The world of trend forecasting has a special place in fashion — the traditional fashion calendar runs, after all, anywhere between six months to a year and is based on both macro and micro trends in the economy, the workplace and on the ground.
Behind many brands’ decisions to show capes or culottes on runways and in shows is WGSN, or World Global Style Network, a trend-tracking and research tool whose designers, buyers and merchandising clients use it to decide clothing and apparel choices from color to cut to fabric.
Sarah Owen and Andrea Bell, senior editor and director, respectively, of WGSN’s research arm, Think Tank, joined this week’s podcast to talk about how it calls all the shots. Edited highlights below.
Instagram has changed the game
For Owen, an editor who spends most of her time studying younger customers, Instagram has changed the game. As the platform becomes the focus group of choice, brands are increasingly looking at it to inform fashion decisions as well as market themselves. “A few years ago, pre-Instagram, the runways trickled down and influenced the customer,” she said. “Instagram becomes the platform. Girl gets snapped on Instagram, then getting put on Vogue.com or Style.com.”
But it’s also created a cult of sameness
Because of technology, everything also ends up looking the same. The ability for something to go “viral” means that often, inputs and outputs are awash in a sea of sameness. “If you went on Instagram right now, there’d be 50 photos of someone holding an ice-cream cone,” said Bell. That means brands and researchers need to figure out where a trend starts. So if a city bans cars, they might see how that might lead to the rise of athletic wear, instead of just responding to seeing people wear athleisure on Instagram.
Smaller designers should worry about the changing fashion cycle
The changing fashion cycle can be a boon for smaller designers who are not shackled to the old way of doing things and can build brands on their own, but it also brings logistical challenges. Showing and selingl products at the same time can be capital intensive, she said. So if they’re not creating partnerships with bloggers, Instagrams and other partners, they won’t be able to build the buzz bigger brands can.
The fashion press is no longer the gatekeepers
For years, the fashion press was the only way brands could get their products out in the world. (Both Owen and Bell started as fashion journalists.) But editors still have influence because they inspire others, but influencers are playing a growing role in getting people to buy products.
Brands still don’t know what to do with influencers
While influencers are a huge force in the business, many brands still don’t know what to do with them or how the process works. As Digiday reported earlier, the lack of pricing standards and experience makes brands think the process is straightforward: You give someone a piece of clothing, they wear it on a beach in Miami, and that’s the end of it. There are all kinds of details like color choice, posting frequency and competitive posts that have to be decided on. “Brands don’t understand that. The majority of brands without a strong social media team think it’s just about contacting someone on Instagram and asking them to take a photo,” Bell said.