Being social is one of the main features defining people. Irrespective of our cultural background, we crave communication and subconsciously absorb, to some extent, everything that other people do, say or wear. Gaining inspiration from others and partially or completely copying their look results in the development of trends.
What can be defined as a trend?
A way of dressing, styling, or behaving that is evolving and becoming visible. Something fashionable or popular during a particular timeframe, starting from separate key items and the combination of forms and colors to a general look and way of dressing.
Fashion is extremely visible in the way it evolves from designers' general ideas to the catwalks and in-store sales, which allows us to see the unbelievable power of trends within the industry. Theoretically, understanding the development of client desires is the crucial component of trend forecasting. In practice, one of the most important things is understanding where designers and key influencers will get their inspiration and how this inspiration will be translated into real products. If you are a designer, this will also help you understand your competitors.
There exist different trend development models that are mostly based on product life cycle models. One of the most reliable is the "Diffusion of Innovation" model by Everett Rogers (see the graph below).
A trend evolves as follows: from an individual exploring a new way of dressing, to a social group accepting this way, to the fashion catwalks, and further to brick-and-mortar and online stores as an offer for customers, finally ending up being worn in the streets.
To this extent, Rogers suggests that trends develop from a tiny group of "Innovators", growing further to be accepted by "Early adopters".
The trend peak is organized by an "Early majority", where the trend's popularity is gradually accepted by a "Late majority" and then by a group of "Laggards" who have some interest or have not experienced the trend before.
Nevertheless, not every trend goes through all the phases mentioned above because of different reasons: the trend is too niche, too extravagant, not commercially oriented (too expensive), or too stupid.
Timeframe for trend forecasting
To understand the fashion industry, it's always necessary to remember the schedules and timeframes of when this or that stakeholder (department or employee) takes part in the production and supply chain (see the Graph below for a classic business timeline in fashion).
Yarn / Fibre
Manufacturers of materials, fabric and knitwear
Researchers of consumers / lifestyle, colours and materials, designers
Graphic designers, print designers
Product managers, technical production employees, buyers and merchandisers
24 months ahead
20 months ahead
18 months ahead
12 months ahead
6 months ahead
Colour / Materials
Forecasters of colours, materials and surfaces
Visual merchandisers, marketing and PR, sales personnel
When it comes to fashion trend forecasting, we must remember that this is the beginning of the development process, which requires creative and inspirational research for the next steps of development and production (designing, buying, production, marketing, etc.). Such research can be performed by trend forecasting agencies by focusing on the development of macro-trends and the popularity of materials, colors and prints, own design and product management teams, and freelance or just starting designers themselves.
Forecasting trends starts around 18–24 months before the actual products appear in stores. For instance, if the collection will be available to customers in autumn/winter 2019, a trend analysis should be started no later than autumn 2017.
Differentiation of fashion trends
Fashion trends are usually divided into three groups: fads, real trends and classics (see the graph below).
Fads: from 3 to 6 months
A fad is usually a specific product or look with quite a short life-cycle. Faddish articles are considered a ''must have'' during this period of time, but customers get bored with them fast and are almost never ready to buy a second piece.
Generally, the faster a fad expands, the faster it disappears. The reasons for such a short-term performance can be the limited wearability or usefulness, a limited reaction from society, or a too-niche performance by a certain social group (e.g., urban teenagers), etc.
Real Trends: from 6 months to 5 years
A real trend is a group of products or a style that becomes fashionable for a period of time and influences masses of customers, brands and products. The largest fashion trends will be adopted by millions of consumers until they become unpopular or uncool.
Real trends have different life-cycles and are usually divided into seasonal and long-term trends.
Seasonal trends (6–12 months) usually refer to catwalk-inspired fashion trends, which are seen as key styles, outfits, silhouettes, colors, or articles. They expand their power during a season or two, but lose it afterward, as customers start to follow another trend.
Long-term trends (1–5 years) dominate for longer than two seasons and usually concentrate on particular key articles whose form changes slightly over the seasons. Such trends can be considered a description of an era and become a symbol of a modern look for customers. They ''burn out'' quite slowly and result in the ownership of several pieces in the consumer wardrobes (e.g., several pairs of platform shoes or different types of skinny jeans).
Classics: from 5 to 25 years
An article or item that most people have in their wardrobe for years in different forms can be regarded as a classics (e.g., a ''little black dress'' or a pair of jeans, etc.). As classics are produced, bought, and worn non-stop, they develop to suit each epoch.