Fashion Collections: Product Development and Merchandising

Creative Industries & Culture

publication date 22/09/2017

How do fashion trends emerge? Why in a given year the trendy color is blue instead of, say, red?

This work, based on research I carried out in the textile-clothing industries since the 1980s, looks at the various actors involved in the established of fashion trends. Contrary to the widespread idea that fashion trends are launched by the most famous brands and designers, in the textile and clothing world no company is an island, and trends that emerge at a given time are always the result of the interaction of numerous subjects that mutually influence each other and operate at various levels of the supply chain. This include textile companies, experts, clothing companies, retailers, the professional and consumer media, celebrities, and consumers themselves who, with their collective adoption, will eventually determine a trend’s diffusion. The process, while complex, is however governed by a few actors who systematically scan emerging consumer trends and provide textile and clothing companies with instructions for innovation. Named style bureaux and cool hunters, these actors reduce complexity and form a niche but added-value industry of global reach. 

The work also analyzes the geography of trends. Here are some (not many) centers in which trends originate, to then spread towards many peripheries. It is known that the first - and for some time the only - cap- ital of fashion was Paris. The trends developed by the couturier in the French capital spread around the world thanks to the sale of models to local tailors who could thus satisfy requests from their clients to dress “in the latest Parisian fashion”. The cities currently considered to be at the top of the fashion hierarchy due to their prestigious fashion weeks are Paris, Milan, New York and London. In the last ten to fifteen years though, there has been an ex- ponential growth of the number of cities that organize fashion weeks to provide visibility to the stylistic innovations of local designers and brands. In addition, many cities, despite not having fashion weeks, are considered cultural epicenters due to the specific consumer culture that distinguishes them. The geog- raphy of fashion is thus much more fragmented than in the past, and truly global trends co-exist with more local trends, making the work of cool hunters more interesting.  

The advent of the web and social media have profoundly alterned influence mechanisms in the fashion world, giving consumers more power. Social media make word-of-mouth processes more visible, and extend consumers’ opinion leadership from the personal network of family members, friends, co-workers and acquaintances, to a potentially global audience. Bloggers like the Italian Chiara Ferragni (The Blonde Salad, over 3 million followers on Instagram in 2015) are now celebrities invited at the most prestigious fashion shows. The digital revolution has thus in many ways made the trend affirmation process more fragmented, as the emergence of new technologies and social platforms has made trends themselves change continuously. Big data technology, which is expected to be able to predict the behavior of consumers starting with weak signals in the near future, will certainly impact the fashion world and the processes of prediction/affirmation of stylistic trends.