had a taste for craftsmanship for almost 200 years.

The fundamental reason why the concept of “fashion” is short-lived is because it does not originate in the mind.

What looks fashionable is easily imitated, followed and quickly replaced by other designs. In today’s fast fashion, many brands are catching up and pushing similar looks, all in relation to who was first to market.

For example, when Apple released its brand new product, the iPhone 4, it conquered the world with its design. It looked stylish at the time, but 10 years later, the world’s cell phones are designed to resemble the iPhone. Do you still think it’s fashionable to look at it now?

Also, the changing external environment will affect the consumer’s view of “fashion”, thus causing “fashion” to lose its luster.

In the past few years, self-media platforms such as Xiaohongshu and ShakeYin have become the main channels for spreading fashion trends. Through these media, fashion is accessible to consumers all over China, making it very accessible.

The fashion cycle is short; fashion is a social phenomenon for a period of time, after which it ceases to be popular. So the most important thing for brands is to try to maintain their positioning in a constantly changing environment.

In conclusion, fashion as a social-psychological phenomenon is closely related to the economic and cultural conditions of society and the level of individual cognition. It reflects the individual’s understanding of social values, aesthetics and spirituality.

However, we have to look at this issue in a comprehensive way.

“Fashion” is not a tiger, it is not that scary. Clothing brands can still make their products fashionable through unique design.

So, how to make fashion?

To make fashion, we should first understand the definition of fashion. According to sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, fashion means “the latest and the difference”. The word “fashion” stands for the latest, and “fashion” stands for difference.

First of all, it is new.

The “new” is an instinctive human need. It is because of the “newness” that fashion has a strong timeliness, expanding and spreading very fast, and disappearing very fast.

Although “new” is short-lived, it can be cyclical. What is fashionable today may become obsolete after a while, and what is obsolete today may be seen as new again after a while.

“Li Ning” was once a brand in the 1990s, after the “fashion” packaging, and now hot.

Then difference. The power of fashion is “differentiation”.

Yu Yan, founder of Gorgeous, speaking at the InnoBrand 2018 final. She went on to say: In the global fashion industry, almost all of the strong brands that we are familiar with are 100 years old: Louis Vuitton 164 years, Chanel 108 years, Gucci 97 years, Hermes 181 years, Patek Philippe 167 years… Not only that, from the current market position of these brands, it is probable that they will live another 100 years.

The key to making these brands everlasting in the fashion industry is that they have a solid differentiation concept, Louis Vuitton’s premium luggage, Chanel’s premium perfume, Gucci’s premium belts, Hermes’ women’s bags, and Patek Philippe’s premium watches.

This is the right way to open fashion.

The power behind fashion is “the latest difference”. Although the brand can not retain the “new”, but can retain the “difference”.

What we can do is to extract the concept of differentiation from fashion brands, and then transform fashion into people’s habit and become a tradition. Only in this way can the company achieve a long-lasting business and the brand will not die out with time.

It can be said that “fashion” is the consumer goods of the spiritual level of consumers, and this is the real value of its existence. But the clothing brand to the narrow sense of “fashion” as a positioning concept, is not a good choice.

Pan Pan

Pan Pan

Hi, I'm Pan Pan, the founder of BoloTex , I've been running a factory in China that makes Print Fabric for 10 years now, and the purpose of this article is to share with you the knowledge related to Fabric from a Chinese supplier's perspective.

Start Your Business By  small MOQ  With Custom Print Fabric

FABRIC: 200+ 

MOQ:100 Meters Per Design

DLIVERY : 5-12 Days 

MATERIAL : Polyester, Cotton,Acetate,Silk ……

DESIGNS : Millions available

Try to import Hot Selling Fabric From China

Subscribe to get 《the Top fashion drawing guide》

This guide collects all kinds of fashion drawing patterns by 200 years of historical records, whatever by handwriting or computer graphics