As London Fashion Week descends upon us, we started thinking about how similar the automotive and fashion industries really are when it comes to trends and market segments. Just as fashion trends filter down from the haute couture runway shows to the high-street stores, car technologies flow from luxury car markets down to the mass-production vehicles.
We can compare bespoke cars to the haute couture markets where clothes are ‘luxurious, elaborately detailed and finished one-off pieces with sometimes extravagant designs’1. Just as custom car designs bring a client’s dream to life and cater to the wealthy so does haute couture; it’s all designed with the driver’s/wearer’s needs and desires in mind.
Ready-to-wear labels such as Ralph Lauren, Gucci and Burberry are akin to Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Mclaren of the automotive world. These are the products that are available in low volume, because they are refined and well-finished representing luxury and exclusivity. Here we will find the most advanced technologies as vehicle manufacturers aim to deliver supreme driving experiences to customers.
We can split our mass-market brands into high-end and high-street. These brands provide larger quantities of a product in a range of standards or sizing options – these are the items your average consumer would be purchasing. Our high-end products are brands like BMW and Mercedes or LK Bennett and Whistles – providing good quality, desirable products at more affordable price than the ready-to-wear brands. High-street brands provide an economical alternative and are more stripped back versions of the above; Topshop, River Island, Ford and Peugeot. Technology filters down from upper tiers to the ‘high-street’, where technology is either simplified or available much later when the pricing has reduced and the technology is no longer so exclusive.
Trends trickle down from haute couture and ready-to-wear brands to mass-market companies, as they try to emulate designs and feels from the luxury catwalk shows, bringing options that cater to the general markets at an affordable price. In the automotive world it is bespoke car creators and luxury vehicle manufacturers that lead the way, developing and providing the high-end technologies and designs that the other brands try to recreate at affordable prices for their target audiences. If we want to predict what will appear in our mass-market vehicles in a few years and high-street stores in a few months, we need to look to our top tier suppliers, designer labels and luxury buyers to see what is popular, and look for the ways in which other brands may adapt this.
1Toby Meadows, How to set up and run a fashion label, 2009, 1st edition