Episode 20: Why Trends are still part of running a sustainable business




Trends, Fashion forecasting, Fashion design, Product development, Sourcing




Welcome to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you need help navigating the fashion industry sustainably, you have come to the right place. I'm your host Belinda Humphrey and my hope is to simplify the fashion industry so that businesses can make the best decisions for people, planet and product.


Hello, and welcome to episode 20 of the Fashion Unearthed podcast. Today's episode is the last one before we start our six week sustainable summer series next week where I answer the most popular audience questions around sustainability and fashion. So make sure you're subscribed to the podcast, to get your weekly dose, wherever you might be over the holiday season.


Now, if you're following along on Instagram, or been a listener for a while, you would have remembered ideally creativity coaching session with the fabulous Marion Piper, when I was feeling particularly drained after the last 18 months, who isn't really and needing to find the joy again in the creative process. And after that session, I actually interviewed Marion on the podcast and you can find that episode in Episode Seven, I think I'll put the link in the show notes and she gives some really helpful tips in finding your way back to creativity and getting back to your spark. So you might find some little bits of gold in there, or I'm sure you will actually, find some bits of gold in there.


So anyway, I'd worked with Marion before, she had actually done the copy for my website. But the reason I reached out this time was I was feeling stuck and I know that she also does creativity coaching and I just needed to get some ideas around finding joy in my process again, the project I was working on was something I used to do every six months when I worked in senior design roles and it was my favourite part of the job because I usually found it so inspiring. But this time, I was finding it to be a bit mechanical and struggling to get back into that creative flow. So I booked in the session, and afterwards I felt so reconnected and energised and I guess inspired in what I was trying to create and found joy in my process again.


So what was it that I was trying to do? What was the process or project? Well, I was wanting to create a Trend Report, distilling information from the fashion shows and society shifts that brands could use at the start of their research as creative inspiration. A curated report of popular shapes and details as well as colour palettes to build stories around society shifts, innovations in art and science as well as materials. And like I said, this whole process, I would do at the start of each six months to map out a framework for product and ideas to research and develop. But the difference was I wanted to make this accessible to many different businesses, a shortcut in a sense for the time poor to understand some of the directions and find inspirations or new ways to build their product ranges.


Now, I know a lot of people or brands even will say that they don't follow trends and instead they follow their own personal tastes and styles. Which is great and there's some merit to that, very sustainable when you aren't churning your wardrobe or product range every month. But people change and go through different life phases, such as motherhood or adolescence where your sense of self is shifting or being redefined. As well as society shifts, the most obvious being the pandemic and so, you know, people look to still stay within the boundaries of what they love, but they're looking for new ways to express themselves. And no one lives in a vacuum. So whether someone's seeing something on a person in the street or social media, a headline about a fashion show, your customer is being exposed to new ideas.


So maybe think about the white t shirt. Someone might say I don't probably trends, I just love white t shirts. But necklines can change, sleeve length, proportion might change fabrication might change. In the search for connection to nature or imperfect qualities, a customer might be subconsciously drawn to a slub, or textured Jersey tee instead of a mercerized crisp Jersey Tee. As much as we'd like to think we're all individuals and we are with very different lived experiences and preferences there's a reason why E M Rogers categorised early and late majority consumers as making up 68% of the market share. This is from his Diffusion of Innovation theory and I'll link to it in the show notes. But my personal opinion is that it's because we're all collectively human. We're wired to want to belong to a group, whether that's a radical innovator wanting to be seen as ahead of the curve or different simply by being first, or the conscious consumer wanting to make wise wardrobe choices and stay up to date with items that have longevity and make use of the newest sustainable technology.


So I guess that's a little bit about what customers and businesses might think of trends. Let's talk about briefly what trends are. Trends and forecasts is the intuition for people's changing attitudes, their needs, dreams, concerns and lifestyle and this can come with a certain element of subjectivity too. Now I just want to go into the term "trend" in inverted commas for a minute. Recently, the term "trend" in fashion has been hijacked to signal the latest piece someone needs to buy or put in a range a disposable one off to bring a short term hit of dopamine. But when talking about trends I'm wanting to use it in a way, that means a shift in people's thinking that makes them drawn to different product as a form of self expression, sort of longer range patterns in people's preferences.


And going into a bit more about trend and fashion forecasters within fashion, they can work at all stages, usually dependent on lead times. Often colour and materials are worked on around 24 months out, 18 months out manufacturers mills and brands will start developing yarns and fibres and 12 to 18 months ahead of launch fashion designers start designing their collections, then around 12 to six months ahead in larger businesses merchandisers, buyers and production teams will finalise the range and coordinate with marketing.


There are obviously many exceptions to the timeline and variations to this depending on locations supplier location, market you're in and even what product category. But I just wanted to show you some of the steps that trend forecasting or analysis combined with intuition is used. So for example, trend or fashion forecasters working at fabric Mills, or developing yarns will look to colour and material information for inputs on how to put their range together. So the sort of step before that they might look at what colours to include in their colour card or new yarns that could be introduced based on what they think customers attitudes will be in 18 months time, but also what the designers from the brands and the different businesses will be looking forward to put in the range to then service their customer.


Good designers wherever they are in the product development cycle have an intuition for people's changing attitudes and the lives they live, their dreams, their desires, worries and aspirations. And there are two sides to this, from a customer's point of view, they might know what styles they like, or feel good in. For example, they might always want to buy loose fitting clothes not tight fitting, then for a brand it's knowing who they are, what they stand for, and who they're going to serve as a kind of filter to make sure their personality or aesthetic remains consistent to keep serving that customer who doesn't like tight fitting clothes. Also, from a brand perspective, a good designer has looked at the big shifts happening and interpreted them in a way that will serve the customer, they might even consciously leave out trends or developments as they don't see them as suiting their customer.


So going back to that white t-shirt example, if a brand always does a looser fit tee they might not even buy into that tight body-con trend. They might keep the same block, maybe update the neckline, sleeve length or fabrication and completely leave out a fitted shape in their range. This can go for buyers to have retailers or even independent boutiques. Instead of designing they will choose the product from the ranges that they think that their customers will like.


So in summary, I feel like I've rambled a bit today. Three key takeaways from today.


One if you are passionate about sustainability, trends don't just mean the latest and greatest item or shoe, trends also refer to longer term moods or shifts that your customers going through and these can be reflected in how they change their style.


Two, being a creative business owner, you need a variety of inputs to spark your ideas. So trend reports can be a way of shifting your thinking and getting ever wrapped in a way you're thinking.


And three, creating products that combines research, analysis, inspiration and intuition will resonate more with your customer.


So long story short, I finished the Trend Report thoroughly enjoyed the creative process again, thanks, Marion and produced a tool full of inspiration. It's designed as a creative tool to spark your own thinking at the start of a designing process for spring summer 23. And also give you a framework of what was happening on the runways to compliment your own design process and things you might want to introduce or update for your customer.


So if you're getting bogged down in researching and stuck in a loop of scrolling Instagram for ideas or inspiration, head to the website shop and get your copy.


So that's it for today. Like I said sustainable summer series starts next week, so many "esses" in that sentence. So make sure you're subscribed so you don't miss an episode over the holiday break and let me know what you think about trends and how you use or don't use them in your business, I'd love to know. DM me on Instagram @belindahumphrey_or send me an email at info@belindahumphrey.com and as always, you'll find the show notes if you're listening to this and you can't take notes you'll find them on the website and any links in the podcast section. Thanks so much for listening. See you next time.


Thanks for listening to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you want to get in touch head over to belindahumphrey.com or you can find me on Instagram @belindahumphrey_


Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate at the time of recording, much like the fashion industry itself, this information may change. 



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