What are fashion trends?
In fashion, we all talk about the latest trends, trends on the runway, trends on the street, or tendencies emerging from the Zeitgeist – the spirit of the times, affecting all of fashion and us, both as Createurs and consumer. Yes, trends are essential, as they basically help create the guidelines for the designer at work, but what are fashion trends, and where do they emerge from exactly? Let’s see, if we can open the door and discover the construction of fashion trends and tendencies.
First of all, as a fashion designer you need to posses very important skills regarding catching the blossoming trends and tendencies coming up; objective observation, curiosity, intuition, and the ability to collect and analyse the gathered evidence of a given trend are tools for doing exactly this (stay tuned for Part 2 on how to do this). When these skills are sharpened, you will start getting the feel that trends can come from anywhere or anything; music, art, world crisis, lack of necessities or simply a response to another on-going trend turning “old”.
Even though trends today seem to spring from everywhere, earlier on this picture was distinctively different. Back in the days, fashion and trends used to come from the Elite, and more specifically the trend setters and -makers of upper class or high society. What became ‘en vogue’ was what the Queens wore or a Hollywood actress, and this is called the tickle-down effect. Later on when fashion wasn’t only for the Elite anymore, and Ready-to-Wear had to a certain extent replaced Haute Couture making fashion more ‘democratic’, fashion and trends emerged on the streets from subcultures like punk or hip hop. This is called the tickle-up effect. Today in our Information Society with technology and globalisation, we talk about the tickle-across effect, which states that fashion moves horizontally between social groups on different levels.
“Fashion used to come from one source at a time, be it the streets,
the runways or the entertainment bussiness. The interesting thing
about today is that influences come from high and low
– everything from couture to target.”
– Michael Kors –
Okay, so if a fashion trend today can emerge from anything or anywhere: what defines a trend then? A trend is simply a reflection of time, and what is hip and happening right now. Some trends later turn into classics like the trench coat and colours like black or navy. Others seem to be FADs – short-term moments, like hot pants or fluorescent colours, which seems to pop up on the runway once in a while. A FAD vanishes fast because it’s so weird, hideous, unique, early, or just without a deeper sense or appeal, it only creates hype and attention around the designer/brand/culture making it, or the person proposing it via social media. There can be various reasons for which the FAD doesn’t take off, as also explained above, and lack of credibility, reason or resonance will make it last only for a short period of time.
As a consumer, you can ask yourself, if you would wear something for one or a couple of seasons. Maybe you already do this, and if the answer is no, you could be dealing with a FAD. As a designer, you can choose to work with both FADs and trends, and the important thing is that you consciously know, what you’re doing. When it comes to creating a classic, however, it evolves around a thorough design process, market and customer research and analysis, and it will require unique and long-lasting popularity in terms of validation.
Understanding if we are dealing with a FAD or trend can be tricky, but a helpful tool is the Fashion Life Cycle. It gives us a visual representation of how a FAD or a trend moves through life. With a FAD, the hype will be huge and smack! It will fall as fast as it rose, and last max. one season. A regular fashion trend moves more slowly and steady through life, and sometimes it even turns into a classic later. It will last approximately a couple of seasons or maybe a couple of years, if even. Trends can also be dissected in micro, mega and macro, which we will examine in a later post.
In our previous post from Copenhagen Fashion week aw 16 regarding the runway trends, we put emphasis on the Graphic Samurai look from Henrik Vibskov, Luxury Grunge from Lala Berlin, and posh 80s look from Malene Birger. It’s some of the themes for aw16 proposed by Copenhagen designers, and two things are worth paying attention to here: first of all it shows us that inspiration can come from anywhere or anything, and is often highly varied between designers. Secondly, that the themes proposed by designers will need validation in order to turn into a trend and be ‘the thing’ for aw16. It can be a colour range, a silhouettes, or a print that is going to be the hot thing. It will be found in one or more collections and potentially also across different themes. Fashion designers propose themes, but it is first when a fashion leader or a certain social group engage with it and start exposing it, we get a validation of an actual trend. At the same time this ‘Propose–Engage–Validate’ cycle also goes the other way around with inspiration coming from the subculture or fashion opinion-makers and finding the way to the runway and later the consumer in the trickle-across model.
Fashion trends come and go just like time, and today they move faster than ever. They can come from everywhere, everything or everyone. Training the trend forecasting skills are important as a fashion designer, when exploring the vast area of inspiration and beginning to see and understand patterns; the evidence that makes out the trends and tendencies coming up. Be objective and observant, be curious, use your intuition and let yourself be inspired. Now go!
Images are from:
http://www.partfaliaz.com/graphic-designers/colors-and-fashion-art-direction-by-adi-goodrich/, http://uveloca.tumblr.com/image/124715261745, http://exhaustion.tumblr.com/post/137425851636, http://www.artnau.com/2014/10/katarzyna-parejko/, http://designformankind.com/2012/02/akatre/#respond