2 Facts about Trends and Lazy Copycat Designers

The latest going around the intertubes are these quotes attributed to Marc Worth, founder of WGSN:

“People complain that everything looks the same today, but is it any wonder? Thousands of companies are signed up to WGSN, looking at the same color forecasts, the same material swatches and the same silhouettes,”


“It [WGSN] used to be a real source of inspiration to designers, but now it’s just doing their job for them. You can download CAD drawings of a garment and just tweak it. It has made life too easy for people in the creative space; it has made them lazy.”

If you can make it through the article amid back slapping your other BF designers, you’ll discover that Worth -who sold WGSN for about 230 million USD in 2005- has a new business. Any guesses what that would be? Yep, serving up trends only this time, very exclusively to a tiny portion of the market [100 and by invite only and you won’t be one of them. Me neither.] Meaning, the only people who get to be lazy copycats are those who have the money because as you know, rich people only got to be rich by being lazy copycats. Right.

Without a doubt, the Forbes article is a successful push for Worth’s new don’t-call-it-a-trend-service, trend service, but aside from all that, this seems like a good teaching moment. And why? Well, you my dear fashion designer, are often guilty of downplaying the value of trends because you’re above all that. And maybe you are and if so, I couldn’t be happier for you. I’m kind of the same way; not out of any overarching need to “be true” to my intrinsic vision, only that I mostly do not care [beyond embarrassing whoever I happen to be with] and mostly because I’d be sure to get it wrong and then the fashion bullies and Mean Sewing Girls would make fun of me. As an aside, making fun of my fashion sense, well, one simply wouldn’t know where to even start since there is so much to pick from, so one could surmise critics are themselves -lazy. But I digress, back to the teaching moment!

Trends are actually useful. Here’s something I wrote previously with respect to color trends, that explains:

Fashion is about newness. People often buy stuff not because their stuff is too worn but because it’s not fresh. Developing and promoting the use of a coordinated color scheme is useful to consumers (but obviously profitable to trend bureaus and Pantone of course) because it facilitates purchasing by customers who want to cherry pick pieces from one label to pair with pieces from another brand. So, if the competing brands are using a complimentary color story, consumers have greater purchasing choices. Coordinated color stories are most useful to retailers of course which is why they have a lot of pull to dictate (often through abdication) that vendors be “on trend”.

So there you go. Following trends makes you more marketable because your line will hang with another brand’s. Your stuff can be cross merchandized with that of your colleagues. Seriously, as a consumer, isn’t it annoying if you can’t find a pant from one brand to match the top of another? Well, trends reduce some of that because retailers watch customers cherry picking all day long.

Maybe by now I’ve convinced you that following trends is the only way to go but hold on hoss. Think about other parties that benefit from trends… and that would be very large brands who are tied to 16-20 month long production schedules. Yep. Subscribing to trend bureaus gives larger brands a bit of wiggle room in developing saleable products far in the future when nobody really knows what will be hot. And that’s where you come in my friend. Hopefully you’re not tied to such long time frames so you can be more responsive to trends that pop up out of nowhere. Larger brands can’t do that so ply your advantage accordingly.

So the question becomes –should you follow trends? That is not a question I can answer for you. It depends on who you hang with. Many designers have successful lines absent trends. Another question would be, how do you find trends? That could be a bit of research (see this post for ideas). If you don’t want to shell out the money for a trend subscription, just look at street fashion in Western Europe. Whatever people in the US are making fun of, is what will be hot here in 3 years. When Mr Fashion-Incubator and I came back from Europe in 2008 (?), I heard no end of grief over leggings and leggings paired with boots. Didn’t take long for that one to do a 180. Which I suppose, could be yet another lesson: don’t criticize what you see today because it could end up being your biggest seller. With any luck, you’ll hit that before it ends up on the downhill slope of obsolescence.

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  1. Leticia says:

    I am not a professional of the trade, but I love the perspective your blog gives me.

    In this world of mass made in China and plummeting quality standards everywhere I wonder how local, decent business survive in fashion.

    In Brazil we get third rate goods from China, nevermind the price point. You can buy at the mall or at discount stores and the shoddy fabric, patterning and sewing are the same. As a matter of fact they buy from the same containers of goods and slap their tag.

    Traditional stores that had decent goods at a decent price now have shoddy goods at a not inviting price. Paying for itchy polyester is not my idea of fun.

    Trends are just part of the equation of where fashion went wrong. I like to wear my clothes to the ground and I would love for that to take longer. I don’t buy bizarre prints or pieces that don’t fit into my life. I still chop pants for bermudas and do minor fixes and alterations.

    Ok, end of venting and kudos for the content that keeps me thinking.

  2. Demetra says:

    I do not follow the trends, most of my designs are more classic. Many of my customers prefer the basics, they may request something trendy occasionally. However, I will not copy any design, I will refer them to the designer or the store that sells that item.

  3. Tanya says:

    I’m super new to the business, but I think it’s healthy to have an awareness of trends. At the very least, I have a few fashion blogs and street style blogs in my feedly that I skim every day. As a bootstrapper though, paying for a trend services seems like such a waste. Especially if you’re working with a fabric supplier that’s paying for the service already. On trend or future trend colors and prints are presented to you. From there it’s just a matter of designing shapes and styles you think you can sell.

  4. LinB says:

    Speaking as a clothing customer (and as one who sews a goodly portion of her own clothing) I agree that trends CAN be useful. I know my own body pretty well, and am old enough to have lived through many decades of silhouette changes. I know what “works” and what “does not work” for me, what makes me happy and what makes me uncomfortable to wear. It is still useful to know what “everybody is wearing these days” so that, through use of a fresh color or hem length or overall silhouette — or some fresh details of construction — I, too, can look as normal as possible when I venture out the door each day.

  5. Don Pezzano says:

    Whatever people in the US (and everywhere) are making fun of. So true indeed. Socks and sandals for men was huge this year as a trend. Who would have thought? Those Western Europeans for certain.

  6. Avatar photo

    No and embarrassing to admit, his name didn’t ring a bell. I’m hoping that’s a compliment. I’ll take it that way since google says he’s a big shot NYT best selling author -something I can’t even aspire to, not even secretly deep down. I also peeked at his site. Already I see terms just begging to be plagiarized. Such as “embiggen”. I think I’m in love. Okay not but his Dresden Files series are now in my Amazon shopping cart.

    I’m wondering if you’re referring to my habit of word invention. Aspies ; maybe he’s on the spectrum?

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