Who Needs To Follow The Fashion Trends?

by Jan 12, 2018

Do you remember what Gianni Versace said about fashion trends?
Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way to live.”
Gianni Versace

Late Fashion designer

Gianni Versace created a luxury brand and a fashion empire that way, without following any other fashion trend than his own. However, the whole fashion industry is talking about trends and following trends. Why such a contradiction? Let’s dig out…

Who decides the trends of tomorrow?

Trend agencies do business trying to forecast the fashion trends for the following seasons and selling their consulting services and publishing trend books for fashion designers and brands. Do you know how much a trend book does cost? On average, it’s between 1000 and 2000 euros per season and per type. It’s a  lucrative business. The trend business is based on fear. The customers of trend agencies believe they must follow fashion trends to design the products that will sell. If people would stop assuming that, the trend business would not be existing any longer. Fashion brands fear they could be missing any trend and, as a consequence, losing many sales. So, they follow the forecast of styling agencies ahead of every season and design their products accordingly.

Are fashion trends really beneficial to the fashion business?

You can easily imagine the consequence of every fashion brand following the same fashion trends, and you can directly see it in stores. The fashion industry makes the same types of products every season and fashion brand offer look-alike collections to customers. The “trendy” colors are available everywhere but if you are looking for another color, good luck!

If this would be the recipe for success, why do we see an evident decline in sales for fashion businesses?

Because the average time of product-development in the fashion industry is 40 weeks. That is way too long to stay ahead of consumers. By the way, it’s only 2 weeks from design to store for Zara.

Especially now that it takes them only a few minutes to spot and buy new fashions from up-and-coming designers, who are resetting the rules of consumer behavior and expectations.

In one fashion report from The Business of Fashion and MacKinsey called The State of Fashion 2017, the analysis is irrevocable. Lack of creativity and plagiarism are amongst the 10 major problems for the future of fashion brands.

Now, fashion has become more boring than ever.”
Dries Van Noten

Belgian Fashion Designer, Interview in Vogue España, September 2017.

And even a well-established fashion business with lots of stores can die today relying on trends.

Did you know Hakei?

It was a Spanish fashion brand with 23 stores in Spain that started in the fashion business in 2003 and was making 20 million euros in revenue in 2010. They faced bankruptcy in December 2016 and closed all their stores in May 2017.

What happened?

According to fashion experts, they did at least 3 things wrong.

First, they chose to release too many products in clothing, shoes, and bags and did not focus on being successful with one first.

Second, that fashion brand offered products with prices a little above fast fashion and a bit better quality too, but the difference was not visible and big enough to customers to buy from them over low-cost brands.

Third, they did not use social media well enough and did not create an emotional and personal communication with their customers.

They definitely followed the fashion “trends” but never succeeded in differentiating themselves from the rest of established fashion brands around with unique products or particular styles fashion lovers would have craved for.
Being on trend no longer guarantees sales and profitability in the fashion sector.”
Elisabeth Hunter, Sophie Marchessou, Jennifer Schmidt

Belgian Fashion Designer, McKinsey

Who needs fashion trends?

Fashion designers who are scared and need some comfort in their creative process. Not the other ones. Hopefully not you.

It’s a false comfort. If everyone follows the same trends, it’s less probable that everyone is wrong. And in case it happens, the designers will not be facing the blame alone and will feel less accountable for the failure of the collection or of some products.

Fashion trends are not fostering creativity. They slow it down or even suppress it. Karl Lagerfeld even spoke harshly about trends:

Trendy is the last stage before tacky.”

Karl Lagerfeld

Late fashion designer

Trend books are not an investment in your emerging fashion brand. They are just a waste of money for absolutely no ROI.

So, remove that unnecessary cost from your lean budget.

Just follow your ideas, your style. Leave it to all the established brands to fight over the trends of the moment.

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Oscar Wilde

Irish Poet and Playwright

Differentiate yourself. You will get all the customers not wanting to wear the same clothes as everyone else.

This is quite a significant niche already, that is growing every day, while traditional fashion brands and stores keep losing sales.

McKinsey is advocating for the “read-and-react model for new and untested products” and the “test model for the riskiest products.”

They also recommend “agile development” by doing and refining to make rapid progress.

More and more people are looking for niche brands. No one wants to take a bag and put it on a table when a lot of ladies have the same bag with the same style. They want to find something special. Something you cannot find in your circle.”

Richard Liu

Founder and CEO, JD.COM

In the end, you don’t need to work with fashion trends…

Mainly because they are not existing anymore.

The apparel category – a major driver of sales for department stores- has been hit harder than many. Department stores will account for just 8% of the apparel market by 2022, down from 24% in 2006, according to Morgan Stanley. There aren’t massive apparel trends anymore; they’re micro in nature, which is harder for retail to forecast. There’s hyper-fragmentation, not to mention pricing pressure in the market.”

Oliver Chen

Analyst, Cowen & Co.

What about your style? We would love to hear about it.

This article is about the 4th fashion myth of our essential guide for aspiring fashion designers called: 7 Fashion Myths – How to avoid wasting time and money. If you would like to know all those misconceptions of the fashion business, you can download that guide for free here.
(Photos from Unsplash: Søren Astrup Jørgensen, Paul Dufour).

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