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Are You, Like Me An Alpha EAT Or Like Most Women Sane And Sensible?

26/09/2016 11:52

My name is Jan Shure and I am an Early Adopter. That is an Early Adopter of Trends. So, perhaps, that should be "My name is Jan Shure and I am an EAT."

I do not use the phrase familiar from addiction self-help groups to ridicule or diminish those addicted to gambling, drugs or alcohol. But to highlight that being an Early Adopter is, for me, as much a compulsion as any substance. And can, if not carefully curbed, be as cripplingly expensive - have you seen the RRP of the Fendi Peekaboo?

Perhaps I should explain: in the fashion industry Early Adopters are the tiny minority of women - or occasionally men - who are the first to get in to a fashion trend. The acronym EAT is my own invention. I also considered FEAT (Fashion Early Adopter of Trends) but discarded that as sounding too anatomical.

So, I'm an EAT. Throughout my earlier working life, being an EAT was an advantage. As a journalist, the ability to spot trends in all areas of life is very useful. Indeed, newsrooms everywhere are crammed with EATs. Fashion offices, too, are heavily populated with Alpha EATs; as a fashion editor I, too, was an Alpha EAT.

But I am aware that I was an EAT long before my working life began. As a child in the late 1950s, wanting to dress like Audrey Hepburn was seen as merely precocious but was a manifestation of an acute case of EAT. In my teens and 20s I was into - and then out of - minis, midis and maxis before most of my peers had bought their first pair of Biba boots. Being an early adopter is exhausting because it is a perpetual quest for the next trend. And expensive. Because just when others are moving in to a trend, EATs are moving on.

Let me give a perfect illustration: way back in 2001, I wanted a Birkin bag. Correction, I wanted a Birkin-style bag. I desperately craved a genuine Hermes Birkin but in 2001, I was a divorced mother of two and I definitely could not afford the real thing, especially not if I wanted also to eat and pay my mortgage. But I wanted a Birkin-style bag. Five years later, of course, you could find those bags everywhere. But then, they were harder to find than a Jeremy Corbyn supporter in Chelsea. I ultimately found the perfect faux Birkin in Florence. I wore it for a few seasons then recycled it to a local charity shop - just at the point when Birkin-style bags hit retail big-time. A result for a lucky customer in my local charity shop; profound annoyance for me, as I had recycled mine too soon.

The lesson there, of course is that it doesn't pay to be an EAT. Especially not at this time of year, with New York and London Fashion Weeks gone, and Paris and Milan happening now - and just when the sane people are planning their A/W16 wardrobes, all we EAs are making a mental list of what to chuck out (mostly what non-EAs are buying now) and planning their S/S17 wardrobe!

We all know about the trickle-down effect - how long it takes for a trend to go from catwalk to High Street - or used to; today, with fast fashion outlets such as Zara and River Island, the time from catwalk to High Street is now much shorter. Which is brilliant for we EATs but it still doesn't prevent us from discarding things waaaaay too early.

And it's not just exhausting and annoying. In fashion retail, it is bad for business, too. Ask any fashion brand which got into orange in 2012 (it didn't properly break through until summer 2016). As a director and co-founder of Sosensational.co.uk, the fashion website for 50-plus women, I have learned that being an EAT has some disadvantages.

It has an upside in that I can spot trends coming down the line, and can write about them. But, ahem, there are more downsides: as I mentioned earlier, only a tiny minority of women are early adopters. Indeed, my Sosensational co-director Cyndy Lessing is much more "normal" in the trend-adopting sense. She waits for trends to arrive and, in common with all sane, sensible women, she decides if she likes the trend and if it will suit her before deciding whether to adopt it.

Having worked on Planet Fashion for most of my life, I am just waking up to the realities of the fashion industry - that a majority of women are sane and sensible; they are not, like me, early adopters ... I can see the benefits of their sane approach. Indeed, I'm planning to follow their example and join them. Or I will just as soon as I've put in my order for a Prada midi-dress.

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