Phase One: Identifying Niche Market

June 2, 2009

Kwantlen’s fashion design program requires as the focus of the 4th year, the research, design, and production of a line based on a niche market. The 2009 fashion show featured markets such as commuting businessmen, apparel for dog walkers, and business wear for short, Asian men. Traditionally, I have seen niche markets more commonly identified through demographics, statistics that can easily be quantified. However, I have always been more fascinated with psychographics as a starting point that affects and is affected by the likely demographics of a population.

In preparing for September, where we will start researching and presenting our chosen niche markets, I have already started to identify and narrow down what niche market I want to work with, which would fulfill the following criteria:

A) Align with my future career goals

B) Accurately represent what sector of the industry I want to work within

C) Challenge my current skillset

D) Have runway impact

E) Have real world relevancy

I have thrown out several ideas over the past few months, but there is a particular market that is close to me, and that seems to have taken a life of its own since I started noticing it. This new market can best be defined as the creative class. If you know about social trends, then you probably know about the creative class. A Whole New Mind is a book that urges people to move forward into the conceptual age. This movement is one that fascinates and resonates with me.

Not only that, but there is an extremely viable niche market here in terms of apparel needs that are not being met. Why? Traditionally, it is only people within extremely creative industries that can wear fashion-forward clothing – that typically means people who work within the fashion industry. Over and over again, I am noticing the differences between how the average person dresses and how fashion people dress. And then I thought, what is the point of making great clothes if only the people who work within your same industry can wear these clothes (otherwise, they must be a socialite). The rise of the creative class has given way to a great new sector of the market – people who have creative tendencies and appreciate well-made unique pieces, but who have the desire for functionality and practicality (something most fashion people overlook).

This group of people (designers, artists, writers, scientists, technologists, engineers) are fascinated with possibility and novelty, but need clothes that work for their everyday lives. They are mindful of details that add extra value to garment because their lives are all about appreciating innovation. Creative people make connections before the rest of us can – they can easily see how art melds into science, how design can be holistic. This market is underserved, where the rest of the consumer world is primarily overserved. We have fashion for fashionistas, and career clothes for people who work in corporate environments, yet we do not have anything that blends both and does it seamlessly. I can think of some RTW collections that would appeal to this market, however, I am looking to create a company that serves this market completely, rather than as an afterthought or by accident.

I always think of scientists who dress poorly or blandly (as that is pretty much the stereotype, and one that rings mostly true, I think), and the reason why probably has something to do with the fact that they are too busy to think about how to dress, they think fashion is superficial and dare not waste time thinking about it, and/or their creative minds look beyond simply aesthetics and therefore, they find it hard to fall in love with clothes, which, for the most part, are uninspiring. But, they have the capacity to appreciate and understand innovation, and the way to make it accessible is by making it functional and wearable, and thinking holistically about design.

This is a very rough description of the market I am identifying as my chosen niche market. Lots more research will be done over the next few months so that I know this market inside out. But I have my start, and here it is!

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