The losing lexicon of the basification of fashion.


People have long been obsessed with their basics, as anyone who ever wore a pair of Levis will tell you. Gold standards like that are appealing precisely because they aren’t exciting. They’re just cool. And they were easy before we needed everything to be easy.

Somewhere along the way (circa 2010, maybe?) fashion brands started talking about every product as if it were the least complicated item you’d ever own. “Easy pieces” were the thing. Suddenly, you could be shopping for a ball gown online and every selection was made out to be infinitely wearable, like you could just throw it on any old time and look like you found it on the floor because you couldn't be bothered with such a thing as "trying." Alexa Chung was effortless. Behati Prinsloo was effortless. A wedding dress was effortless. Everything was effortless. Timeless. Seasonless. All the less-es. A race to nothingness.


The problem with this kind of talk is not so much that these concepts are now meaningless fashion eCommerce clichés. It’s that they imply extreme convenience, which is no longer a unique selling proposition. True convenience used to be rare and wonderful. An ATM withdrawal after the bank had closed. Pizza delivery when you didn’t have time to cook for the kids. And then, as humans do, we took it too far. If a little convenience felt good, a lot of convenience would be amazing. More convenience, please! A couple decades later, here we are, pawing at our phones in search of our future spouses during toilet time.

This is not even to be nostalgic so much as to recognize the reality of the culture we’re living in so we can better connect with what people want now. On the surface, it makes sense to play up your products’ simplicity, their non-fussiness. If you look around, everyone is really, really busy. No one has time for anything complicated. Right?

Not exactly. Sure, everyone’s wading through their own personal stress hell, but it’s often because they’re overwhelmed by all the conveniences they have to manage all the time. Convenience has become so common, it isn’t valuable anymore.

Excellence, however, is scarce. Assuming your products are as incredible as you can make them, they weren’t easy to design and produce. So why talk about them like they’re on the same value plane as your customer’s latest Postmates order? If you speak of your apparel and accessories as if they are nothing special, then we’ll believe you, and we won’t want them.

The opposite of easy.

The opposite of easy.

And if your brand is catering to people who don’t have time to think about what they’re wearing, you are losing, or you will be soon. Because you have a lot of competitors, online and off. They are larger and more visible. Their products are cheaper, and they are more convenient than you could ever hope to be. Your competitors are H&M, Zara, Zappos, Amazon, Target and that bulwark of effortlessness, J. Crew.

The way to win is by elevating away from the more basic brands. Stand out against a backdrop of way too much easy by describing your products as the wonderful things they are. Don’t dumb them down or try to make them seem less "difficult." Think of “a feature-rich jean, sewn slowly and carefully, to last through your every adventure” or “a fantasy of a dress in daring chartreuse, fluttering all over in lace and chiffon." Make each product sound like something that could change your customer's life, rather than something that would just not interfere with it. When the choice is super clear, that's the greatest convenience of all.

Or think of it this way: Who would you rather date? An amazing person or a convenient person? If you said the latter, keep eroticizing ease and see where that gets you. Most of us want the one who makes you work for it.

Do you value excellence over effortlessness?


Cristina Black