There’s nothing like criticism to focus the mind, is there?
Describe the woman who is interested in the +Black concept. How many times have I been asked that … and failed to provide a succinct answer? Too many times for my own comfort so, let me try to be clear. The +Black demographic includes:
Grown-up women, aged over 40, with changing lifestyles – shifting from full-time work to freelancing or retirement; from being in good health to poorer health; undergoing menopausal/illness body changes; transitioning between work, home and caring responsibilities – who want to be comfortably and individually stylish in the transition and have the means to support themselves in achieving this objective.
What do they want? Individual style, not fashion; quality, not quantity; and, ease of fit and fabric to accommodate their lifestyle changes. Everything with black as an option – even the women who love colour reach for black when they are uncomfortable or unsure of themselves or their situation. To feel good – about themselves, their loved ones, the environment, the planet – these are women who care, in every sense of that word.
Why would they not shop in mainstream retail outlets? They do, finding it less than satisfying because they are:
- uncomfortable and unused to the physical changes they are dealing with so unsure what will work for them.
- not as young, attractive, slim (or wanting to be) as they once were and painfully aware of it.
- treated as an unattractive adjunct to the preferred (fit, slim, healthy) mainstream customer.
- not really interested in the vagaries of extreme fashion at either the high or low end.
- more desirous of quality, flattering design, enduring style and individuality than the mainstream product offer generally provides.
- happy to shop online, even preferring to; though even online, the mainstream experience is not a pleasure – just so functional and aimed at a younger or less design orientated clientele.
- somewhat turned off by the perceived aggressive and selfish ethos of corporate businesses in general.
Essentially the +Black demographic is assumed, by mainstream retailers, to be one of:
- Women who are ageing, maybe in poor health, disinterested in fashion and style, with a relatively low clothing budget – perceived to be a staid market, interested in function and price over style and happy to be catered for as a toned down appendage to the fashionably stylish youth market; their product of choice to be found in, for example, M&S or John Lewis, N Brown outlets and Isme amongst others.
- Mature and plus size women who continue to be fashion aware, demanding the same, seasonally changing, fashion product, as for the younger market but in more forgiving sizes and shapes. Mainstream examples include Evans, Curvissima and SimplyBe and, also, higher end niche outlets, such as 1647, Wall, Box2, Walkers of Pottergate.
- Women buying from adaptive clothing companies selling to the ‘disabled’ or those with ‘impairments’. The perception of the disability market in the United Kingdom (and abroad) is so negative and so low that even those with impairments are desperate to buy elsewhere. Those who sell in this market reference little thought to style and quality aesthetics; the product offer is generally presented and marketed with little positivity; the content is poorly presented. It is currently a small niche product offer for a very small population of people.
Clearly, there is some truth in these stereotypes but there does seem to be an un-catered for consumer – the +Black demographic – of grown-up women who, as part of an ageing consumer generation, want a stylish wardrobe that recognises their specific, and changing, design needs, their proclivity for everything in black and their lingering desire for a feel-good factor in their shopping practices.
The +Black concept is all about filling this ‘aspiration’ gap between existing product supply and the unsatisfied demand of its’ target demographic: the sizeable and growing market of women who, for age, size and health reasons, do not find the products they desire in the current market and who do have the financial resource to sustain their currently unmet demand.
OK, I think that answers the who? Now, I have to think about how to reach out and find these women …if they do actually exist … Hello, anybody out there?