Episode 25: How to create inspiring designs your customer will love
Colour, design, style, mindset, trends, sustainable sourcing, revenge shopping,
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 25 of the Fashion Unearthed podcast. Today's episode is the fifth week of a six week summer series where I answer the most popular questions about the fashion industry from the audience. But before I get into today's question, if you aren't on the email list, get on it by heading to belindahumphrey.com so that when I release that new guide around ethical and sustainable sourcing, you'll get an exclusive offering only placed to the email list. And again, just a bit of a disclaimer. This is general advice. I don't know your exact situation. So even though I'm answering a question, you still need to consider your own situation.
So this week's question came from more of a customer's point of view or feeling that they had lost their sense of style with so many lockdowns in Melbourne. So I'll talk maybe a little bit about that from a customer's point of view. But then the second part to my answer will be from a business point of view around how to design a range to address and help the current customer mindset
To begin with, from a customer's point of view and I am a customer as well, I totally empathise with this question. With nowhere to go and any celebration being an awkward zoom party, it was easy in a way to forget about dressing up. At the start of the pandemic, it was a novelty to relax into the comfort of sweatpants or gym gear 24/7. but I think fashion or what we wear is so interconnected to our mindset that sometimes our mindset influences our fashion choices and conversely, sometimes our fashion choices can influence our mindset. I always see jersey or stretch fabrics like fleece is casual fabrics. They make us feel relaxed, and maybe subconsciously we gravitated towards those fabrics because that's a feeling that we were craving, one of comfort and cocooning in amongst all the uncertainty of the last two years. And although the obvious answer is that we didn't really have to wear dressy clothes and wearing a suit while working at a kitchen bench on Zoom might have looked out of place I think mindset was another factor why we chose more casual clothing. When I think about where we are now I think our mindset is changing again. Because as humans, it's hard to have gone through the last two years and not be changed by it and I'm talking more from someone who has lived through all the Melbourne lock downs and of course, by the time this episode comes out, there might have been more information unfolding about this new COVID variant. But it's been so long, it's common for people to feel like they've lost their sense of style. However, maybe it's more about us as people changing, and our previous style reflecting our previous selves.
A pandemic might be the most obvious thing lately that has influenced our lives but there are often other milestones people go through that can change you as a person and therefore influence your sense of style or self expression. Remember back to being that awkward adolescent and that big phase of self discovery and need to express yourself? Similar kind of thing. Entering the workforce, motherhood, menopause, they're all big life events that influence how we might want to express ourselves. Now this isn't a call to action to go out and shop a whole wardrobe. If you've listened to this for a while you will know that I wouldn't mean that. But a starting point might be just going through your wardrobe and trying on and finding what you still love and what feels like you still. Maybe rediscover what woven fabrics shirts, pants, tops you already have and haven't worn in ages and try a few options on. Wearing a woven fabric will instantly make you feel less casual if that's the mood you're moving on from. Simply putting on a blazer even if it's with a T shirt will get you out of a relaxed mode. Try on things from your wardrobe and see how you feel in it. Remember that clothing can influence us too. So if you put something on and it doesn't feel like you anymore, put it to the side. If you do put on a blazer and it feels weird, try on something else. Before buying something new or pre-loved have a think about what colours you're gravitating towards, what shapes, pant lengths, put together a Pinterest board or collection on Instagram and see what's a common item that you keep saving and then look back at the things that you still loved in your wardrobe and see how it would outfit or work back in with those. Now I'm not a stylist but part of being sustainable means wearing something a lot. It's easier to wear something a lot if it already works back in with shoes or other items in your wardrobe.
And as a side note, that doesn't mean everything has to be navy and beige. Lots of prints can look great together florals and stripes, leopard and floral, different size florals altogether. And finally, look at what you have that you felt "okay" in and analyse if it's something simple you could have altered so that you love it and wear it more. Hemming a maxi to a midi or cropping some trousers, are all really simple ways to get a fresh look.
So for the person that felt like they lost their sense of style, I hope that has helped, perhaps you haven't lost it. You might have outgrown it over the last few years and need to reassess how you want to feel and express yourself now.
Now on to the second part on to the business viewpoint, designing a range to address and help the current customer, whenever you do it, is all about getting into the mindset of the customer. Like I was saying in an earlier episode of the podcast about trends, understanding shifts in society, or personal stages or development in people's lives, is what trends are really all about. Not the latest "it" thing, in my opinion anyway, I'm sure lots of people would disagree. But if you get into the shoes of your customer, and really understand what they might be feeling or going through, then that will be the best basis for building a range and they'll feel understood. The better you understand your customer, the more likely they will remain loyal and shop with you.
So the first part of this episode is actually a good insight into what customers might be feeling. Looking at history, the roaring 20s was a backlash to the stress and rationing of World War One. People had changed, tomorrow wasn't certain, and they wanted to live in the moment and that meant chasing joy and drawing a line in the sand between those years and the ones to come. Already, we're talking about a behaviour called "Revenge Shopping" people splurging after a period of having to be frugal due to uncertainty, which is sort of a similar kind of response. Coming back to today, on the recent runways saturated and bright colours were everywhere. People don't want to play it safe anymore, when they feel like they don't know what's around the corner. And there's a whole psychology behind colour, it affects our mood, so if we're looking for a boost, we're probably going to gravitate towards really bright, joyful colours.
You could also speculate that there'll be a swing back to tailoring after everyone is sick of wearing active wear, and they need to go back into an office. But what might make it different this time is hybrid working. So looking at what kind of fabrics that look polished, but feel comfortable might be something you explore. These are just two examples of how our trends come from society or cultural shifts. It's not an extractive process of declaring an item as the hottest new thing because three influencers on social media were paid to wear. Yes, social media is a part of the mix now but you need to consider as a part of everything else. So look to everything that might influence your customer, runways, social media, yes, but also politics, science, art, material innovations all play a part in influencing society.
Trend reports can be another tool in the process. It's a bit of a shortcut to use instead of researching and distilling all that information yourself. And then you can add your other research to it and build out your plan for the season.
You really want to understand what your customer is going through and think about what is going to resonate with them. You can do this with questionnaires too, looking at past sales good and bad, or paying for market research or focus groups. Designing for a customer who might have changed after a pandemic isn't that different to designing for a tween a new mother or people entering retirement. It involves understanding them, their loves, lifestyle mood, and then looking at those society shifts and thinking about how that's going to influence their style and how they might want to express themselves. This is the marker of a great designer, someone who can create for a segment that they don't have personal experience with.
So that's all for today's episode. I hope you found something useful. And like I said, make sure to get on the email list at belindahumphrey.com to get access to that exclusive offer when I launched the new guide on ethical and sustainable sourcing at the end of January. And like I always say I'd love to know if something was particularly interesting to you in today's episode. You can DM me on Instagram @belindahumphrey_ or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love hearing what everyone thought of episode, and finally, as always, you'll find the show notes or the transcript and any links in the website in the podcast section.
Thanks so much for listening. See you next time.
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.