If you want to know how a style detail inspires a trend, which then can be a distinct fashion statement, don’t cite the ‘Cerulean Speech’ found in The Devil Wears Prada.
Though the speech was well-informed in fashion’s trickle down theory: how luxury brands dictate what’s hot next season and become a jump-off point where fast-fashion brands riff off, it’s just like those bright neon shoes you used to have: outdated. Fashion, with the help of social media and the ever-changing landscape of design and clothing production, is not informed by just one static source. The story of how a trend evolves has certain steps and factors coming in at different levels from designers, celebrities, to clothing brands and even business-savvy individuals. Refinery29 outlines the five steps how a trend starts, evolves, and eventually fades out. This is what you quote the next time you get confused by all this “stuff.”
Step 1: A Star Is Born
Contrary to what Miranda Preistly would have you believe, a style idea isn’t born out of the mind of a designer, sitting alone in a room staring at blank pages. A designer may catch on to an idea but they hardly invent it out of nowhere. “Inspiration can come from film and art, but these days, inspiration generally tends to bubble up from real life,” writes Refinery29. They also point out that it is the creative field is where the next potential trend starts, “For example, some of the biggest trends of 2017—bohemian peasant dresses, Eastern Bloc athleticism, ’80s drag—have their origins in inner cities, immigrant neighborhoods, and art-squatter communities.” Once a certain aspect of a certain culture or a group catches on with people outside that said circle, you’ve got a hot topic on your hands.
Step 2: Making Headlines
Okay, so when does a style idea truly get its momentum to become a trend? It’s simply a game of numbers. “Whether it catches on or not depends on how much fuel gets added—aka, how many other places and instances confirm that the trend is not only attractive, but is easily replicable. Lots of trends start, but firestarters only become bona fide trends when a groundswell of fuel is added simultaneously.” This is where social media stars step in along with your celebrities. When they all have a seemingly unspoken rule to sport the same style, the trend starts to build. What’s important also is if these people all have impact on your life. “But what’s more effective than that is whether you see the trend in places where the people we admire are actually wearing it, and most of the time, that’s not on a Fashion Week runway.” These days, your Instagram feed is crucial in influencing you to join in spreading the potential trend. One you’re convinced, you need to be able to get the look. This is where retailers play their part. “One aspect of trends is that many of them can be found in thrift stores and discount shops—one of the reasons that the earliest adopters of fashion trends are typically poor students with lots of time, freedom, and ability to play. And because of innovations in production, fast-fashion brands (especially overseas) are able to riff on trends they see on social media many seasons before established designers who operate with a six-month delay are able to get to it. That means thrift stores and especially fast-fashion retailers can be the first places where you can shop a trend.”
Step 3: Staying Power
Just because everyone is wearing it, doesn’t always mean it’s the sh*t. What this trend needs is to prove itself worthy a little bit more than just a few months. Refinery29 writes, “… the ultimate factor of whether a trend has the chance to spread has to do with whether it can be sold across a variety of levels and price points.” If the trend comes to the runways from the masses, you’ve got a hit. And vice-versa. A trend cannot exist if it maintains its exclusivity in either luxury names or fast-fashion outlets. The trends need to be adaptable whether it would be on the high-end or low-end. “It needs to be practical, accessible, and conventionally flattering — and it also needs to be uncomplicated to construct and endlessly mutable.”
Step 4: Evolution
Once both luxury and fast-fashion reach a consensus on what trend is flying off their shelves, it develops into a competition of who can reiterate it the best and at a faster rate. An off-shoulder top can go from the “shirting trend” back to its Bohemian roots, then back again to a more casual take. Think of how many white sneakers are out there or just how many versions of the dangling earring do we have since the tassel trend kicked off from last year. The conversation becomes more rapid, producing a new take on the same old thing all the time, “Each version has increased the lifespan of the trend, inspired more spin-offs (and straightforward knock-offs, too).”
Step 5: Temporary Exit
“The key to longevity is the difference between trends that read as frivolous and those that appear as the better option to what already exists — it’s minimalism versus athleisure, slip dresses versus sneakers, and baby bags versus backpacks.” A trend then is ultimately subject to the test of time. As long it gets even a mention in every season, the trend persists and can even become a classic, while other trends pop up. At the end of one fad is always another, which is more or less dictated by which inspiration catches on, “The flame-out theory takes into account the very real and very persuasive tech-driven hype machine. It doesn’t ignore how savvy ‘casual corner’ stores are to the actual wants and whims of consumers. And, it takes into consideration the complicated acts of theft between people, companies, and brands that need to happen in order to coax the general consumer to consider clothing items as fashion trends.”
Art by Lara Intong
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