The end for trends?
According to many of the leading fashion gurus, columnists and bloggers, trend-led fashion is a thing of the past. In fact, even in our own magazine, we talk about designers no longer pinning their collections down in ‘trends’ and a new fashion vocabulary emerging with which labels define themselves in fresh terms (Womenswear Designer Messages page 116-117). There are many reasons behind this thinking.
The most important development is that brands, retailers and even the media are currently fixed on creating their own universes. That means they are creating collections that reflect the unique individuality of the brand and show that it understands its devotees, offering them visionary stuff that they cannot help but love. There seems to be less of a compulsion to take completely different tacks each season; instead there’s a tendency to redefine and refine, an evolutionary approach that promotes invention and heritage in equal measure. The drawback, of course, is that you end up with a huge and diverse range of looks and inspirations, making trend distillation virtually impossible.
Meanwhile, the role of the fashion magazines has also completely changed. Once sources of style advice for their readers, they have been usurped by social networks and bloggers. We also live in a world of myriad choices from clothes to food to the music we listen to, so it’s hardly surprising that we get overwhelmed and find it difficult to concentrate on one single approach. This is a moment of ‘individual expression of style’ ‘ and ‘freedom to choose for yourself’, thus whole concept of trends becomes something of an anathema.
Then there’s the question of speed. In a paradoxical way, the ‘trend’ approach implies obsolescence and a stream of ‘ins’ and ‘outs’. But now things come and go so fast that nobody gets a chance to adapt to and absorb what’s new and fashionable. If you are impressed by the quick response systems of the Zaras and Primarks of this world, have a look at Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, Shelikes, Missguided, the new crop of digital fashion brands, who update their sites once a day with new stock and can turn samples around in 24 hours.
So who cares about trends in this age of just being yourself? Actually, we all do. The point of trendspotting today is to create clarity out of all the high-speed stuffocation. Designers know everything already, so what they need now is not more information, but confirmation: am I doing the right thing? Am I making the right choices?
And although the fashion industry might be thinking in ‘post-trend’ and ‘personal wardrobe’ terms, that does not mean all the related industries are following. There are major manufacturing sectors that need to think four or five years ahead (two years of creative work plus two years on marketing plans), and they need all the information they can find. Indeed, so hard is it to find reliable forecast information that they often end up creating their own trends. This is true of the movie and entertainment business, the automotive industry, high-end cosmetics and perfumes, and last but not least, gastronomy.
What is important is to separate the final acknowledgement or arrival of a trend from the process of trends – that is, the question of where it starts, how it travels and where it ends. Whenever a trend starts, it commences life as a tiny embryo; it takes two years or more of gestation and momentum before it becomes mainstream. But, once it’s in Selfridges and fodder for the lifestyle magazines, the trend has already happened, and it’s already two years too late.
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