Never before have we had so many ways to express ourselves. The opportunity to personalise, to say something about yourself, and to stand out from the crowd is extensive.
Technology has of course driven our ability to make a personal statement. Whether that is through manufacturing – custom-fitting our need for individualism, or on social media to broadcast our self-centeredness. However there seems to be something of a backlash recently. Millennials, fed up with over-styled fashion sensibilities, are going back to basics – wearing unpretentious, simple clothing from brands such as Birkenstock and Gap. So much so that the fashion buzzword of the year is ‘normcore’. The New York-based trend forecasting group K-Hole coined it, New York magazine made it a household term, and now Gap is using it to sell its clothes.
Normcore moves away from a coolness that relies on difference to a post-authenticity coolness that opts in to sameness. It seems that some fashion retailers have ignored normcore at their peril. This summer Abercrombie & Fitch, after reporting its 10th straight decline in quarterly same-store sales, said it would reduce logo-focused apparel “to practically nothing” by Spring 2015 as it tries to remake its image. It is taking a similar tack with sister brand Hollister, as it seeks to compete with the likes of H&M who are selling logo-less ranges at a fraction of the cost of Abercrombie & Fitch.
It appears, at least for now, to be becoming a global phenomenon spreading from West to East, however not necessarily for the same reasons as Europe and the US. In China for example, the government’s austerity drive continues and many wealthy consumers are striving to avoid the label of baofahu, or nouveau riche.
Perhaps the world of fashion could learn a thing or two from the branding guys in food and drink, as dramatised so well at the No Noise event at Selfridges. In the world of FMCG brand is so much more than the logo. In fact, the very best can even go as so far as to remove their logos and you still recognise whom they are, and more to the point, what they stand for.
Herein though lies the twist in the tail. Normcore as a fashion trend may have less to do with not wishing to stand out and more to do with having empathy with your audience. A clear purpose that emotionally connects with people, rather than relying on a shallow point of view and a big logo, can deliver truly effective brand results.