Fashion Forecasting: How it works and is it really important?

Do you ever wonder how fashion trends are decided? Who it is that wakes up one morning and tells the world that velvet is in or that we should all be wearing feminist tshirts? Decisions like these are made by a small cohort of people in the industry called fashion forecasters. 

Fashion forecasting is a relatively new discipline in the fashion industry but has become one of the most critical weapons in a brand or retailer’s arsenal. WGSN and Pantone are two of the biggest and most influential fashion companies in the world, but not many people will understand their importance. 

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via WeConnectFashion.comWeConnectFashion.com

Accurate analysis of consumer trends is vital in informing brand direction and development, in the creation of relevant products and services and ultimately in ensuring their success in a crowded marketplace, given the constantly evolving marketing and targeting techniques.

The world has moved forward from the traditional, static means of identifying consumers by demographic, geography, age etc. Fashion forecasting identifies consumers by trying to understand how and why they buy, making assertions based on their moods, beliefs and the occasion.

Fashion forecasters try to identify looks/styles that they think are prophetic, capture the mood and represent the current zeitgeist. By identifying these looks early on, it allows designers and manufacturers to go into production to meet customer demand with most textile manufacturers will begin working at least eighteen months ahead of a season.  

In order to pinpoint a trend, a forecaster must immerse themselves in as many aspects of culture as possible with the purpose of gathering and absorbing vast amounts of information to collate it into a coherent and viable story.  A forecaster has to take an interest in all aspects of culture from the creative arts, media and travel to underground subculture movements and developments in science and technology.

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via Pantone.com

Fashion forecasters will try to predict colour, pattern/print, shape and silhouette based on their findings. It is a constant flurry of trying to gather images and collect as many ideas as possible. This enables a forecaster to easily spot a connection amongst all the fashion noise. However, sometimes, there can be one thing that is so powerful and enigmatic that it triggers an immediate reaction from the industry. These findings when combined with statistical market research and observation of socio-economic shifts give an insight into what the next emerging trend may be and show the direction and potential reaction of consumer culture.

There are two methods of fashion forecasting: short and long term. Short term forecasting is used to predict trends based on current events. It predicts colour and fabric by considering fashion events, sport, science, technology etc. Long term forecasting utilises methods of predicting trends based on economical, political and market growth point of view.  

To understand the difference between short term and long term forecasting it is important to understand the different factors to be considered by forecasters. There are certain trends that are ubiquitous through the internet, social media and magazines that have come from catwalk collections. These images are used to predict the next one or two cycles in the fashion year. However, sometimes, there are major changes in the industry which will have lasting effects. Another factor that must be considered by forecasters is the importance of certain perennial elements in the industry e.g. military, 1920’s glamour or 1990’s minimalism and how these trends will never fully leave future fashion cycles.

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via Else-Corp

The fashion industry is changing in ways like never before and with the rapidly changing pace of the fashion cycle, the demand placed on fashion forecasters has increased. Fashion showcases are being streamed live and retailers are obsessed with shortening the turnaround from the catwalk showcase of a collection to its availability in-store. This has changed the forecasting industry from a niche sector publishing literary reports every six months to a massive online service which is constantly creating new material. This shift towards immediacy has led to the industry often being seen as reactive rather than innovative. Many forecasting agencies will often pull from the same pool of information which inevitably leads to an overburdened and stale high street where fast-fashion dominates and short-term micro-trends have become the calling cards of the industry.

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via Kirra Magazine

The opportunities the internet has created for the fashion industry has also made its impact on fashion forecasting. Social media is a vital platform forecasters utilise to both showcase their findings as well as keep their fingers on the pulse of the consumer market. Fashion blogging is reshaping the means by which forecasters conduct their research as bloggers become a more common source of inspiration for the public than any other part of popular culture. This has even had an effect of the employment opportunities within the forecasting sector as certain retailers see bloggers and social influencers as being more connected their demographic, pushing out the more established forecasting agencies. This has created friction in the industry as agencies try to keep their subscriptions up and remain seen as leaders in the sector, leading to them constantly aiming to raise their profile and accessibility.

These changes in the fashion industry have required fashion forecasters to make use of a more bespoke approach to catering for their clients’ needs. Carefully considered guidance is necessary for longevity in the current state of the industry with retailers being offered tailored advice to navigate forthcoming trends in order to successfully match their customers’ needs. Not only does this offer designers like us here at the Galway Designers Network an opportunity to successfully compete in the marketplace but also combat the identikit culture pervading the industry.

Despite the vast changes the fashion industry has seen since the start of this decade, if fashion forecasters can maintain their role as an inspirational resource for those  who wish to be innovative and creative, the role of fashion forecasting will always remain a critical aspect of the fashion industry.

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If you are a young designer looking to make your mark in the retail sector and start your own fashion business, check out the following blog post for a strategy in negotiating the various challenges of going from a hobby-designer to a successful fashion business. It might also be a good idea to read this post about how to identify your target customer or this post about the various challenges and opportunities for designers in the modern retail environment. Check out last week’s post all about tips for marketing your fashion business!

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The Galway Designers Network are looking to make our own mark in the fashion retail sector. Our current project the Galway Designers Studio House has been established by Ann Petrov of Cozy Handmade Designs and Gayle Poppers of Kizmet Clothing but they need your help to make their dream a reality. Follow the Galway Designers Studio House Facebook Page  to read all about the project and how you can take part.

The Galway Designers Network are always looking for new and exciting designers or anyone who feels they would love to be involved. Get in touch by commenting below, via Facebook @galwaydesignersnetwork, via Instagram @galway_designersnetwork or email galwayfashionshowcase@gmail.com.

 

Challenges & Opportunities | The Future of Fashion Retail

Fashion retail is a multi billion euro industry with women’s clothing accounting for over fifty percent of total revenue. Once upon a time, fashion was strictly a seasonal business with most sales made in the run up to holidays or the start of school terms. Now the fashion retailing has become an year long booming industry with a constant and unyielding consumer turnover.

Now fashion retail is at a cross roads, facing certain challenges as well as many opportunities as it tries to negotiate the modern age. This week’s blog post will offer a brief look at some of these challenges and opportunities in the hope that we as members of the Galway Designers Network will be able adapt as we operate within the industry. 

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Challenges

1. Data Protection

The biggest challenge facing the retail sector today is protecting point of sale and customer data from security breaches. As stores interact with their customers online, data is being acquired by stores to ensure they meet their target market’s needs. This included vital personal information which must remain secure from hacking. In addition to this, retailers face the dilemma regarding the ethical consequences of selling this data to third parties for monetary gain.

2. Customer Acquisition

Retailers are struggling to continually drive traffic to their stores and keep returning customers. Now virtually all growth in consumer spending is being captured by e-commerce via online sales. Retailers need to stand out from not only their competitors but also from the online versions of their stores so as to ensure the store’s function in customer acquisition and retainment is relevant and successful.

3. Evolving Customer Profile

The contemporary consumer is highly informed, enabled by new technologies to access unprecedented amounts of information such as pricing, product reviews, newest trends etc. This means that retailers are finding it difficult to acquire loyalty or new customers altogether. Consumers expectations are higher than ever before; they want the best of everything – high quality merchandise, 100% availability, next-day delivery, free returns, excellent customer service – and they expect the best of everything.

Added to this, consumer class structure is evolving constantly as even the most affluent consumers find it strange to pay full price for most things, while lower and middle class consumers will push themselves into debt to afford faux luxury goods and services. This results in a difficult balancing act for retailers to stimulate purchases without being aggressive on price or delivering exceptional value. 

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Opportunities 

1. Omnichannel System

The omnichannel system offers several opportunities for retailers. It gives customers the chance to experience effortlessness in their shopping experience and enables them to be in constant contact with a company through multiple avenues at the same time: by visiting the brick and mortar store, going online via the website or  the app. They can research products and compare prices, which will ensure a company has to stay competitive to stay relevant. By completing purchases online and paying for in-store purchases via click-and-collect services, companies can also draw online consumers into their stores. An omnichannel system also gives retailers the flexibility to make near-real-time decisions to reroute products and streamline transportation to get the right products to the right locations at the right time, ensuring customer satisfaction.

2. Market Segmentation

Market segmentation enables retailers to identify the specific needs and wants of customer groups and using these insights to provide products and services which meet customer needs. Retailers can use market segmentation to ensure they do not find themselves facing a downturn in sales by creating and exploiting opportunities directed at the top and bottom consumer classes. The current rising income inequality gap has resulted in an ‘hourglass’ economy, which has placed a lot of pressure on the middle classes and an intriguing opportunity for retailers to attract the attention of the upper and lower income groups.  

The top strata of consumers often account for a disproportionate amount of consumer expenditure and given they have the means to spend, it has resulted in more retailers coming out with faux luxury products or experiences and aiming them at this market. e.g. the personal shopping experience with complimentary champagne. On the other end of the consumer scale are the bottom strata consumers, who are more conscious about how and when they spend.

ZARA provide a perfect example of how they use market segmentation in their company to ensure strong sales in all three consumer strata. ZARA will often have a ‘studio’ or ‘premium’ collection, with a slightly higher price point and higher quality merchandise aimed at the top consumer class. Then for the squeezed middle classes, the ‘special’ prices section offers consumers a chance to purchase merchandise at a slightly discounted price point, and the stock available changes week to week as new stock drops. Finally for the bottom consumer class, ZARA’s biannual sale will enable consumers to become a ZARA customer through the heavily discounted seasonal merchandise.

3. Optimizing The Offline Sales Process

One of the biggest opportunities for growth in the retail sector is the proficiency of the offline sales experience. More customers are choosing to shop online, and while they may be loyal and recurring customers, they may never darken the door of the store front. The retail sector has the opportunity to convert more customers and increase sales by creating an efficient and inviting experience for customers in store. This can be achieved in several ways: the use of promotional events will drive incremental visits; click-and-collect/buy online and pick-up in store services must be executed flawlessly; a proficient, engaging and friendly staff dedicated to good customer service.

4. Inventory Management Processes

The retail sector now have the opportunity for to greatly improve and shorten inventory management processes thanks to developments in technology and the changing pace of the fashion cycle. Buying and selling seasons are no longer mutually exclusive and stock outs result in a loss of sales for retailers. Retailers have the opportunity now to choose the right inventory for their store/channel at the exact time it is required, not six months prior as was the tradition. This not only ensures the most up to date trends and styles are supplied by retailers, but also that stock replenishment can be accomplished efficiently. Now retailers must focus on flexibility and speed to market rather than cost cutting measures.

The future of fashion retailers is standing at a precipice, and how an individual retailer chooses to navigate the various challenges and opportunities will dictate the success of the industry as a whole. 

If you are a young designer looking to make your mark in the retail sector and start your own fashion business, check out last week’s blog post for a strategy in negotiating the various challenges of going from a hobby-designer to a successful fashion business. 

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The Galway Designers Network are looking to make our own mark in the fashion retail sector. Our current project the Galway Designers Studio House has been established by Ann Petrov of Cozy Handmade Designs, Gayle Poppers of Kizmet Clothing and Virtue Shine of Emerald & Wax, but they need your help to make their dream a reality. Follow the link to read all about the project and how you can take part.

The Galway Designers Network are always looking for new and exciting designers or anyone who feels they would love to be involved in the Network. Get in touch by commenting below, via Facebook @galwaydesignersnetwork, via Instagram @galway_designersnetwork or email galwayfashionshowcase@gmail.com.

We the People: How we are changing the Fashion Industry

The fashion industry has undergone some pretty significant changes over the course of the new millennium.

Trends are dictated less and less by one It-Girl/Celebrity or one designer showing in Paris/London/New York/Milan and there is a surplus of disposable income like never before.  As a result of this new found financial freedom, fashion is starting to become dictated by us, the People, as we have more money to spend on the clothes we want. We as consumers and fashion lovers have drastically changed the ways designers, creative directors and buyers have had to approach their jobs.

This week’s blog post is going to explore three new developments in the current fashion landscape which have been directly influenced by us and how we are approaching fashion in a modern world.

Ethical Fashion

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via Pinterest

 

Sustainability is trendy

One of the biggest developments in fashion in recent years is the move towards socially just, organic or fair-trade fashion. The cosmopolitan middle class of the industrialised nations in the Western World are more aware than ever, thanks to the widespread availability of news and media, how immoral some clothing production and manufacturing methods have become. No longer ignorant to the damage fast fashion has caused, designers and buyers are increasingly looking for goodly alternatives to satisfy the now savvy consumer.  

The LOHAS Market

Consumers are now looking for fashionable clothing which has been manufactured under environmentally friendly and socially just conditions. Designers and buyers have to make smart decisions in order to meet the high standards of this new target market, an educated middle to upper class grouping known as LOHAS, which stands for lifestyle of health and sustainability. These people want to buy clothing that is socially conscious but without any concession on style. Nowadays, ethical fashions are compatible with the desire for mass consumption, given they are no longer inferior to the mass produced competition.

Fashion with Social Criteria

Designers and buyers have to look out for materials which have been grown or processed organically without the use of chemicals, pesticides or pollutants, and without the wasteful use of natural resources like water. They have to ensure that they are liaising with suppliers who are ensuring an infallible application of social criteria in regards to working conditions whereby the staff receive reasonable wages and working hours, adequate health and safety protections as well as a ban on any child labour. The current move towards market globalisation along with technological advances have meant that production, networking, purchasing and shipping of clothing for the Western market have created numerous ethical black holes for consumers. We as consumers are aware more than ever before of the hazardous conditions in which some clothing is produced for the West, and the fashion industry have become acutely aware of the resulting backlash.

Gone are the days of fair-trade fashion being associated with hemp trousers – sustainability is chic, and the People have created a need to meet the growing gap in the market.

Changing Fashion Cycle

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via WT VOX

 

Now, now, NOW: A shift towards immediacy

Today, fashion shows are being streamed live and we, the consumer, have become obsessed with shortening the turnaround from catwalk to wardrobe. As a result, the fashion industry has had to change in ways like never before and the fashion cycle has had to evolve to keep up with consumer demand. Gone are the days of design houses showcasing looks in a catwalk presentation and the consumer having to wait six months for the new collection to drop. Designers like Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger have adopted a ‘See Now – Buy Now’ model with catwalk looks being readily available as soon as the clothing hits the runway. Consumers want to be as trendy and fashion forward as possible as soon as possible and this has created a whole new dynamic in the fashion industry. 

The rise of the Fashion Blogger 

Fashion blogging is reshaping the fashion cycle as the People have looked to bloggers more and more as a source of inspiration.  If a blogger has it, a designer, buyer or retailer knows the customer will want it sooner rather than later. No better way to have your item sell out than have it featured in a blogger’s Instagram. Consumers do not want to wait to have their favourite bloggers latest accessory, which has shifted the fashion cycle from a waiting game to a now is not soon enough space.

The idea of a fashion cycle is becoming more and more obsolete as we as consumers have decided to disregard its rules and we slowly move towards a constant and immediate fashion continuum.

Technology

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via Damsel in Dior

 

The Smartphone, the modern fashion magazine

Technological developments in recent years have had a dramatic effect on fashion. The advent of the smartphone and laptop have created new tools to harness our interests by enabling us to constantly keep up to date with fashion news through multiple media channels: online newspapers and magazines, fashion blogs, fashion related YouTube subscriptions and other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. We are living in a sea of continuous fashion feeds and designers have to create work that is not only trend driven but also conscious of the fashion culture within which they are being created and viewed to satisfy the interests of their consumer base. Designers are no longer creating clothing with a view to how it will look on a runway or in a printed magazine; now they have to create with a square Instagram frame or YouTube thumbnail in mind. 

Your Order is on its way: The Internet & Changing Shopping Habits

Technology has streamlined business interactions and impacted consumers shopping habits unlike nothing before. We are conducting transactions in a much more efficient manner than ever before. With a few simple clicks, we can have clothing at our front door in a matter of hours. The advent of e-commerce has meant that designers and retailers now not only have to stay connected to the people who walk in and out of their stores, but they also have to form a critical understanding of the customers who buy from their brand online. Our choice to consume much of our fashion content and conduct purchasing online has given designers and buyers the opportunity to form a comprehensive study of a detailed analysis of our buying habits in having access to our internet history. Technology has been able to capture consumer information which is critical for designers and buyers when making decisions about a future seasons’ range plan i.e. size, colour, silhouette, macro/micro-trends etc.

By understanding the influence technology has had on us as consumers, designers and buyers can assess market trends, enabling them to make smart decisions in the future.

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via 3Dfashionshow.org

 

The biggest change to have struck the fashion industry in recent times is the influential role our voice as consumers has begun to have. We are dictating the trends in deciding what we want to buy and while there are those still out there who will heed the advice of Anna Wintour and her ilk, more and more designers and buyers are coming directly to us, the People.