When we speak of trends we most often think of fashion as it is visible indicator of reflecting what’s new and now – every season.
Successful fashion brands are masters at leveraging trends to remain current. Over the years the focus has shifted from the actual product (clothes and accessories etc.) to what it represents, the brand.
Brand is more important than ever and legacy fashion brands have developed a strategy of using up-and-coming or trendy fashion designers to continually refresh the relevance of their brand. In 1997 Louis Vuitton famously hired designer Marc Jacobs who went on to create their first ready to wear line and kept them relevant until his departure in 2013.
The dictionary definition of trends is “a general direction in which something is developing or changing”. FYI a fad is not a trend. A fad is intense and short-lived – they come they go – like Silly Bandz.
Trends are a balancing act of art, commerce, and the spirit of the times. Trends help you find the right insight/opportunity, generate the right ideas, and execute them in the right way. Trends emerge and evolve. They are about today and tomorrow. The goal is ultimately to turn desire into demand.
There is a whole industry with a methodology for predicting, spotting and analyzing trends. When I was at Estée Lauder part of my role was to identify trends
that we could leverage in seasonal promotions: themes, colors, fabrics, patterns, silhouettes, design details. I traveled to London and Paris to the annual accessory and textile shows like Vendôme Luxury a style and trend tradeshow and Premiere Vision the world's premier fabric show. www.vendomeluxurytradeshow.com www.premierevision.fr
I would do visual homework noting the biggest themes, styles, colors, and materials and details that could be a point of difference. I did a lot of sketching (taking photos was prohibited) and bought samples. They also had sessions where industry trend experts and major designers shared their insights and inspiration for the next year.
Some of the best trends are started on the streets of major fashion cities where style innovators create their own fashion trends. Fashion designers get their inspiration from many different places – the street, ballet, historical figures, art, places and of course societal influences – like the current trend of reusability and being savvy with our money.
In the words of Coco Chanel
“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only.
fashion is in the sky, in the street,
fashion has to do with ideas,
the way we live, what is happening”.
I wandered the streets of New York, Paris, London and Tokyo and Hong Kong. As an overall observation London had the most innovative street style and Tokyo the wackiest. Back in NYC we would bring in coveted trend mavens like Lidewij Edelkoort, a famous forecaster, who traveled the world studying the evolution of sociocultural trends and created trend books that predicted themes two years out and were used by multiple industries from fashion to automobiles. www.edelkoort.com
Technology and social media were not as evolved in the late 1990’s and information sharing was driven by personal interaction and tapping into experts. Today Li Edelkoort uses technology to share her forecasting in “trend tablet” a tool for explaining how trends grow, evolve, flow and interact with our daily life. www.trendtablet.com
As a designer I would filter the four main trend areas through the lens of the Estée Lauder design principles and develop against the ones that aligned with our premium, upscale image. We had to stay true to the brand while engaging the world of “fashion/style” and appealing to our target consumers, the 30+ year old woman who wanted to be inspired by prestigious, elegant yet attainable beauty.
I would create a visual trend brief for my vendors and sketch out collections – series of bags and accessories for our different accounts. We would sit down and review fabrics, hardware and structures based on the trend brief, spec every detail and have samples made.
If one of the themes was inspired by the sporting outdoors while we would not do camouflage or neon orange we might pick-up on the equestrian themes: accents of metal, top stitch details, suede and quilted materials, contrast textures and an elegant fall color palette – blues, browns, greens, blacks – and if ties/knots we in we execute them as a handle or closure detail.
The makeup color collection would align with the accessory palette and create a cohesive trend story and our offering for the season. We did this on a large scale for spring and fall across our global markets. The seasonal promotions were a great way for women to buy into a trend without having to change her wardrobe or make a huge financial investment. It was also a vehicle for the brand to be seen as relevant – new and now in fashion.
So which fashion brands leverage trends the best?
On a mass level H&M is very successful in leveraging trends. Their model allows them to offer two main collections, one in the spring and one in fall with several sub-collections of trendier items that are developed with short lead times and continually refreshed. On the class level Louis Vuitton is still the leader thanks to Marc Jacob’s collaborations with artists and even rapper Kayne West as well as his theatrical shows, which created trend buzz. Time will tell if former Balenciaga designer and new creative director Nicholas Ghesquiere can keep the Louis Vuitton brand in a leadership position.
Today trend information is accessible to consumers from live streaming fashion shows, trend sites to designers sharing everything they think and do. Consumers are allowed to create their own trend and fashion stories. Brands have to work harder than ever to distinguish themselves and their creative interpretation of a trend in order to capture the consumer’s attention.
by Josephine Eke
Former trend hunter
VP, Design Intelligence