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Backing the wrong horse

September 2, 2010

Autumn must be almost here: The mornings mists have begun. And fat little Autumn clothing catalogues are beginning to plop through my letterbox. I love these little mini-magazines. I could spend hours poring over how each clothing company have chosen to style their models, their choice of location. I find I will analyse whether the catalogue tells a story, the quality of the print and paper, the actual descriptions of each garment. I ponder what works, and what doesn’t. And sometimes I even pay attention to the clothes :)

Today on the doormat: a catalogue (from a company who will remain nameless) which claims cheerfully that fringing is fabulous. I beg to differ. I don’t mind fringing on the very ends of scarves, and I’ll tolerate it on the bottom of sofas.  But almost every piece of knitwear in this catalogue has woolly fringing. Fringing around collars, fringing in the seams, and up the sides. The general effect is that of the illustration at the top of this post. It’s from a Vogue Knitting Book from 1961, and even Vogue suggests that it may be judicious to knit a version without the fringe: “Pullover in delicious mango, with madcap fringes for the latest Italian look; or, more orthodox, without”.

It seems to me a risky business, designing a mass market/high street clothing collection. After all, the whole process must start so far in advance of that catalogue landing on my doormat. A year? Two years? Armed with “market intelligence” and “trend forecasting” each clothing label must make that fundamental decision: what trends do they think will sell? (It must be a tiny bit like, say,  putting your entire year’s salary on Prancing Snowdrift to win the 2.30 at Epsom because a friend of a friend says they’re a stone cold cert.)

It’s certainly intriguing to see what trends each retailer is backing to win profits this season. My catalogue confidently asserts that fringing is “right on trend”. I think they may have backed the wrong horse. But that’s just me. I will endeavour to remember that no amount of being  told something is “on trend” means I have to suspend my personal disbelief and buy it….

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2010 12:02 pm

    This is an interesting story. A while back I did some work at an Australian company that had a subscription to WGSN (they cost round $40K, so individuals would rarely subscribe, one presumes). Anyway, this amazing fashion website is basically trend-forecasting many seasons in advance, and shows everything, from everywhere. (And that’s probably not an exaggeration!) From streetwear, to catwalk, to exhibitions in museums, books, paintings etc, from all round the world. Each trend is dissected so minutely: colour swatches are provided, even clothing designs (ie, silhouettes).

    It is basically the fashion-world’s bible, and my understanding is that fashion people do follow it religiously. At the end of every season, the website sums up its success rate, and it was pretty high, around 80-90%. It made me wonder, what came first, the fashion sketch, or WGSN reportage? It seems a shame that creative people are forced by large money-making companies to blindly follow a trend-forecasting company. What happened to true creativity? I don’t know if countries that are not part of the Antipodes are quite that slavish though – and of course my experience was with just one company.

    • glassoffashion permalink
      October 26, 2010 9:33 am

      That’s fascinating- thanks for this! I think your point about creativity being lost as designers are forced to follow forecasted trends is a very interesting one. And it seems to be a situation that is engrained in the whole chain from initial design right through to retailer choices- occasionally I flick through a copy of Drapers magazine (which is aimed at store buyers/retailers). It helps them choose which labels and pieces to buy in and stock for the seasons ahead by careful analysis of what is “on trend”. So that’s another point of the process at which clothes that might not “perform” are ruthlessly weeded out, before the actual consumer goes into a store and makes that final selection. Whew, it’s enough to make your brain short circuit! Love your site, by the way :)

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