Friday, March 11, 2011

Live and Let Live

The fashion industry has always been driven by the constant change in trends. Some last longer than others. Some become a movement. All can be predicted more than a year in advance by some of the most influential and powerful trend forecasting companies across the world. This process begs to ask the question: are these services creating or spotting the trends?
Trend forecasting companies span across all industries including interior design, architecture, food and automotive; in one word they cover everything. So if major industry competitors are all subscribing are there really trends?
Pantone specialists are entitled appropriately “cool hunters.” Companies like WGSN and Pantone are great references for designers. They provide inspiration for the fast paced industry where one wrong colour choice means thousands of dollars in lost profit. They provide a range of colour ideas that the designer can choose from and interpret. They still allow flexibility and creativity to thrive in the fashion industry. They go to the streets in over 100 cities worldwide to see what people have pulled and paired together. They seek out up-and-coming artists, travel destinations and world events that may inspire the latest runway collections.
With trend companies going to greater lengths and investors forcing designers to follow colour trends as a means of success, does all of this pressure force designer to conform? Linda Lundström, who you may know as a George Brown faculty member, adopted an acclaimed forecasting company when her company was bought out by Eleventh Floor. She explained in her draping class that she had never used trend forecasting services before while working on her label, but adopted them into her process. She continued to say that while the services create the pallets, designers are free to interpret them for different target markets.
The issue also becomes apparent with the overall cost to access these services ringing in well into the thousands of dollars. Smaller designers don’t find it in their budgets to afford these services and are therefore left behind. Luckily in the modern world, careful studying of street-style blogs and world events can provide the inspiration for free. The photographers that take to the streets each day provide the perfect representation of what the world is wearing- vintage or new. Designers in Toronto who belong to the Toronto Fashion Incubator can access seminars held by Pantone and have constant access to the books they publish. With the membership and fee for the seminar reaching just over 100$ smaller companies can afford to attend.
The need for trends and new products to constantly flood retail stores means that these companies are essential in keeping the market going. They provide information on new innovations from around the world and ideas on advertising and packaging to bring the final product to the consumer. Customized consultations are also available for designers. The companies filter through the trends and provide only details on the key details relevant for the price point and target market. In such an artistic and creative industry such direction is an asset to the artist. Allowing the designer to efficiently design a line for each fashion week or retail season means a major increase in profit and satisfied investors.
Consumers can take these companies as an advantage. Since there are so many companies making similar garments, style can be achieved at any price point. Of course the fabrics and the details may not be the same, but the colour pallet and the silhouettes are so similar that it makes dressing on a budget easier for the mass market. For designers it becomes an advantage because some advertisements are more easily obtained through magazine editorials. Since their garments can coincide with other designers who have chosen similar styling, magazines get to showcase several pieces cohesively.
With the fashion industry being the multi-billion dollar business that it is, the bottom line remains the essential ingredient in major decisions. If one decides to forego using the services of cool-hunters than one risks a design flop known to investors as an expense not lightly taken.
So the question still remains; do trend forecasting companies hurt or help the creative process? With the industry being so business-focused and the consumer empowered by the market’s saturation, any business decision that minimizes the risk of poor design choices is a no-brainer. It’s not to say that a well chosen pallet and fabric choice based on a solid inspiration can’t just as easily succeed. But with colour names like: orchid hush and quarry how can you not find inspiration in these services

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