“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.