It doesn’t matter whether you are paying attention or not: trends change continuously and they impact your business in a much larger way than you can imagine. They decide whether your product sourcing and branding decisions will prove to be right or wrong; and whether your customers will perceive your products to be ‘hot new’ or ‘indifferent’. You can be the company that follows trends or you can be a company that starts new trends. Either way, you need to stay on top of the trends.
You can think of it as rowing a boat. Have you ever tried rowing a boat against the water current? Yes, it’s extremely difficult and tiring. That’s how it is to run a fashion ecommerce business when you’re not aware of fashion trends; and not realizing that your branding and product sourcing decisions are against the trends.
With your daily product sourcing & buying decisions, you either chose to go against the trends or with the trends. My whole point here is to remind you the importance of trends and how they impact your business. Because Fashion ecommerce is such a consuming business and involves so many other dynamics that it’s rather easy for a startup retailer to forget the most fundamental characteristic of fashion: that it’s a business of selling styling trends and these trends are changing all the time.
In fact, I have seen even artists and designers ignoring trends because many of them are inherently so emotionally attached with their style & work that they fail to see the commercial side of it, in terms of will customers pay the said price for it? What’s the commercial viability of their work?
Source of trend forecasting information
Not every business can afford to hire a trend forecasting agency, especially at the startup stage. Thus, often their founders and leaders of these companies wear the cap of their company’s fashion forecaster. And it only makes sense because it helps them develop a vision to lead their brand.
Here are few sources to help you head start your brand’s trend forecasting research:
- Fashion Shows: I have seen online fashion retailers, who call themselves fast fashion brand but their collections have nothing to do with the styles, colors and fabrics that are there on the global fashion runway. Doesn’t matter whether you’re a fast fashion or slow fashion brand, you should know which designs and designers are creating most buzz in the top fashion shows, for example – New York Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week, etc. Research and examine, why those designs did well. What colors and fabrics were used? You might get a hint of which green color is going to be the green of the season.
- Trade shows: International fiber and fabric markets, such as Interstoff in Germany and Expofil in Paris, are a great resources to research colors and textile trends. If you’re a US brand, you can go and attend trade shows in New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
- The couture collections brands: The likes of Dior, Chanel, Gucci, Armani, Prada etc – these are designers who hold the power to influence the world fashion trends. If you’re in the business of fashion, you should know what colors, patterns, silhouettes, etc are used by these designers in their latest collection.
- The contemporary designers on the block: Keep a check on the emerging designers that are doing well. If they’re generating buzz for their work in the front line media, the chances are that there are things about their work that are in vogue. Make a note of them.
- Manufacturers: Your manufacturer in China knows more about the latest trends than you do. Why? Because he probably works with many other brands like you, and possibly they’re also manufacturing for brands that are bigger than you. They know what designs, patterns, fabrics, etc are currently in demand. If you can build good relationship with them, they probably can be the greatest source for your business for fashion forecasting related information.
- Cross Industry Trends: Do you know that fashion forecasting agencies review trends cross industries. For example, they will not only see the colors that are hot in the New York Fashion Week, but they will also see the new colors of cars in the automobile industry in Frankfurt Motor Show. Same goes with the home furnishing industry. Of course, you can’t go to all these places but you can read about them in magazines and blogs.
- Celebrities: Celebrities have the power to ignite new trends. What kind of colors, designs, fabrics and patterns are the trend setting celebs carrying? Are people talking about their style? You should know about about them.
- Look around: Another great way is to analyze the fashionable people around you, when you’re in a coffee shop, airport, restaurant, shopping malls, dance clubs etc. Notice how people are carrying themselves. Do you see any common colors, patterns, designs, etc, make a note of them.
Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. – Coco Chanel
The greatest thing about using trend forecasting is that it forces you to act like a fashion company and gives you wealth of editorial content ideas for your website.
Having said that – don’t look at Fashion forecasting to only anticipate the upcoming trends. It may be too amitious for you to achieve if you’re starting up and don’t have any prior experience in forecasting. For that, may be you can hire fashion forecasters (in-house or offshore) whenever you have budget for it in future.
But for now, just staying updated on what’s latest in trends is good enough. By staying on top of trends, your chances of making correct decisions related to buying, manufacturing and branding are much higher. It will empower you to build a business which is not only profitable now and but also sustainable in the longer run.
Image: Steve Webster