The Pursuit
Of Selling Newness

Just what makes us so enamoured by the idea of something new and what is fashion doing about it?

Words by Pak Lun Chiu

There is something that I need to confess. I am helplessly infatuated by the idea of newness. I blame this on the beguiling speed that Hong Kong offers — my hometown before moving to the U.K — where every inch of heritage and eastern foundation is topped and layered with new ideas and novel proposals. The promise of living ‘in the now’ and the pursuit ‘of the new’ have been constantly sold to me for as long as I can remember. Even the old motors of public buses and the convening spaces of restaurants have long installed digital screens and TVs to drive this need, reminding us to stay current or risk being left behind on the ‘old-ground’; a direct translation of the traditional derogatory label lǎo tǔ.

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This newness translates itself into queues of people making purchases for the latest fashion trends, culinary delights, and lifestyle mash-ups; and it doesn’t just happen in Asia. Coupled with the message of exclusivity and limited supply, a perfected fume is now mobilized and emitted almost every week to excite the urban marching crowd, feeding our initial interest for newness but morphing it into a dependence — a form of dependence that creatives and fashion businesses are urged to pursue.

With the instant financial rewards that newness offers, creatives are increasingly seeing the pressure to deliver this value, succumbing to the newness challenge.

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From the trials of spacing out a seasonal collection launch to experimenting with weekly ‘drops’, the retail arm is tasked to offer a continuous experience of newness that drives consumer’s interest and in turn revenue. Even coveted trend forecasters and agencies have paid heed to this demand, advising how newness has, and supposedly should, seep into the operations of both luxury and fast-fashion sectors.

But for every effort and investment made to stir up its benefits, the effect of newness is short-lived and requires constant replenishment. Imagine yourself opening the packaging and revealing your new iPhone, or perhaps unraveling a sac Demi-lune from the A.P.C. duster bag.

These items may not be the latest items to have been ‘dropped’ but the energy of pristine newness is still present. Researchers have located the effect of newness in our mid-brain region, which is the region responsible for regulating our motivation and triggering the brain’s production of dopamine — a key player in creating pleasurable rewards, memory, as well as movement. But as the first scratch on your phone or the first crease on your bag makes an appearance, the effect of newness fades. Psychologist Aimee Dinnin gives a possible explanation for this: hedonic adaptation, which occurs when you become accustomed to the stimulation that a product provides over time and exposure.

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“Just as newness is unwrapped and revealed to gratify our minds, its excitement peaks, slips and inevitably subsides.”

Producing newness on a regular basis is a key method used to attract the newness dependency displayed by the crowd and to keep the ‘brand heat’ burning. But as each brand adopts a similar strategy, these methods begin to age; tinged with a sense of sameness and indifference — exactly how is your weekly drop different from the others?

Another side-effect of the newness strategy is the impact on professional’s productivity and well-being. It’s already taxing to remain creative in today’s ever-accelerating market, where everyday demands are out-balanced by the search of a commercial winning formula. It seems unfair — and almost purposeless — to devote our creative energy just to ignite the short-term impulses of consumers to ensure the monetary rewards; having what we painstakingly produced to be quashed and forgotten by next week’s suite of newness campaigns. This commercial push for ‘cool today, but gone tomorrow’ quickly de-values the work of creatives, adding the need to question if the sacrifices made are worth keeping the exhaustive pace going.

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Science has told us that a creative process requires teams and individuals to go through a series of stages to reach an innovative output. It needs a ‘mess-finding’ stage where we identify the problems to clearly define the brief. It also requires the experience of making trial and error with our designs; so as to understand the market needs towards the final product. As delivering newness is set to be a mainstay for many brands and companies, creatives will more likely be feeling the confines of producing iterated products — items, campaigns, or otherwise — that trigger vapid engagements with limited sustainable appeal. The design products of iPhones and the sac Demi-lune were mentioned earlier as their years of affection were not upheld by newness alone — iPhones continue to solve the needs and problems of our everyday life; Demi-lune transcends a sense of understated Parisian aesthetic that hasn’t been weathered by its mainstream popularity. Only at the point of realising the narrow benefits of newness can there be room to consider a better creative solution.

For HAJINSKY, both Judith and I are committed to re-defining the balance between newness and a genuine and deep human reliance on fashion. Taking ourselves away at the beginning of the year and returning with a re-vamp and a careful selection of resources, we would like to extend our attraction beyond the initial newness effect — cue triggers of dopamine — but instead, to offer clear Psychology solutions that shift the industry in making more engaging and viable relationships with individuals and their needs.

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Further Reading:

The Neural Effect of Novelty by Prof. Nico Bunzeck and Prof. Emrah Düzel
The Appeal of Our New Stuff: How Newness Creates Value by Prof. Aimee Dinnin
Exploring Demand Reduction Through Design, Durability and ‘Usership’ of Fashion by Prof. Kate Fletcher

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Written by Pak Lun Chiu Art Direction Judith Achumba-WöllensteinPhotography Kyoungmin RyuStyling Simon SchmidtStyling Assistant Yianna HadjipanayiotouMake-up Artist Sjaniel TurrelModel Webster at Nii Agency

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