Airport Style and the Experience Economy

Updated: Dec 18, 2018

There’s new niche in the fashion industry. Airport style is a real thing in 2018 and it’s got some serious legs. It's not surprising given the progression in the economy that sees Australians spending less things and more on experiences.

Last week I was invited to an event which ran dreadfully late and before I knew it I was at the shopping precinct next door scouting out an outfit for the airport. No, I’m not going anywhere just yet, but I like the idea of having my airport outfit down pat. An Asics light weight jacket and some Air Max’s were the go.

In 2018 dressing for the airport is suddenly a thing among mainstream consumers, a trend that was previously exercised mainly by celebs. With the rise in social media and people posting their travel-friendly #OOTD (Outfit of the Day) part of their journey on platforms like Instagram, and Snapchat, and a significant upsurge in celebs being greeted by swarms of photographers at the airport - the concept of airport style is now well and truly a niche in the broader fashion market and an aspirational look among today’s consumers. It would seem the airport is the new runway and off duty style counts for more than on duty style today.

Then there’s the experience economy which has gained traction over the last five years. According to Roy Morgan research, shopping for “things” went down by 2% in 2016 compared with the previous financial year, while there was an upsurge in spending across leisure and entertainment, with international travel being one of the most popular experiences for Aussies to splurge on. This trajectory continued in 2017 and it is expected to do the same in 2018. And as more and more time is being spent in transit, it’s not surprising that airport style is a thing, which leads to the bigger picture.

The experience economy presents exciting opportunities.

Based on insights like these, our major airports are upping their ante when to comes to its offerings, with major investment being pumped into retail. Sydney Airport will undergo a major transformation as outlined in its Master Plan 2039. Meanwhile Melbourne Airport will see a major facelift to its international T2 Luxury Retail space over the next decade that aims to provide to a high-end retail shopping experience for consumers. This will include retail friendly interior design elements, a host of attractive retailers, more appealing food offerings, and to compliment - smoother logistics and transit processes and other principles that will morph to create an overall desired experience for the traveller consumer. As Australians spend more time in transit, airport style is making a whole lot of sense isn't it.

Looking stylish at the airport is no easy task.

Good airport style is no easy task though. It's is nailing the perfect blend between comfort meets class with a stamp on practicality. For me, a giant leather tote is a must, a plush coat, cotton shirt and flats - usually closed flats for international trips. But for a quick Melbourne to Sydney day trip, it’s generally heels and my #OOTD, including a smart pair of sunglasses. It goes without saying - beautiful luggage is also a staple to nailing the look.

Men are also getting right into this look in their own way.

I love how men are also sharing in this look too. A recent lunch catch up with my friend Harry shed light on how men are also getting right into this fashion niche more than others, in particular men that wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves fashion conscious. “I own around 30 travel bags,” Harry told me. “They’re bags for different kinds of travel. I have the one-day travel bag, the international travel range of bags and of course the bags that go in the big bags.” Harry swears he needs every bag in his premium range. I’m not sure that Harry realises that he has some level of fashion consciousness that he doesn’t give himself credit for. Hollywood star Jeff Goldblum recently featured in GQ Magazine for his airport fashion ethos - I was quite impressed by his fancy yet functional choices too, although Jeff does have some serious rockstar styling going for him regardless.

The experience economy presents an opportunity in retail, not just in experience.

While it looks like travel is stealing dollars from retail, it’s not quite the case. The experience economy presents an opportunity for retail, not just in experience, but in products too. As the progression of experiential spending strengthens, retailers will need to consider greater ways to bring experiences into their touch points, from a more seamless shopping experience to delighting the consumer with rich experiences as well as products that offer convenience in a more practical sense.

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