Do you follow trends?

After reading an article in the Wall Street Journal on Spotting the Next Hoodie (sub required) I’m curious if you all follow trends. This article described how the industry of fashion trend watching has gravitated to the streets in an effort to spot the next big thing.

After seeing mostly skinny jeans, which she believes are on their way out, Ms. Job finally spotted a young woman in a T-shirt and high-waisted, straight-legged jeans. The sighting was further confirmation of a trend her colleagues at Worth Global Style Network had already documented on the streets of Scandinavia, Europe and Japan and in stores in Paris and London. “Give it about six weeks,” she said, “and all the New York stores will have them in the windows.”

Ms. Job is one of the fashion industry’s secret weapons. As U.S. editor of WGSN, a fashion-consulting service, she is one of a growing number of third-party researchers who go out into the streets to get an early look at emerging styles and to find out where young people are shopping. A competing service, Doneger Group, has increased the number of employees dedicated to so-called trend spotting by 50% to 120 people in the past five years. The 30-year-old Ms. Job even teaches a class on trend spotting to fashion-merchandising students at Parsons The New School for Design.

If you do watch trends, which kinds? Is it styling, colors, textures, a theme, all or any combination of these? My perception has been that you all pretty much do what you’re going to do, keeping a side glance towards larger market trends. I follow different kinds of trends, demographic and economic mostly and then poke about to see if anyone is meeting the market.


Other than the links I created in the above excerpt, here are some trend resources. Most of these have weekly or monthly newsletters with top picks you can glean for free:

Trendwatching is a display of amazing intellectual generosity. I don’t know how they make money considering the in depth detail of their freebie newsletter (archived on site). This explains larger cultural consumer trends, changing habits and behaviors. A kind of emerging consumerist convergence culture spin.

JC Report is fashion trends and news (not just fashion). I’m still on the fence and gleaning this one. I’ve only recently subscribed but haven’t found much to excite me.

IQONS is also new to me, a newish portal with a newsletter for designers but I’m not sure how it’s going to go over. It’s kind of like a myspace for fashion designers but I don’t see how real life fashion designers have the time to mess with it. I think it’s mostly wannabes or consumers hoping to rub elbows with real life fashion designers (!).

PSFK is interesting, also intellectually generous as well as providing original analysis. The description of the site reads “a lens of changes in cultural behavior that influence all of us. In a world with unparalleled access to endless content, it’s hard to know where to begin your search for insightful information.” Accurate I’d say. I get lost meandering around in there. Extensive fashion section too.

Infomat publishes a newsletter as well but they also have a news feed feature on their site if you want a gleaning of fashion business related topics, mostly the kind of stuff that WWD reports. There are three feed categories: Apparel, Retail, and Textiles. I don’t know how many of you visit the site but you might want to consider visiting more frequently considering the free offerings which include trade show reviews for different facets and product categories.

Here’s an interesting interview with Li Edelkoort, the world famous trend watcher. Regarding new marketing opportunities, she says in part:

We are set for a comeback of the middle market, she says. The public does not understand the prices of big brands anymore and there is room for ideas — companies will have to find ways to get desirable products to the market at a price people can relate to.

…If we lose the ability to make fabrics locally, we will have the same Chinese fabrics every year, become powerless in the market and kill our own expertise. The silk industry is already dying in India, in favour of cheaper polyester imports. There is a challenge to bring back production to our own countries.

She has her own firm with her fingers in some interesting pies but no newsletter that I know of.

Now we come to the old stand-bys starting with California Apparel News. This one is useful for keeping up with fashion market and business trends in LA mostly. According to today’s newsletter, cashmere and dresses continues strongly for fall and buyer attendance has increased significantly. Sub mostly, some free content. I subbed for half price at MAGIC and just got my first issue.

In the same vein is the venerable Women’s Wear Daily but that’s subscription only, no free content. I used to sub electronically but then switched over to hard copy which has ended up being a mistake; I read less of it than before and feel guilty about contributing to environmental degradation.

Another apparel industry resource you may not know about is Fiber2Fashion. Big big site and deep too. Boy, with all this reading I’m giving you guys, it’s a wonder you’d have time to do anything else. I get enough complaints as it is that my site is hard to keep up with. I suppose there’s not much question of how I spend much of my time.

The next to last trend resource is my delicious links, my trend section isn’t that good since I don’t use that tag very much preferring to sort them in other categories. My interests (as I said before) are aligned to consumer spending, demography and economics rather than design per se. Another category to look at is my infovore tag. Those are entries I bookmark intending to link to at some point for those infovore posts.

Lastly, you can find all kinds of trend reporting companies on google. Many offer free reports. The number of trend companies out there is just mind boggling. You’d think with all this information available consumers would be happier with product offerings but it doesn’t seem to be happening. I think there’s a negative correlation in there somewhere but maybe that’s just my cynical opinion.

Back to my original question, I’m curious as to how many of you worry about trends, be they color, texture, style, economic or demographic and whether this influences your design decisions? My gut says most of you are forging your own paths to the extent you are able with regard to the affect of trends on fabric choices, but I don’t know for sure.

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16 comments

  1. Karen C says:

    I pay attention to trends and especially watch the European runway shows on Style.com, as what’s going on in Europe tends to trickle into the US market in about 2-3 years, in a diluted or transformed format. I always check out what Galiano is doing and am fascinated by how his influence shows up in RTW. For specific trend stuff, I also like Infomat and Faith Popcorn’s annual report. But as a designer I agree with what Tom Ford said what before he retired from Gucci about designers just seem to have an intuitive sense of color and trends. I’m now seeing colors and designs (leggings, bermudas, dresses) that I sketched in 2002 now in stores.

    Also of note to anyone interested in producing knitwear, there is a story in today’s California Apparel News about a contractor in LA who’s doing knitwear with no minimums. (See “Knitter Opens Shop with an Eye on L.A.’s Designer Market”)

  2. Nadine says:

    Being involved with accessories I pay close attention to outerwear trends and colors since that directly affects the types of hats, bags, scarves people will want to buy. Also accessories market week comes after fashion week and probably was done on purpose so accessories designers had time to pay attention to the clothing they plan to accessorize.

  3. Miracle says:

    Following trends is important even when you don’t design for trennds. For example, in the lingerie market, when clingy sweaters and super sheer tees became popular, bra makers had to respond with smoother bras, seamless constructions and other bra-like options that wouldn’t show under the tops. Many years ago, when it became clear that low rise was here to stay, the rise on panties was lowered accordingly.

    There are short lived trends (skinny jeans and leggings) that you know will be over soon, because they cannot be adapted to the mainstream. Then there are things that seemed to be trends at one point (premium denim) that became shifts in the fashion industry.

    Trends also provide the nimble, lean manufacturer with an opportunity to quickly cash in on buying needs and retaining more of their buyers’ dollars.

  4. J C Sprowls says:

    Coming from the custom clothing end, I used to watch trends with passing interest. Clients dictated design and style more than I did – I was just the facilitator. Color and breadth of selection are more important in that end of the industry. Since I was receiving the same samples and shade cards as runway designers were using, it was a mute point.

    Now that I am ramping up to design for a specific niche, trends mean more to me – at least, how they will impact my niche. Trends ultimately impact my business in ways that Miracle calls out. Consumers trending toward things like low-rider jeans or clingy sweaters will affect undergarment designs, creating a “hole” in the market. Some of my new suit designs tend toward a slim fit, in response to the trend. But, they would be uncomfortable with boxers, so I need to reinterpret the boxer and the brief in such a way that will appeal to the marketplace and offer a solution for the hole I created.

    Like you mention, it is important to scout for holes in the marketplace, too – entry points, as it were. Designers need feedback from technical folks in addition to consumers. I can only imagine how many times a patternmaker or product development manager said: “you know what I don’t see in your line?” and the designer sketched a bench copy on the spot.

    I hang out on style forums because I hope to elicit consumer feedback and level-set their expectations (e.g. when to see a tailor v. buying off-the-peg). Unfortunately, very few consumers can articulate something I can act upon – they’re too bogged down in details.

    Here’s a typical transcript of what I deal with:

    Consumer: Are your buttonholes hand-finished?
    Me: A typical factory churns out 5K jackets a month with about 220 employees. It’s a safe bet that buttonholes on any RTW jacket are machine made. [excited voice] You should see how it’s done, though. High-quality buttonholes…
    Consumer: [interrupting me with more nasal-y whining]
    Me: [*defeated sigh*] Individualized details just aren’t practical on a large-scale. If hand-worked buttonholes makes you happy, you should look for a tailor in your area.
    ======
    Consumer: How much shirt cuff should I show?
    Me: Most tailors prefer to show 1/2″. But, it’s your call. For RTW, I cut jackets 1/2″ shorter than the standard shirt sleeve. For example, if you were a 40R jacket, then my sleeves are 23 1/2″ long.
    Consumer: Then, why are jackets always covering up my whole hand?
    Me: Who made your jacket?
    Consumer: [insert RTW label name]
    Me: Have you spoken to your alterationist about taking up the sleeve hem? It’s relatively easy if the jacket is well-made and should cost between $X and $Y.
    Consumer: No. I want it to fit me off-the-peg.
    Me: How long should your sleeve be from shoulder to wrist?
    Consumer: [short arms, broad barelled chest, and any number of other anomalies that makes him a good candidate for custom tailoring]
    Me: Individualized details just aren’t practical on a large-scale. The best jacket for you would be one made by a tailor in your area. I could recut a standard 56R down to your specific measurements; but, it’s a far better use of your money and my time to build from the ground up.
    Consumer: But, isn’t that expensive?
    Me: What’s your price range?
    Consumer: I’m hoping for something less than $100.
    Me: [*defeated sigh*] So what you’re saying is that you want a jacket for less than $100 to fit you off-the-peg, with no alteration?
    Consumer: Yes
    Me: [*death glare*, internal dialogue: “you’re too stoopid to wear clothes!”] I’m sure there’s a niche market out there for you. I only wish I could help you find it [forced smile].

    I had hoped to add a blog to my company website specifically to elicit and collect consumer feedback. But, the more I consider it (and, the more I participate on style forums) the less effective I think it will be. What say you all?

  5. Georgina says:

    I went to the mall today to see the product in the stores and spot any strong trends, and I must say that I was terribly disappointed. I guess this season is one that I like to call “palate cleansing”, in which nothing stands out, but gets uys ready for a season with stronger looks.

  6. Pam says:

    Speaking of trends does anyone here know about children’s clothing and where to spot the trends for little girls? What’s hot and what’s not? I would appreciate any ideas about this.

    Pam

  7. Esther says:

    I have yet to see a trend report (the professional ones) that adequately cover children’s markets. The assumption is that children’s clothing trends follow adults. There is some truth to the idea, but things change during the translation. Your best bet is to shop the market yourself. There are some European trade/glossies that cover children’s trends pretty well, but it takes a few years for those trends to work there way here.

  8. J C Sprowls says:

    Pam,

    Try Vogue Bambini. In fact, the entire Italian and French Vogue series are very good for designers, in general. They feature full-page photos with unobstructed views and more naturalistic poses.

  9. Suzanne says:

    I watch trends, but mostly in children’s clothing and regarding color and illustration style (if that makes sense?).

    This post alone could keep me busy all week! Too bad I don’t have a clone.

  10. Kelly says:

    I get a feel for trends more from the street, art, and music. Although I subscribe to some newsletters and publications, I’m terrible at keeping up with them!!! It’s much more interesting to watch what’s going on around me.

    Iconoculture.com has a free newsletter on cultural trends, and they have a nice way of organizing trends.

  11. Some other resources that could be of use (created moi and co because we are massive trend watching addicts)

    Fashionising, which is a fashion-industry network currently geared towards models and photographers.

    style spy, which is a Digg/Lipstick for fashion. Users submit individual clothing, collections, or trends and others vote it up and down based on whether or not they like it.

  12. Melody says:

    Fashion magazines, television, internet (myspace, musical fan-sites, international fashion shows) walking in public, discussing trends with other fashion minded people, researching historical trends and movements.

    I am obsessed with details, fabric manipulation, color schemes, the cut of a garment and how specific cuts look on different body types. Fabric materials and weave, drapes and hangs… I search it out and digest all of it.

    And all I do is make corsetry. It’s just amazing to watch the world shift in what they want to wear, to see what people are using to make themselves feel unique or blend in, and why they do it.

    Trends never seem important to my clients, because each item I make is customized for their body and personal style. If I have a head full of all of the different things we could do, it makes it easier to zero in on the elements of fashion that they need.

  13. hoodie says:

    it generally right that clothes are mirror of person’s individuality. not just by clothes people want to expose themselves by shoes, wristwatch, hair color, jacket, cell phone. fashion is everywhere not just in clothes.

  14. Nadi says:

    As a designer I like to use my ideals .But to find people who look for creative designs is not easy.
    this is disappointed me and I have to follow other trends.

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