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  • Suzy Wakefield

Context Matters


Especially in the world of Fashion. Context of where your brand is sitting in the world, versus in a store, versus on your site, and most importantly in your target consumer’s life. 

We talk a lot now about the importance of versatility. Even this is in context. For me, versatility means several things. First of all, I love nothing more than to have a garment that can be worn at least two to three ways, even if I have made them up myself. Yes, this might very well be the designer in me that I can’t turn off. 

It also means having items in malleable and forgiving fabrics that I can roll up and stuff in my bag. I got this habit honestly from one of my most influential mentors, Anne Lewin, who was the first and only person I ever saw shove a Chanel jacket into her handbag in the middle of the street on many occasions. And yes it always came back out looking none the worse for wear. Versatility to others might mean having one item that goes with all else or reverses color. Who knows? Well, you need to because part of your mission is to understand what your target consumer wants to wear and how she wants to wear it.

Another candidate ripe for context is Color. Recently I read a story in Your Brain on Art (a must-read tome on the intersection of art and science) about mourning practices in India.  There, white is the color of mourning because it represents the absence of color and in its intention, the absence of life itself. Here in the Western world, it is black that is the color representation of grief. Opposites mean the same thing. It’s a perfect example of the importance of understanding the environment around your target audience when you are creating a color palette for them.

Less drastically, one can say this about colors within a collection. On their own, they take a different bent than when paired with complimentary shades or a staple like black. We’ve all seen it. The same pink that is demure in one site is outrageous in another. 

Who is looking at it? 

What are they looking for? 

How will they perceive themselves in it? 

Even the context of the skin color will be on matter. As I work with different clients, I am always learning to filter through their lens. What might seem to me to be a relatively tame fashion color might become a huge leap for a brand. And it makes total sense.

The same examples could be said for fit and proportion. A 10” leg opening might seem wide enough on a pajama pant that will be paired with a day-in and day-out set to sleep in. Convexly, to make a drastic fashion statement one might go 13” in some situations. The best way to understand context is to immerse into the persona.

Drinking the Kool-aid is no joke when you are creating a brand. You need to understand and embrace everything about your target audience to be able to understand;

Will they wear this? 

Will they Love this?

Will they tell their friends?

You certainly don’t need to be them. You just need to be such a good student of their context that you can write the well-told story that they are dying to read! Just like so many other areas of the development journey, it's all about relationships. From the relationships that are formed with one element to another within the collection to your relationship with your muse.

Have questions about how to immerse in the world of a target customer? And then how to design into what they want? We’ve got you covered with this and much more. 

Want to dig deeper into your fashion journey? Need to supercharge that knowledge into easy-to-apply wisdom? We're here to lend a helping hand. Reach out to us and we will be happy to schedule a complimentary 30-minute chat. And if you like what you are reading and want to learn more? Follow us on Instagram or LinkedIn.

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1 Comment

Anjan Kaur
Anjan Kaur
Feb 16

Got a lot of insights from this one. I fully agree, I would always say "Context matters" in Life when you see someone, or when you seek someone's advice or they give you advice. You see the people you admire, and learn from them. Context always matters. I never thought of applying it to Fashion and what people wear. Thank you!

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