How Fashion Trends Work? Are Designers Copying Each Other?

From a fashion outsider’s point of view (I consider myself an outsider as I think I’m not the one involved in sketching the ideas or doing the stitching, although I do have access to the industry sometimes,) trends can sometimes make collections look like fishes from the sea of sameness.

Don’t get me wrong – I love trends like prints, floral, graphics, stripes and camo, and I love designers who create fabulous pieces with them, whether I’m buying / can afford them or not.

But over the time, excessive may result in fashion numbness.

The numbness resulted from the overexposure subsequently gave birth to a kind of indifference in me towards a certain trend and certain creative ideas that feel somewhat similar. (However, I do understand that they are still a part of the designer’s creative expression and design goals, and we have to respect that and their hard work.)

From a general consumer point of view (I shell out my own money for my clothes,) trends make fashion items look like clones sometimes.

“But that’s by designer XXX and this is YYY?” One may point out the distinctive identity. Yes, but these two pair of shoes still look somewhat similar when you cover the labels with your fingers.

Fashion Trend Utility Jacket How Fashion Trends Work? Are Designers Copying Each Other?Spring 2015

The thing is that trending things sell. A fashion designer who’s in touch with the real world know this. That’s what really matters – if not more important than the designer’s creativity – if you’re not a couture house backed by a stable financial support.

By the time the “indifference” towards a trend started to take form, the next “in” trend would probably have arrived. The lifecycle will be reset and restarted, until the next one come to replace. The “trend” cycle never end.

But how does one “trend” get started?

It’s an exclusive world that the top players in the industry are living in. Designers of the top-tier fashion houses (for examples, Chanel) know each other. They probably go to the same events, places, and listen to the latest (and same) music and movies. They have the same connections and probably hang out with the same group of friends. And they probably also do vacation in the same island and stay in the same hotel.

On the business side, some may be sourcing fabrics, raw materials and craftsmen from the same mills and factories. The availability of fabrics may influence their design decisions.

When all that connected influences translated into their fashion design works, it results in similar inspiration. The inspiration may be very unique as a whole and comes accompanied by a unique story each season, but there are likely to be overlapping areas.

Have your ever wonder why denim suddenly appeared on many Fashion Week runway recently? Why sports luxe? Why stripes? For examples.

Those are probably the overlapping areas.

When the same elements (overlapping areas) started to show up on the top fashion houses’ runway, trend forecasting agencies like WGSN (Worth Global Style Network) and fashion media will start to work. They find out the recurring patterns, analyse them with an added mix of what’s trending in the society (art, music, movies, celebrities, movement, world affair & etc) and concentrated the result into what we’d later call the “fashion trend” or “trend report.”

Very soon, the second-tier designers will take cue from the reports, and started producing new designs with the new trends in mind. “Fast fashion” brands will make their new designs available to the market as soon as possible (and thus the “fast” in the naming) in order to meet the forecasted market need.

“Once is chance, twice is coincidence, third time is a trend.” When consumers are exposed to the various channels of fashion media that reports the same information about the new trends, or seeing that the new trend is already available in the fast-fashion stores, the “third time is a trend” part happens.

“Wow that looks cool. I think it’s very popular because it’s everywhere now. I want to get something similar.” When consumers start buying the trend, in other words, start buying items with the same style, a trend is officially born.

When the sales start showing, retailers, merchandisers and fashion buyers who stock up their inventory based on the trend reports from the fashion media and forecasting agencies earlier can now reassess their buying decision. A restock of the trending items means “revenue,” and that means fashion labels and media have accomplished their mission.

Doesn’t that sound like we are just being “dictated” and “made believe” by the whole fashion world to buy some (similar) products created out of some random thoughts of a few people sitting at the top of the hierarchy who sometimes say “I don’t believe in trends”?

It does. But there’s where you can see the difference between a fashion victim and a person with a personal style. Fashion victims are very loyal to fashion trends. A stylish person appreciate the trends, do experiments but won’t say “Yes” to each one of them – that would forever be my homework. (While we’re at that, “style” and “fashion” are two difference thing.)

But as you can also see, “trend” won’t exist if there is no “wants.” The trend lifecycle is actually feeding the part of human behaviour that always longs for something new, something exciting.

I like to put it this way: I like trend because trend gives me something to think about. Something to be excited about. You do not have to follow trends, nor should you ignore them completely because you’d lose the fun parts.

Heck. Do you know what’s actually, REALLY trending in the fashion circle now?

It’s wearing designs from young unknown designers that looks completely different from the “trends” out there.

Some strive to do that and wave the anti-trend flag. But to many, that’s a “trend” too.

I guess that’s how fashion trend works.

Image by Vogue, Style.com

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