I really applaud Robert D. Austin's 2008 HBR article "High Margins and the Quest for Aesthetic Coherence." I appreciate that he goes against the cutting-quality tactics that, unfortunately, I've seen so many companies turn to in an age where fast fashion is the norm.
I completely agree with Austin that there is no substitute for quality and coherence. In my many years in this business, I've found that companies have a much better chance of making it long-term if they stay committed to well-thought-out and authentic design.
It's the companies that have integrity and stay true to their aesthetic that are ultimately more profitable. Those that cut quality and turn to knock-off designs just don't survive long-term.
Today, more than ever, brands need to understand the importance of well-crafted design and storytelling in the modern market. Whether it is an upscale wastebasket from Vipp or a perfectly tailored blazer from Tom Ford, companies must deliver quality products that reflect the brand's aesthetic. Design can never be compromised.
I've seen this become increasingly important as the digital world continues to transform the way we interact with the consumer. With technology's ability to circulate information at light speed, the traditional six-month cycle that spanned from runway coverage to retail availability has been completely obliterated. This means that consumers not only see products sooner, but also want them faster.
With this pressure to produce according to market demands, I've seen brands make the mistakes that Austin points to in his article: not doing enough research, cutting quality, and losing sight of the big picture.
As "Aesthetic Coherence" suggests, it is crucial to emphasize design and delivery, even in a fast-paced modern market. I've seen that beating out the competition is not just a matter of offering the lowest price. Companies must also understand that consumers want special and well-thought-out products wrapped in a holistic experience from the point of discovery to the point of purchase.
It is very possible to provide design-worthy products and be affordable. If companies can continue to hold on to their integrity and remain committed to design, everyone will be a winner in the end.
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