Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Let's Talk About: Fashion Design

Fashion Design? Lately it seems like almost everyone has ideas for a fashion line or business. And why not, since the media showcases fashion entrepreneurs and designers for us to see up close and personal, and it looks pretty easy to do. But I think there's room for a little information here. Something to explain 'what's going on' in a way that makes the industry a little bit easier to understand.

So, I am going to be posting topics each week that relate to fashion design and merchandising. The information here will be similar to what you would get if you were enrolled in a fashion course at a college or trade school. Maybe this is something you would love to do, but don't have the access, time or money to achieve. Well, drop by each week and I'll have a new topic for you to read up on. Who knows, maybe you'll jump right in and start your own business some day, but you'll be a bit more prepared after reading these articles.

To start, I thought that we should all take a look at how fashion evolves. I hope it answers your questions about where fashion styles come from and how can you find out 'what's next' in fashion.

Fashion Cycles

How does fashion change and evolve? One of the terms used is to call a new style a trend. A trend occurs when a shoppers like a similar silhouette with the same type of details, color and fabric. When they wear this new look often, it becomes a trend.

How long does a trend last? That can vary. Some classics can last ten years or more. Flashy and unusual trends may be fads. These short lived trends are wildly popular for only a year or so. In general, fads are worn by younger shoppers who do not require durable, long lasting investment clothing. They are happy with very affordable styles that can be worn immediately, then discarded at the end of the season.

A trend can be viewed as a cycle that usually has a bell shape curve. On the lower left end we can see the trend when it is worn by only a few people. As it becomes popular, the curve arches to the maximum number of people who like this trend. Then as time goes by, this trend begins to fade away. This is often because it has saturated the market place and has become very cheaply imitated. A saturated market is a sign for more upscale retail buyers to stop carrying this trend. It will eventually drop to a discount price range, and be available widely before dropping from the market entirely.

Fashion Trend Stages:

Introduction: The start of new trend when it is worn by fashion innovators.

Growth: The development of this trend by fashion leaders and high end stores.

Peak Saturation: When the trend is most popular and widely available at all stores.

Decline: The trend looks tiresome and dated to most consumers.

How do fashion buyers and designers know when a trend is going to be popular? Most fashion industry offices subscribe to trend services. A trend service will complete a wide range of surveys before each season to determine what trends are gaining popularity. This includes looking at not only social scenes, but viewing other cultural effects such as the economy, politics, and current events. Technological advancements also affect apparel, introducing new textiles, colors and trims.

Traditionally, haute couture fashion in Paris was designed for a wealthy customer with a high social status. As fashion developed each year, the older clothing was handed off to her staff or servants. They would wear those second hand styles later, when it was no longer important fashion. The practice of providing new fashion styles only to the wealthy was maintained by the couture system. This was an expensive and time consuming practice for the customer. With the invention and adoption of photography, modern print media, film and television, and the internet, current fashion information has become available to everyone.

Although the traditional haute couture market in Paris is still very expensive, today styles are also derived from other sources such as media events, sports and celebrity endorsements. The traditional method was called the trickle down theory, meaning that styles would trickle down from the upper classes to the lower classes. During the late 1960’s this system was broken by a large young consumer group who designed and made their own looks, independent of Paris and New York designers. Today you will find the trickle down theory still happening when we spot high priced styles being copied and sold at lower prices. These items are called knock offs and are important styles for many mid-range and low priced retailers.

In looking at new styles, most apparel companies like to keep certain styles that will be popular with their loyal customers for more than one season. These are called staples because they are always available. Having staple products is an important feature of brand recognition.

Once a fashion designer understands the current trends in the market, the next step is to research and adopt a trend for their collection.

In thinking about this, have you noticed any new trends lately? The flip-side is to spot out-going trends or styles that seem dated and tired. Keeping an eye on these in your daily life will start to train your design sense to notice new looks when they crop up.

Next time I'll look at where these ideas can come from. What sources do designers use to come up with their ideas? That will be the focus next week. I hope you like this new series of mine on fashion and design. Feel free to request topics for future articles, I'm open to what you might want to learn about or discuss.

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Rachel S said...

That is really interesting. You are a very talented blogger.Really looking forward to read more.

andi morgan said...

This will become a great frequent read Jennifer! Love your blogs to bits! keep them coming. andi

Jen O said...

gee, thanks guys! If you would like to see a specific topic on this--just let me know and I'll see what I can do.