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Noise drowns out product’s message

The fashion industry is good at making a noise. Catwalk shows get people excited, new stores or ad campaigns get people excited, and sales get people excited. It’s an exciting business.

There is no greater example of this than at Abercrombie & Fitch in central London. I have never seen the shop anything less than mobbed, despite the offbeat location and lack of signage. If you haven’t been, stop what you’re doing and go right now. Take the magazine with you and read it on the journey. Seriously, this store will change your life. Imagine if a branch of Gap opened in Spearmint Rhino. That’s an exaggeration. A&F is kind of wholesome, but the store is a highly sexualised environment.

The whole package is built around the store: a daytime nightclub teeming with babes and beefcakes. It is a marvel of advertising, word-of-mouth and PR. And it is paying off. Kraftwerk meets Girls Aloud – vorsprung durch sexy.

However, the clothes themselves take a backseat, and can seem little more than souvenirs. This is fine when you are selling generic chinos and polo shirts, but is not so admirable when the merchandise and prices get more sophisticated.

Here, stores need a model that celebrates the items on sale. Product explanations are common in fashion magazines and ecommerce sites.

In Waterstones, £6.99 books get their own write ups. In supermarkets, the “sell” is written on the packets. But in fashion shops, besides the odd swing tag, there is no information. Would it be too much to enter a fashion shop and actually learn something about the design, or fabric or construction? Or is there a fear that a little explanation might break the spell?

Oliver Horton is a fashion writer and trends commentator

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