2011 November 25

In the past year, Indian shoppers have got into buying clothing online in a big way. The division by gender is around 70% male to 30% female, with retailers focusing on social media to reach out to women who are a growth market for all forms of retail in India. Global clothing companies are rushing to get into this market, especially to bring their retail expertise to many customers who live in small towns, villages and the hamlets or rural India.

Casual apparel has the second highest seller online in India: ahead of books and DVDs. India’s ‘internet population’ has moved into e-commerce with ease: the nation has around 10 million online shoppers, a market that is growing at 40-45%, compared to the global rate of around 8-10% growth. eBay India retails a garment every seven minutes – many of which are sports shoes and clothing with Adidas and Reebok featuring highly in the popularity stakes.

Children’s wear is also a rapidly growing market with Indian mums investing in clothes and shoes, along with feeding bottles, buggies and toys. Menswear is growing too:one company that sells work shirts at under 900 rupees each has sold 2,500 shirts since it launched in August and is expecting to sell 5,000 collared shirts a month in 2012.

Personalised workout clothing is a big seller, with monogrammed hoodies and polo-shirts being a regular purchase by individuals and as presents or to commemorate work events such as promotions or anniversaries, which are popular celebrations in Indian culture.

2011 November 4

This is the time of year when parents start asking who is going to visit whom for Christmas. It’s a real snake pit: do you go to your own parents or instead stay with your boyfriend/girlfriend’s family? If you’re a senior, do you ask the kids to visit again, or admit that you’d rather stay with a friend/take a cruise/sit at home in your underwear and watch TV?

In any case, one feature of the holidays will be photos – the obligatory family picture that gets filed in the family album. What do you wear for the photo – and if you have little children, what should they wear?

1.    Begin by deciding on the basic theme of the photo – when it will be taken and does that mean it will be casual or dressy? If it’s over the dining table, take the photo at the beginning of the meal not the end, when gravy splashes and family bickering may have spoilt the tablecloth and the mood.
2.    Browse online to pick some colour themes: black and white look a bit like a funeral but festive red and green don’t suit everyone. If you can suggest a basic colour scheme to everybody who will be in the photo, it’s a nicer way of reminding them to dress up than just asking them to look smart! If your family are totally non-cooperative, ordering individually monogrammed Christmas polo shirts or hoodies for everyone can be one way to get them to look reasonable in the photo album!
3.    Remember that whether shopping or appearing in photos, children have short attention spans so get everything ready in advance, and rather than dragging them round the shops, put together some outfits online and then let them choose from the items you’ve already pre-selected: it’s a two minute job and nobody gets stressed.
4.    Get everybody to try on their clothes for the photo well in advance of the day, so that tears or stains, grubby collars or outgrown items can all be dealt with before they become a last-minute crisis.

2011 September 8

It’s always worrying for parents when a child dislikes their new school, or dreads the beginning of another school year. It can seem inexplicable: the child may enjoy the subjects they are studying, and have friends they are looking forward to seeing again, but even so, they may feel ‘down’, worried and even become tearful and frightened at the thought of school.

There are several ways to help a nervous or unhappy child get over the first days of the new term:

Memory banks for both sexes – instead of forcing your child to think forward, encourage them to think backwards: creating a scrapbook about the summer which records their best memories of the school break can be a good way of getting them into the groove of school again. The best way to use a scrapbook is to fill it from the front to the back with memories and from the back to the front with plans, so that a child can prepare pages for school trips, for birthday parties in the months ahead and for half-term ideas, all of which balance out the fun of school and the fun of holidays.

Self esteem for girls – sometimes it’s low self-esteem that triggers a bout of fear so taking a daughter for a haircut, or helping her revamp her wardrobe can be enough to remove the feeling of inadequacy. Don’t suggest it as an answer though, just plan a family trip to the hairdressers or suggest that you go through her school clothing with her while you talk over the problem … that way you can suggest a couple of items that would add to her clothing choices. For older girls, try offering a budget and letting them have a friend round to shop online together – this allows them to exercise the power of choice and to work out how to get the most for their money, both attributes that boost self-esteem.

Self-esteem for boys – often boys struggle with their feelings, so getting them involved in an activity where they can express their emotions, such as drama, can be the simplest way to release fears and tensions around school. Sports, unsurprisingly, are also a great safety valve, but rather than football or after-school activities, enrol him in a mixed age sport like a martial art. A class where they will be able to see and hear older people than themselves coping with challenges, making fools of themselves and getting over it, and winning and losing in public gives them the chance to learn the skills they need to feel secure at school. A martial art also teaches boys how to care for their appearance and clothing and to be polite in public: key features of a successful school career.

2011 August 15

In a few weeks everybody will be heading back to school: for some it will be the first school day of their lives, for others it’s a familiar routine that still causes stress and hardship, but for all there are simple tips to help prevent the September blues.

Save money

•    Look out for Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF) offers on everything from school stationery through to shoes. Even if you can’t use the supplies in your own family, you can save money by buying with another parent or student and splitting the cost. Uniform clothing can be a real cost, but shopping around delivers real savings. You’d be surprised what you can find: quite a few shoe shops are even offering BOGOF deals on trainers in August so planning ahead can save you quite a bit.
•    Look at the extra-curricular activities you want to do, or your child is interested in, and work out what supplies are needed. Find out if you can buy in bulk for things like art activities, when an order for aprons, paper, paints and so on could be placed on behalf of half a dozen students, leading to free delivery and major discounts on cost.
•    Sort through your wardrobe or the child’s wardrobe and pick out what can be used again; put what is too small through the free small ads in your local paper to try and make a bit of cash, and anything worn out can be taken to a charity shop. This makes room for new clothing and might even raise a little cash to put towards it.

Save time

•    Get hold of the school calendar (often to be found on the school website) and note down all significant dates: first day of term, inset days, parent/teacher days etc. Add them to a family calendar so that you all know when you need to be together for certain events and also when you need to be around to cover days off school. Work out your back-up plan for illness (yours, the teacher’s, that of a child in your care).
•    Plan your morning and afternoon school runs. It can be good to organise a library stop one day a week so the student can use the reference section/internet/borrow books – doing it the same day every week can mean it becomes a habit that means a bit of extra homework/project work gets done without needing to nag or self-motivate.
•    Make a plan for storage: some material that comes home from school needs to be kept as coursework that will be marked at the end of the year; some needs to be kept for sentimental reasons (like those first big paintings that every parent treasures); and some probably has to be quietly jettisoned so that it doesn’t clutter up the house. Having a storage box, a scrap book and other necessary filing organised can mean you don’t have to worry about where the right stuff is months down the line.

Simple plans and money-saving ideas can make returning to school simpler, cheaper and much more fun!

2011 June 1

In a week when a Glaswegian school has asked parents to buy baggy school clothes to ‘deter paedophiles’ the simple act of purchasing clobber for kids has become a difficult subject to discuss and shopping trips have become more of a battleground than ever.

The Scottish secondary school in question sent a letter to parents which contained the claim that ‘sex offenders might take pictures of schoolboys in tight trousers.’ Local police say there is no evidence of any incidents in the area that could be related to clothing or even to children. Short skirts have also been ruled out by the school and there’s a suggestion that if parents don’t stick to the suggested dress code, their children could be forced to miss out on school trips.

Parents have branded the letter ‘paranoid’ and a spokesman for the Parent Teacher Council said, ‘Many parents – and indeed young people themselves – are keen to have a dress code in school which requires everyone in the school community to dress in a way which is appropriate for a working environment.’

So what is a good dress code for schools? Sensible clothing such as polo-shirts, in a range of sizes, colours that can be washed and worn easily by active young people, and a sensitivity to different cultural preferences and to the needs of disabled children are all important. What nobody has suggested, until now, is that children should dress to avoid the attention of predatory individuals.

2011 April 27

Have you ever had that experience where you see a fantastic item in a shop window and yet when you try it on, it just doesn’t look good on you? Most of us have been through that disappointment and it’s one of the things that can make shopping online quite stressful – bad enough to feel the let down when you try something on in the shop, but so much worse to feel it when you’ve ordered something and had it delivered and then have to send it back.

The answer is to put in a bit of research first. There are so many different ways of sizing clothes (even the New York Times can’t work it out) that it’s good try on some of the clothes from major brands to see how they fit you – that helps you choose the right size when you shop online.

Then look for an online retailer who’s been around for a while – there are loads of fly-by-night scamsters, often selling fake clothing, who vanish before any disgruntled customer can get to them to ask for a refund, so companies who have been selling online for several years have normally ironed out their customer service and are able to offer excellent advice: look out for numbers for advisers you can call to talk through your decisions – you may not need to use them but the fact that they exist is a positive sign. Google the company and see what others have said about them – that helps you work out which are the genuine long-term retailers who care about customers and selling really good clothing online.

Check delivery systems carefully, many small sites deliver only within their own national boundaries – and look at the delivery costs because often you can make a substantial saving if you shop with a friend and get a bulk discount or reach the ‘free delivery’ level.

2011 March 25

For the past decade, breathable fabrics have been key to developing new forms of clothing for sport and leisure, and this process has been extended by the work of the internationally famous Hohenstein Institute in Bönnigheim. Now they have a way of measuring the way a body interacts with clothing in a process called body mapping with comfort zones which will allow manufacturers to use different textiles for different parts of a garment, so that sportswear becomes more comfortable, baby wear (for example) becomes more absorbent and casual wear becomes less likely to crease or crumple in significant areas.

This could mean a polo shirt with a self starching collar, wicking under the arms to take up any sweat, and a crease resistant midriff area so that concertina lines don’t appear when somebody stands up after several hours at their desk.

It could also mean women’s T-shirts with built in bras that are designed to support different cup sizes and underarm areas that are super-strong in T-shirts worn for sport or super stain resistant in clothing designed for clubbing: no more yellow stains showing up under nightclub lights!

2011 January 10

If you got a cotton polo for Christmas, you might be one of the lucky ones. In India, suppliers of T-shirts and polos are struggling to meet the rising cost of their industry – cotton has increased in price by up to 60% drivi ng up production costs.

This means that cotton clothing is becoming more expensive and premium cotton is worth taking care of.

Wash your cotton or poly-cotton polo shirts in a cold water wash (either by hand or in the machine) and then use a cold rinse cycle (or the delicate setting if your rinse programme has one). Above all, don’t tumble-dry then, as this will cause them both to shrink and warp and can cause that horrible curling collar syndrome that can ruin an otherwise perfect shirt. Dry them on the washing line instead to keep them looking good for as long as possible.

2010 December 10

If you’ve ever tried to make a Christmas spending budget and stick to it, you’ll know how tough it can be. Here are some tips to help:

Have budgeting goals

One reason we don’t stick to a budget is that there’s no incentive. Saving money is not enough of a reason to keep to our agreed limits. Try to envisage what the money you save will be spent on – do you want a new netbook or the down-payment for a car? If so, keeping the big goal in mind can help you stick to your budget of only spending a certain amount on party clothing over the Christmas season, for example

Don’t apply across the board cuts

Many novice budgeters think that you have to ‘cut all expenses’ but that’s not the case. There are places to cut expenditure: overdrafts, eating out, entertainment, then the  places that you shouldn’t skimp: good shoes, well-fitting clothes, heating etc and finally the places you can make judgements for yourself: posh food or designer clothes? 4 star hotel or budget one?

Be accountable

One reason budgets fail is that you don’t keep track of them. You can do this either with envelopes containing the money you can spend in each category each month. Once an envelope is empty, no more spending in that category until next month. Or by using a simple spreadsheet that connects to your bank account to keep track of what you’re doing.

Have fun

Think about ways you can enjoy your expenditure. Go shopping with friends – even online shopping can be done with friends: order in a pizza and get together to browse an online retailer, placing a bulk order so that you save money on delivery costs by buying in bulk together!

2010 October 15

At this month’s International Apparel Federation World Convention in Hong Kong a session on the future of Fast Fashion looked at how designing, creating, selling and wearing clothing has changed as a result of fast fashion: and may be about to change again.

Stores like Zara offer new lines in their shops twice a week, ‘refreshing’ the shop so that customers always find something new in the store, encouraging them to come back more often and buy more often because each fashion item is only available for a limited time.  This ‘attention deficit’ shopping approach works best for items that are bright or even brash, as timeless garments such as plain black T-shirts or classic white shirts are difficult to re-style in this way.

But the fast fashion love affair may be ending. Cotton prices have doubled in 2010 and that’s unlikely to drop. Along with the increased cost of raw materials there’s the rising cost of labour in the countries where cheap fashion is produced such as China and Bangladesh. There’s a belief that designers are being forced out of the process because they don’t have time to be truly creative any more: fast fashion needs them to play with details rather than working from first principles to create new designs that are innovative.
And in China, the fast fashion revolution is being overturned by the massive demand there for quality-conscious upmarket brands that marry classic clothing with quirky details such as reversible sweatshirts.