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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.