One of the main reasons a store like Heffernan & Haire exists is to make product available that would otherwise be difficult for our Australian customer to purchase. The majority of our selection is made up of labels that are either exclusive to us or are shared with very few other retailers within the same market both nationally and internationally.
There are a couple of challenges that come with this exclusivity, however one of the most prevalent we experience is working in opposing seasons to that of our suppliers. While designers from Europe, Japan and America are preparing to release Fall/Winter collections to their local markets (who are currently coming off record breaking hot summers and are now feeling the sweet relief of a chill in the air) here in the southern half of the planet we are happily peeling off layers and welcoming the heat. The last thing we’re thinking about is purchasing a wool sweater that will inevitably sit in the closet for the next 6+ months. After a season (that felt like an eternity) of multiple layers transforming us into the human equivalent of marshmallows, the thought of even trying on anything thicker than a single ply of tissue paper triggers mental and physical anxiety - in me at least.
It is with this same anxiety that we in store apprehensively pull winter collections out of freshly delivered boxes every September/October, alongside the conflicting emotion of undeniable excitement at how lucky we are to have access to the beautiful clothing we do.
Further complications arise with the effect that climate change has had on retail and the fashion industry and can be observed through two facets; firstly in the overwhelming affect the industry has had on the environment, and the subsequent measures that have and will continue to be put in place to halt and hopefully reverse the damage it has caused thus far. Secondly the effect that climate change has had on consumers with, for example, heavier winter-based pieces losing their relevance in the evident rising temperatures, and the concept of “buying smarter to buy less” contributing, albeit positively, to the decrease of sales in retail on an global scale over the past few years.
These are predicaments we face during every buy, and while the logical solutions we employ genuinely work and we are not generally disappointed with our decisions, the system itself is flawed and contributes to wider debates surrounding retail as both a consumer and supplier.
One of the main ways we navigate this dilemma is to choose pieces that homogeneously serve both cold and warmer temperatures, however this often means foregoing key pieces for ones that are more relevant to the season they will be sold in.
Occasionally we will hold back items to be put into store at a time that seems more appropriate. However, the disadvantage of this is in the delay of presenting specific, unique designs months after the designer themselves have released it, an occurrence made even more apparent through the immediate nature of social media and the internet.
While this all can be restrictive and problematic, it encourages us to be more creative and devise unique styling solutions and combinations of garments to adapt. Through social media shoots and visual merchandising we are able to present an alternative means of layering shapes, textures and weights, to utilise and make relevant what is available to us.
On a more positive note majority of the brands we do stock only design two collections a year as opposed to the increasingly unnecessary fifty-two micro-collections many brands produce annually. Where some have separated seasons into individual Pre-Fall, Fall, Winter, Resort collections, most of our suppliers have chosen instead to condense designs into simply Fall/Winter or Spring/Summer. This makes for a more analogous selection to choose from, and therefore the ability to buy in a manner that aligns more seamlessly with our adverse weather.
The question then arises of how brands can better support their international customers and adapt to the ambiguity of the climate in the places their clothing is sold?
In an ideal world the breadth of units within a single collection would expand to include more transeasonal pieces to choose from. Collections would adapt to consider an expanded customer base, and not be so seasonally restrictive and gender determined (a concept of which I will explore further in the near future).
Furthermore, the current outdated “old season/new season” infrastructure of the fashion industry requires revision in order to shift consumer mentality. The model of designing trend-based clothing that holds temporary relevance for a specific period of time only to be discounted for quick sale once its loses its appeal, is an archaic motivation through which most fashion companies still operate. Once this immediate and transitory mindset of designing, producing and buying becomes more considered and enduring, it will become easier for both brands and their stockists to exist harmoniously without constraints such as seasonality of garments.
In the meantime, we will continue to work with brands and seek out clothing with consideration and care, maintaining our integrity with the intention of providing well-made garments and encouraging our customers to, in the words of Vivienne Westwood, “buy less, choose well, make it last”.
Some interesting articles to read further on this topic:
Fashion, Climate Week and Science-Based Targets by Kristian Hardiman
How To Buy Less, Choose Well and Make it Last by Madeleine Hill
The Ultimate Guide To Making Your Clothes Last Longer by Alysha Byrne
Can Fashion’s Latest Sustainability Drive Made a Difference
Sustainable Fashion Brands Explain That Yes, They Can Be Profitable by Julia Brucculieri
Beyond Sustainable: The Growing Demand for Ethical Fashion by Judith Russell
How The Fashion Industry Is Paving The Way For A Sustainable Future by Clare Press
How Will Seasonality Affect Product Lifecycle For The Fashion Industry
Fashion: How the Global Market Is Changing Seasonal Collections by Lauren Cochrane
Is Climate Change Killing The Seasonality Of Fashion Apparel Retail by Arthur Zaczkiewicz