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Predicting and Following Fashion Trends

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 17 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Fashion Business Trend Fashion

If you're going to be a successful fashion designer, it's essential that you can understand and anticipate fashion trends. Making very similar clothes to those which people have spent the last year buying won't encourage them to spend money on your products. Making things which look different can give you an advantage, but only if potential customers think that they also look cool. Since what's cool changes all the time, and since it can take some time to get a new design ready to sell, you'll need to know what's on its way in the future.

Staying one step ahead of fashion shoppers is so important that, for some people, it's a full time job. These people are known as fashion forecasters and they offer their services to designers and retailers, producing what are known as trend books. A trend book contains a set of colours which are about to become desirable (usually 18 months after the book's publication), plus some samples of fabric which people will want, and some general style advice. Many designers swear by these little books, but they can be expensive, and the result of so many people using them is the sort of homogeneous fashion you'll see in most high street stores. If you decide you'd rather go it alone, there are various strategies you can employ to help you get it right.

Things to Consider when Predicting Trends

Fashion can be a fickle thing, but it is prey to the same kind of social forces which determine so much else that goes on in society. The successful fashion forecaster pays close attention to general world events as well as to the things they see around them. Key factors include the following:-

  • Demographics - How old is the largest section of the population? What do people that age say they like to wear, what do they look back on fondly, and what makes them feel comfortable about their bodies? Which sections of society have the most money free to spend on clothes? If you're designing for children or teenagers, consider what their parents will be willing to buy for them.
  • The Public Mood - How buoyant is the economy? How safe do people feel from things like war, terrorism and disease? How interested are they in escapist entertainment? There are all sorts of publications which can help you to gather this data. There's no point in pitching loud clothing at a depressed population or sombre clothing at an optimistic, excitable one.
  • Foreign Fashion - Fashion moves around the world like a clock - America is behind us, Paris is ahead, and Japan is at the cutting edge. This doesn't mean that Japanese fashion will always appeal to buyers here - it may be too much too soon - but Parisian fashion is a safe bet. These days you don't have to travel to see what's happening in foreign markets - you can use your computer to look at country-specific shops.
  • Fashion Cycles - Fashion inevitably repeats itself. The longer a colour or style has been out of fashion, the greater is the likelihood that it will return. However, fashion cycles are heavily influenced by political factors - for instance, over the last century fashion has generally become less prudish as social attitudes have relaxed, and a return to prudishness is unlikely at present.
  • Celebrity Trendsetters - Key individuals can make a big difference to fashion trends - think of Lulu's kinky boots or Madonna's pointy bra. Likewise, fashion seen in films or in popular television programmes can have an influence. Generally these styles are more extreme than the public will want to wear, but they still contribute to the way trends develop.

With all this information to consider, you'll see that predicting fashion trends isn't such a hit and miss affair as it might initially seem. Over time, you're likely to develop an instinct for it. Just keep your eyes open and never ignore an interesting outfit. Be aware of your surroundings. The reason fashion has so much power is that it conveys social status, so the key to understanding it is to understand your social environment.

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