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Retail trends mirror socio-economic status

Hermes logomacy's logo Walmart logoSears logo

Today’s retail headlines should give everyone pause.

Sears. Macy’s. JC Penney. These mid-range retailers are closing hundreds stores across the U.S.

Hermes. Walmart. The high and low extremes of retail are booming.

Anyone else see the retail landscape mirror the disappearing middle class? High end stores are thriving as the one percent continue to support luxury brands. Discounters, such as Walmart, are also thriving as struggling families seek out bargains. Mid-range stores are shrinking, right along with the middle class.

Surely someone smarter than me has put 2 and 2 together. Retail is reflecting back the economic circumstances in which we find ourselves. The disappearing middle class is taking with it the mid-range stores they used to frequent.

This is less evident in Canada, although we are at the mercy of U.S. chains with Canadian operations. Sears is particularly at risk, both in Canada and U.S. This former stalwart of affordable merchandise, raised with a prairie sensibility offering a fair product for a fair price, is struggling against extreme polar opposites: deep discounting or lux labels. There’s no middle ground anymore – for people or for fashion.

It seems shoppers are prepared to pay $39.99 for a faux leather, no-name handbag, or $30,000 for an Hermes Birkin. What does this mean for society? Is it sustainable?

Moreover, middle class, where will you shop in this emerging retail landscape?

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Designer Lennard Taylor impresses

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Designer-artist Lennard Taylor works his magic for the PARK Show crowd

On March 4th, I attended the PARK Fashion Show in Edmonton. Featured were seven designers – most from Edmonton – all Canadian, showing innovative and forward looking design. A show favourite was Lennard Taylor, a Winnipeg designer and artist who combines his extraordinary talents to make one-of-a-kind pieces.

At the start of his show, he brought out a drop cloth, and a model, wearing Taylor’s signature “Brenda” swing shirt, stood while Taylor created a hand-painted design for the crowd.

While Taylor painted, models wearing the other pieces in his line walked the runway. At the end of his collection, he finished his hand-painted design and the model strutted to thundering applause.

It was a combination of fashion show and art installation.

And it was brilliant.

I spoke to Taylor after the show and he related how he brings an artist’s eye to his clothing line. He also believes strongly in quality and durability. For his hand-painted pieces, which can fade with washes over time,he says customers can send the pieces back to him and he’ll touch them up.

The line is beautifully made and finished. Quality fabrics, tailoring and details mean the customer  can enjoy her purchases for years.

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The finished piece on the runway

See the collection www.lennardtaylor.com