Sunday, 10 January 2010

Whatever next

Published on Running In Heels site which can be found here

We all know fashion trends are decided upon up to three years in advance but how do fashion designers come up with what we will want to be wearing so far in advance?

The main point is that fashion designers do not have to do all this amazing guess work on their own. There are numerous agencies and companies totally dedicated to fashion forecasting and not just twice a year but up-to-the minute trend forecasts online, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Companies such as WGSN, Trend Union, Peclers and MudPie make a lot of money by advising both high street and high fashion designers on what is going to be big through trend books and online services and by providing them with year round creative inspiration.

So how do these agencies predict trends then? Fiona Jenvey, CEO and founder of MudPie, a trend forecasting company based in the UK, explains on their website that the company studies almost every facet of life in order to predict future trends. This will include an array of cultural interests from which Jenvey selects contemporary art and architecture as extremely important starting points.

What might be surprising is how big an impact politics can have on fashion. Jenvey claims that she and the company predicted the effect of the recession two years before the global recession began. She says the only way to forecast two or three years ahead is to closely follow social and economic trends rather than just fashion trends. On the site Jenvey also claims that MudPie predicted the effect that America’s fisrt ever African American President would have on fashion, three years before Obama was actually elected.

So do the trend forecasters always get it right? Well, it could be argued that a significant event like a worldwide recession does not just happen over night and anyone doing research on the global economy would perhaps have seen that one coming. And predicting Obama would get into power? Possibly just a lucky guess – I’m sure Jenvey could probably show me the trends she predicted that were directly inspired by the election of a black president, but really? But then it is not in the interest of the fashion forecasters to admit any sort of failure.

Sometimes there are fashions which come about that even the fashion forecasters cannot predict. Celebrities will frequently influence a trend just by wearing a certain cut of skirt, or a pair of retro sunglasses and being photographed in them a lot. Sometimes celebrities inside the fashion world itself will begin a trend as Tom Florio from Vogue revealed in the recent docufilm The September Issue, “No one was wearing fur, until Anna put it back on the cover of Vogue back in the early 90s and she ignited the entire industry. If Vogue gets behind something it sells.” But usually these trends are fairly short-lived and therefore are not considered in the forecasting of fashion seasons of years ahead.

However, one failsafe and important factor which has yet to be mentioned is the influence that we might have on fashion forecasting. The styling that we impose on ourselves is not necessarily because we are following trends and designers are increasingly becoming inspired by what people, maybe even what we, are wearing out on the street.

It’s all part of the ‘trickle-down, bubble-up’ theory. Trends from the catwalks of all the big players in high fashion will trickle down to the street, perhaps through the high street, fashion magazines or by something more organic and subconscious.

The twists and variations that people impose on these trends may give rise to a whole subculture of people copying each other, until eventually, a new trend is born and this may bubble up to the designers and perhaps be integrated into the next collection. The street influences the catwalk and the catwalk influences the street. What might begin as a style among a rebellious youth subculture can easily go onto become commercially fashionable which, in turn, will trigger other subcultures.

These trendsetting subcultures caught the eyes and imaginations of two fashion lovers, and previously unknown photographers/bloggers. Scott Schuman set up The Satorialist onto which he uploaded his photographs of all the cool young things he spotted around New York. Meanwhile Yvan Rodic was doing almost exactly the same thing in Europe on his blog Face Hunter (see above).

Just two years later and The Satorialist has been selected as one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 Design Influences. Street fashion and the use these blogs is now a major component in fashion forecasting and many would argue that so influential are the use of blogs like this that street fashion is now where most big trends begin.

So how do fashion designers predict the trends of two or three years ahead? Well, with a lot of help from trend forecasting agencies, perhaps celebrities, and maybe, even you.

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