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.
- Definition of fashion and trends
- Trends and acceptance
- What influences fashion
- What role do Fashion Weeks play?
- 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.The text continues below the images.
Fashion: from catwalk to closet
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.
- Innovators, are those that are ahead of the curve
- Trendsetters, those who establish trends
- Trend followers, those who wait until the trend has become mainstream,
- 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).
- Innovators (innovators), the people who want to be the first to try new things, represent 2.5 percent of the population.
- Second are the Early Adopters (pioneers), about 13 percent of the population.
- This is followed by the Early Majority (precursors), 34 percent of the population. Innovation reaches Late Majority (backrunners), also represented by 34 percent of the population.
- 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.
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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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.
This is the calendar followed by much of the fashion industry:
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.
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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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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 sailsHow 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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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.
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’.
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.