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Fashion: from catwalk to closet

By Esmee Blaazer

Aug 31, 2022

Background

To illustrate the trickle down effect, we’ll be using the crochet trend as an example. You can see Anna Sui crochet fashion shown on the catwalk on the left and middle image. Credit: Anna Sui SS22, property Catwalk Pictures. On the right, you see crochet swimwear from Calzedonia. Credit: Calzedonia Beachwear campaign SS22, via UPR Belgium.

What is fashion exactly? What influences are there on fashion? What role do Fashion Weeks play? How do trends arise and how do trends find their way into our wardrobe? FashionUnited explains.

Contents

  1. Definition of fashion and trends
  2. Trends and acceptance
  3. What influences fashion
  4. What role do Fashion Weeks play?
  5. How fashion trends find their way into our wardrobe

1. Definition of fashion and trends

The difference between fashion and a trend

A hype is a fashion phenomenon that quickly attracts attention, but also (again) quickly disappears.

A trend is when a fashion phenomenon has been around for a few seasons, and there are also different versions in different price categories.

Some trends last for years and define fashion. Something is only fashion when the majority of the population follows a trend. Fashion is always changing, fads follow each other and every year there are new trends.

Sometimes a fashion phenomenon is specific to one group, that is a subculture.

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Fashion: from catwalk to closet

Influencers Linda Tol and Pernille Teisbaek wore bestselling items from Bottega Veneta during the SS20 Fashion Week, namely the Padded Casette bag from the fall 2019 collection and Lido sandals with heel from the pre-spring 2020 collection. Image credit: property Bottega Veneta. Accessories inspired by these (and other) Bottega Veneta items will still be in fashion in 2022.
Heeled mules from &Other Stories for 99 euros & La Redoute for 64.99 euros, inspired by sought-after Bottega Veneta braided and padded sandals with a heel and mules, as you can see in the photo above. The Italian luxury leather goods brand reached true cult status under the leadership of former creative director Daniel Lee. Photo Credits: La Redoute Collections SS22 via MMBSY and &Other Stories summer capsule collection SS22, via UPR Agency

2. Trends and acceptance

Looking at the rate of acceptance of trends, this can be divided up into four groups. This applies to both people and (fashion) brands.

  1. Innovators, are those that are ahead of the curve
  2. Trendsetters, those who establish trends
  3. Trend followers, those who wait until the trend has become mainstream,
  4. Non-followers; they do not follow fashion

The Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) theory, one of the oldest social science theories by E.M. Rogers in 1962, considers five acceptance rates in the diffusion of an innovation (a new product or idea, and in our case, a trend).

  1. Innovators (innovators), the people who want to be the first to try new things, represent 2.5 percent of the population.
  2. Second are the Early Adopters (pioneers), about 13 percent of the population.
  3. This is followed by the Early Majority (precursors), 34 percent of the population.
  4. Innovation reaches Late Majority (backrunners), also represented by 34 percent of the population.
  5. Finally, Laggards, which represent 16 percent of the population, "indicating that the trend is reaching saturation or becoming obsolete," clarifies retail analytics firm Edited in a publication from June on the trend cycle.
  6. Not all trends follow exactly this (acceptance) pattern, and not all trends reach the masses (as you can read in section 1).

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    The French couturier Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. She had a great influence on women's fashion. Two major themes in her work: the Little Black Dress and the two-piece suit. Chanel inspired (tweed) jackets are still in fashion. At retail chain H&M, for example, textured woven jackets and blazers are back in the collection this fall (FW22). Photo: property of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

    3. What influences fashion?

    Now that you know what fashion and trends are, it's important to know what influences fashion.

    Direct influences are designers: the fashion houses and couturiers (in sections 4 and 5 we explain their influence), trend watchers, fabric manufacturers, fashion trade magazines and retailers (the shopkeepers). And also: the media, celebrities, people around us and you (you choose what you wear).

    In addition, fashion is indirectly influenced by social developments such as people and cultural trends, technology, politics and legislation, the weather, the environment, social phenomena and art.

    4. What role do Fashion Weeks play?

    The concept of Fashion Week as we know it, with a full schedule during which several designers get the chance to present their collection, dates back to 1943.

    During WWII, American journalist Eleanor Lambert realised it was impossible for designers to leave the country and bring European trends back to the United States. The problem, she believed, also presented an opportunity - to give homegrown talent a chance to showcase their work at an event called ‘‘Press Week’’. The event’s first edition was a great success and was subsequently repeated every season in New York. The city soon made a name for itself as a genuine city of fashion and would organise its own fashion weeks years later.

    The idea behind the very first edition was to allow designers to show their collections to fashion journalists and potential customers in order to gain visibility and sell their work. The essence of the events is still the same today. Fashion weeks still revolve around generating business.

    Fashion designers and brands organise fashion shows to create excitement and desire for what will be available in their shops. Many designers present extravagant versions of their clothes at their catwalk presentations, which are often simplified (made less conspicuous) for retail.

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    Alexander McQueen’s iconic “bumster” trousers were at the forefront of the low-rise waist trend. The photo on the left shows supermodel Kate Moss wearing low-rise trousers on the catwalk. Later, McQueen created more accessible versions of the low-rise style trousers. The photo on the right shows a design from the Alexander McQueen SS99 collection. Credit: Alexander McQueen AW96 collection, Catwalk Pictures (Archives) & Alexander McQueen SS99, Catwalk Pictures (Archives).
    Image: On the left, you can see a pair of plaid trousers by Marni. In the image in the middle you see a close-up picture of Marni flowers from the SS22 collection. These plaid trousers and flowers were released in a more accessible form for retail chain Uniqlo, as you can see in the image on the right. Image credits left to right: Marni menswear ready-to-wear AW20 collection, Catwalk Pictures, Marni SS22, Catwalk Pictures, and Marni x Uniqlo collaboration collection, Uniqlo via UPR Belgium.

    It usually takes six months for a designer to order fabrics and produce the clothes of the catwalk collection before it is delivered to shops. Couture is an exception, as couture is not made in a factory.

    Ready-to-wear and Haute Couture

    Most fashion companies make ready-to-wear or prêt-à-porter collections. Both mean the same thing: clothes are sold in a finished state in standardised sizes, such as 6/8/10/12 or S/M/L/XL etc. Numerous copies are made of each model in a production facility. These clothes are therefore not tailor-made. Fashion brands like Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, but also Levi’s and Primark all produce and sell ready-to-wear clothing.

    Haute couture is high-end fashion that is constructed by hand from start to finish and made of high-quality, expensive and often exclusive fabric(s). It is handmade with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced petit mains. (The term refers to the highly skilled craftspeople who bring the couturiers’ designs to life and is literally translated from French as ‘the little hands’). Some dresses take up to 2,000 hours of manual labour to complete. Although most couture houses are unwilling to disclose their prices, a dress from the Valentino catwalk, for example, can cost up to £80,000 (€92,500). Only a small group of people is able to buy couture. The purchase comes with two certainties, a unique design and bespoke work. Haute couture, therefore, has a different status and a different clientele. It requires trend-setting ideas and outstanding craftsmanship. Famous couturiers include Christian Dior and Chanel. Dutch fashion designers who make couture are Viktor & Rolf, Iris van Herpen and Ronald van der Kemp>

    Many major fashion houses, such as Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, Valentino and Balenciaga, have both a department for ready-to-wear clothing and another department where haute couture is made.

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    This is couture by Balenciaga. Spanish couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga opened his Parisian couture house in 1937. The city of lights is teeming with successful couturiers, but Balenciaga distinguishes himself from his colleagues by the architectural quality of his work. On the left, you see a model in a Balenciaga suit from 1947. Credit: © Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet / Roger-Viollet / AFP. On the right is the new Balenciaga couture from the AW22 collection, shown at Haute Couture Week in Paris, a design by fashion designer Demna (he recently dropped his surname Gvasalia, ed.). Credit: Balenciaga

    Fashion Weeks: the spotlight is on “the big four”, haute couture and womenswear

    Fashion weeks not only have the attention of the fashion industry but can be seen as an industry in itself. The biggest fashion weeks have a huge economic impact on the cities where they take place, and the same goes for the fashion industry itself. This is why Fashion Weeks are ubiquitous worldwide (have you heard, for example, of Graduate Fashion Week, Lakme Fashion Week, Taipei Fashion Week, Tokyo Fashion Week and Helsinki Fashion Week?).

    Yet, for decades, the spotlight has been reserved for “the big four”: the fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris. And of all the fashion weeks, Haute Couture Fashion Week and womenswear catwalk season, the fashion circus where the new ready-to-wear womenswear collections are shown, draw the biggest crowds. This is because couture is the crème de la crème of fashion and the breeze from couture week determines the direction the fashion ship will sail (more on that in section 5). And also: womenswear is the most important segment in the industry. In 2018 womenswear accounted for more than half (53%) of fashion retail spending worldwide.

    Other important events on the show calendar are the menswear fashion weeks (menswear accounts for 31% of global spendingon apparel) and the resort presentations (the latter collections are crucial for the sales results of many fashion houses ).

    Haute Couture Fashion Week Paris takes place twice a year in the French capital, in January and July. Womenswear catwalk season runs twice a year, starting in February and September in New York, followed by London Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week and last but not least Paris Fashion Week, which ends at the beginning of March and October respectively. Spring/summer designs are shown at Fashion Week in September and October for the following summer, while autumn/winter collections are presented in February and March for the following winter.*

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    Dressing sexy is currently ‘in’. It’s about showing bare skin. Think bodycon clothing with cut-outs, crop, tube and bra tops and the micro mini skirt. Image: catwalk collections Balmain SS22 (left), Catwalk Pictures & Saint Laurent SS22 (right), Catwalk Pictures. Below are two looks from &Other Stories.
    Image: &Other Stories summer capsule collection (SS22), &Other Stories via UPR Belgium

    5. How do fashion trends find their way into our wardrobes?

    Fashion Week = news

    It starts with trend-setting fashion from fashion weeks, where designers show their new collections. It is the first time fashion designers and houses present their new ideas for the next season. So this is news!

    Fashion week (see section 4. Fashion Weeks for more information) has traditionally been a strong indicator of where the fashion industry is heading. The most renowned fashion houses and designers show at Fashion Week. Fashion shows still have influence how people dress and what they buy. The shows, which usually last about 15 to 20 minutes, largely determine what future fashion will look like - be it in six months or just a few weeks. Fashion shows influence styles, colours, textile designs, techniques, materials and even beauty trends.

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    Padded jackets, also known as puffer jackets, are in fashion. Images left to right: down jacket designs by Givenchy, Off-White & Rick Owens that were seen on the catwalk (AW21 collections). Images: Catwalk Pictures. Below is a more accessible design from C&A.
    Image: new fall collection C&A (AW22), C&A

    From high fashion to everyone: the trickle-down effect of the catwalk

    Traditionally, trends are dictated by the catwalk. “Trends move from couture luxury fashion to premium fashion brands and diffusion lines, then to the mass market and finally the low-priced labels and retail chains,” explained the retail data analytics firm Edited in an article examining the [new] trend cycle last June.

    Watch this 2-minute clip from the film ‘The Devil wears Prada’ about the trickle-down effect.

    The clothing industry takes its cues from catwalk designs. Couture collections are a main source of inspiration. Designs are translated to the taste of the fashion-following group.

    The breeze from couture week determines the direction the fashion ship sails

    How does that work? The [couture] designs are translated to easier and more accessible styles at lower prices, after which they are bought by conservative(er) retailers and eventually by the masses. Fashion is interpreted for a larger public by adjustments (i.e., made more accessible) and sold at lower prices. Concessions to design are exclusivity, quality and other design elements.

    A haute couture dress is handmade from luxurious materials with beautiful details, often tailor-made and designed especially for you. The style of a dress you buy at a large fashion chain in the high street can be inspired by a couture dress seen on the catwalk but is much lower priced and, above all, simpler. The dress is made in a cheaper fabric, has far fewer and cheaper details, etc. And the dress is anything but unique since it is produced in large quantities, so there are many (tens, even thousands) of the same style for sale.

    Not only couture, but also designs from the women’s and men’s ready-to-wear collections as well are often imitated and sometimes even literally copied 1-to-1.

    The bubble up trend theory

    The bubble up theory is the opposite of the trickle down theory: it bubbles up from street style. In other words, mainstream fashion takes street fashion trends as its inspiration.

    It actually works both ways. Street (fashion) takes inspiration from the designer fashion on the catwalk, and the catwalk takes inspiration from what people wear on the street.

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    Corsets and bustiers spotted on the catwalk at Balenciaga SS22, Isabel Marant SS21 and Christian Dior Resort22 (left to right). Images via Catwalkpictures.com
    Corsets and bustiers spotted on the streets. Street style in Milan, Paris and New York. Credit: Nick Leuze (left and centre), NYFW/ David Dee Delgado / Getty Images North America / Getty Images via AFP (right).

    Trends have many different origins nowadays

    “For decades, a top-down model was predominant in the fashion industry, with catwalks and celebrities as key drivers for the next big trend. For trend watchers, the Zeitgeist has always been the primary source of inspiration for future predictions, now influencers on social media are essential, for both identifying a certain aesthetic and also for confirming trends as well,” states trend forecasting agency Fashion Snoops in July 2022.

    In the 21st century, Internet and social media have made bottom-up fashion a reality. It started with the fashion blogger** who emerged in the noughties (2000 - 2009) and gained popularity in the following decade (2010s): average women who photographed themselves in their clothes on the street and published on their own website and/or on Facebook.

    Fast forward: A few years later, fashion bloggers are now called influencers, and Facebook has been replaced by Instagram.

    &”With the growing power of social media and influencers, trends are increasingly originating from consumers rather than retailers, editors and trend watchers. And that has created a power shift: Instead of the fashion industry pushing products to consumers, the product is driven by [consumer] demand,” states the author of the article ‘New Normal in Fashion Trends: Predictive Analytics powered by AI and the Bottom-up Consumer Revolution’ published on Medium.com in May 2020.

    Nowadays, there are many viral products (products that go viral and become very popular fashion items within a short time, ed.) and micro trends emerging from TikTok, says Edited. Binge-worthy TV series are also influential: take the so-called Netflix effect when protagonists and their sophisticated film wardrobes influence fashion through hit series like ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ (1950s elegance with the spirit of today’s Gucci) and ‘The Crown’ (and specifically the fourth season, with convincing reconstructions of Princess Diana’s looks and Sloane Ranger outfits). ‘Stranger Things’ brought the ‘80s look back into fashion and ‘Bridgerton’ created ‘regencycore’ and ‘royalcore’ trends where corsets, empire dresses and hair bands gained popularity. “Social media has made some traditional trend cycles irrelevant to modern retail,” concluded retail analytics agency Edited.

    Image: Campaign image of Stradivarius’ ‘Bridgerton’ collection in March 2022, inspired by the second Bridgerton season. Credit: Stradivarius

    Click to expand:

    **This is the calendar followed by much of the fashion industry:

    The Spring/Summer collections are presented on the catwalk in September and October and delivered to shops between January and March.
    The Autumn/Winter collections are presented on the catwalk in February and March and delivered to shops between July and September.
    The seasons in between, known as resort and Pre-Fall, are designed to arrive in shops in mid-winter and high summer respectively

    **Fashion Bloggers

    Fashion bloggers ensured that the street style scene as we know it today, the fashion show that takes place outside on the streets during the fashion shows and weeks, also exploded. “The buzz around the shows now seems as important as what happens in the carefully guarded (Fashion Week, ed.) tents,” wrote respected fashion journalist and critic Suzy Menkes about the phenomenon in a NY Times article titled “The Circus of Fashion” in 2013. Hanging out at fashion show venues purely to be photographed is also known as ‘peacocking’.

    Sources:

    • TMO Fashion Business School study and specifically, book ‘Mode-Adviseur’ from authors Mirjam van den Bosch, Astrid Hanou and Hans van Otegem, publisher Stichting Detex Opleidingen, 2003, second edition.
    • What Does The New Trend Cycle Look Like?, Edited article from author Kayla Marci, June 2022.
    • Diffusion of Innovation Theory, SPH - Boston University Website, 2019 & Dutch Wikipedia page Rogers Innovation Theory, 2013.
    • 'The Circus of Fashion', about the phenomenon of fashion bloggers and the street style scene at fashion shows. The New York Times article by author Suzy Menkes, February 2013.
    • 'New Normal in Fashion Trends: Predictive Analytics powered by AI and the Bottom-up Consumer Revolution' article by author Frank Jee Ph.D. on Medium.com, May 2020.
    • Content from the FashionUnited archive of authors Christin Parcerisa, Léana Esch, Vivian Hendriksz, Don-Alvin Adegeest, Hervé Dewintre, Ole Spötter, Nora Veerman, Wendela van den Broek, Marjolein Stormezand, the AFP press agency and guest editor Fashion Snoops (de original publications can often be found in the linked article text).
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