INTERVIEW with Nino Cerruti: "The consumer is both culprit and victim of the confusion on quality"
Just having celebrated his 82nd birthday, Nino Cerruti still holds a penetrating view of the market he saw prosper. Now head of the Lanificia Fratelli Cerruti mill, this fashion world figure was at the Première Vision trade show. It was an opportunity for FashionMag.com to talk to him about his thoughts on the changing notions of "fashion" and especially "luxury." He also discussed the growing role of high-tech fabrics and the influence of the major brands.
FashionMag: How do you read the changes the sector has experienced in recent years?
Nino Cerruti: I was in the apparel market until 2001. Now I focus on the textile market through customer feedback. Until 2007, the market was confronted with one-off problems. But the crisis of 2008 especially brought with it all the problems of a world undergoing profound change. Which changes the structure of consumer goods, of the type of demand. It became more than a crisis. It is quite simply a phase of transition.
FM: How did you view the impact on the textile and apparel sectors?
NC: Luxury products enjoyed a good market due to all the attention from developing countries. This market suffered less because one of its underlying trends was more active consumption of what it sells. The textile market has benefited a little from this, but the formal market has suffered from the big industry established in China, which responds to a different consumer. Today, fashion is no longer about quality but appearance. Product quality is secondary.
FM: You believe that the concept of luxury is no longer the same?
NC: Luxury today actually has a very different definition. In the past, it meant service, a certain type of exclusivity. The marketing of it was less glamorous as it had to respond to a well-defined style. Today, "luxury" primarily refers to something that is expensive. The term is now justified at a visual level, and the quality of materials is possibly only next in line.
FM: You mean that some brands no longer have anything "luxury" except the name?
NC: If you take an expensive product such as Hermès, there is real quality in the work being produced. But take a company like Boss, they could not care less. They just want to achieve a high-profile image that makes a strong enough statement. Still, both companies have the same ambition to be considered "luxury." Brands have become very adept at defending this image, an image often more descriptive than the products themselves actually are. But consumers will ultimately always be aware of real quality and abandon these brands. Initially, however, consumers will always have difficulty in assessing the quality of fabrics.
FM: Do you think it would be better to inform these buyers through signals such labels or tags?
NC: Consider a label that says "ramie." Well, I'm sure 90% of the people here (he points to the Première Vision trade show floor, ed.), who are industry professionals, they do not know what that means. Take another example: in the 1970s, Made in Japan was synonymous with poor quality. Today the opposite is true, and now Chinese products have this image. In the end, labeling adds to the general confusion. The consumer is both culprit and victim of the confusion on quality.
FM: How do you view the increasing influence of high-tech materials?
NC: This increase in influence may be a necessity. If the world population continues to grow, we will never have enough sheep to clothe everyone. But in terms of clothing, I am convinced that people will continue to prefer natural products. The problem is that the current system is undergoing heavy pressure at each stage of the production chain. And there is all this focus on ecology. Many people are involved in this fight, but ultimately very little of it actually plays a role in their daily lives. Large corporations have simply seized the topic as propaganda.
FM: Having been present at the the birth of the great leading brands, what do you think of their impact on the market?
NC: Before people went to the tailor, a craftsman who looked to secure customer loyalty through quality. Today, clothing chains have an incredible power, with huge numbers of stores and a big influence on consumers. There are still some people who desire quality, who migrate toward the niches. But most of them chase after a fashion "look." Nobody could have imagined that the market would evolve like that. Nowadays, there is fashion in some middle-of-nowhere backcountry. But badgering people, making fashion into a consumption phenomenon, means that nothing else remains than the concept of aesthetics. This has become the starting point for everything.
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