Saturday, June 16, 2012

Follow your style - make the trend work for you

In the five years I have worked in the fashion industry, the single word I have heard the most often in work conversations is TREND. Fashion companies, magazines and all the major market places, from retail shops to online, are constantly talking about the trend. At the retailer where I worked, we were always instructed to introduce the latest trends to customers. In the meantime, while I was serving customers, I was often asked: will this item be out of fashion next season?

The whole idea of trend has always been a source of wonder to me. Clothes, handbags, shoes and accessories are generally not manufactured to be disposable! They are built to last longer than one season, yet in many people’s perception trend is seen as a single-season concept. Of course, the simple explanation is that everyone in the fashion chain, from designers through retailers, needs to create demand for their new products every season. But let’s dive into this a little deeper, so we can understand trend and how to make it work for us as savvy fashion consumers.

The first question to ask is, what is the definition of trend? According to Merriam Webster:

1: a line of general direction or movement <the trend of the coast turned toward the west>

2 a: a prevailing tendency or inclination : drift <current trends in education> b: a general movement : swing <the trend toward suburban living> c: a current style or preference : vogue <new fashion trends> d: a line of development : approach <new trends in cancer research>

3: the general movement over time of a statistically detectable change; also: a statistical curve reflecting such a change

Of these, definition 2c is most relevant, but actually I think the emphasis should be on “current” rather than “style” when talking about trend in this way. Interestingly, a Wikipedia search of “fashion trend” redirects to a page titled “fad”. That may tell you something...but let’s look at one of the places where trends are thought to be set, the industry’s various Fashion Weeks.

According to Wikipedia:

A fashion week is a fashion industry event, lasting approximately one week, which allows fashion designers, brands or "houses" to display their latest collections in runway shows and buyers and the media to take a look at the latest trends. Most importantly, these events let the industry know what's "in" and what's "out" for the season. The most prominent fashion weeks are held in the four fashion capitals of the world: New York City, London, Milan, and Paris.
In the major fashion capitals, fashion weeks are semiannual events. January through April designers showcase their autumn and winter collections and September through November the spring/summer collections are shown. Fashion weeks must be held several months in advance of the season to allow the press and buyers a chance to preview fashion designs for the following season. This is also to allow time for retailers to arrange to purchase or incorporate the designers into their retail marketing. Latest innovations in dress designs are showcased by renowned fashion designers during these fashion weeks, and all these latest collections are covered in magazines such as Vogue.

So let's break it down:

  • The dictionary tells us that a trend reflects a current style or preference
  • Wikipedia tell us that trends are set by the industry to lead the commercial season

Now it’s time to think carefully and perhaps a bit cynically. Who benefits from setting the trend? And how do you benefit from following the trend?

It’s perfectly understandable that each of us want to feel accepted and welcomed in this world, and if following the trend is the simplest way of fitting in, that is one shortcut to not feeling excluded at the most basic level. But fashion can be so much more than that - that’s why I think it is such an interesting subject. We can use fashion to express both our individuality and our commonality.

There’s a famous quote by fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent that has almost become a cliche in fashion circles:

“Fashion fades; style is eternal.”

This quote became a cliche for a reason - it holds a lot of truth! While trend is about “current style”, true personal style belongs to each one of us as individuals and does not change with the seasons. We have all known someone at some point in our lives who has tried so desperately to fit into a group that they would do anything, including trying to change their personality even if it didn’t really fit them. It can work for a while, but it doesn’t last.

And so it goes with trend following as it relates to personal style. Know yourself first! Know the types of things you enjoy wearing, the things that make you feel confident, comfortable, sexy, or fun depending on the occasion, so the end result is always you at your best. When you start with this level of self awareness, you can use the changing fashion seasons to work for you. You can learn to be selective among the season’s offerings while maintaining the core style you know works for you, rather than feeling overwhelmed at the change of seasons or buying every latest thing in a desperate attempt to stay trendy.

I think deep in our hearts, many of us feel that we are being manipulated by a fashion industry that thrives on separating us from our money over and over again. Turn the game in your favor by de-emphasizing “current” and emphasizing “style” when thinking about fashion trends. Anyone over the age of 30 has been around long enough to see that fashion trends recur all the time. After all, fashion trends are decided by human behavior, which means, if you are reading this you are part of it.

My appeal to you is, don't worry about the trend. Go with what suits you best. For some help in discovering what suits you, please have a look at my previous post: "How to define well-dressed?"

Readers, next time when you are in a store, instead of asking what’s new, ask yourself, “What’s new for me?”

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting read! It's nice to know that there are still people out there who don't judge people based solely on appearance! First impressions are important, but no one should ever define a person by the clothes s/he wears, because there is always so much more to a person than fabric. Very well-written. Will definitely be reading more! :D