Trends, do they make or break a brand?

"Being careful about which trends you choose and how you use them, is a very important task to undertake and should not be overlooked when researching and conceptualising a project"

Soudi Masouleh

In this Article Jonn Langan talks about the tricky yet very important trend research that needs to be addressed before starting a new brand, collection or design season. Getting this right at the start is crucial to the success of the project. Read Jonn’s insights below which he collated from years of experience & knowledge throughout his extensive apparel design career.

Soudi Masouleh

Jonn Langan

How trends can make or break a brand

Trends in themselves are exciting. They offer creatives new ways to look at things or create nostalgia for forgotten times.

One of the most difficult decisions a creative has to make is to decide which trends to follow. More importantly than just that, how and in what way will a trend effect a design or project at hand?

Trends can be broad in scope, esoteric and incorporate a lot of different aspects, so can be hard to decipher for use in a project. But by looking at upcoming trends and analysing the usefulness of a trend, before implementing it into a project can save time and give credence to the reasonings behind a seemingly personal decision.

So rather going down the rabbit hole of how to trend spot, I thought it might be good to look into what trends can do for a brand and what we need to pay attention to when using them as part of a new project.

Image: Haley Truong

What are the most important things to remember when using trends?

Brand appropriate

Boring as it sounds, making sure the trend works for the brand is probably the most important piece of information to determine. This doesn’t mean high concept or “out there” trends won’t work, it just means that you need to be careful and take the time to make sure it is the right direction to take for the brand.

Colour trends can be the easiest to implement as they can easily refresh a collection by giving it a new lease of life. But even here, choosing a colour which the brand does not historically sell well can be a risky choice. The number of times I’ve heard “green doesn’t sell well for this brand” or “men don’t like yellow” is beyond frustrating. The key in these situations is to look into the reasons why a colour hasn’t sold. Looking at the product type, colour combination or even just the hue of the colour can give you some insight into why that particular colour didn’t sell well.

Sometimes a trend is definitely not brand appropriate, but as a brand there is a desire to challenge the market.

Sometimes a trend is definitely not brand appropriate, but as a brand there is a desire to challenge the market. This kind of strategy is normally undertaken by challenger brands (but not always, as some major brands have defined strategies to always push certain markets). The key when implementing a change in a product line is to make sure the strategy is linked up through the process. There is no point introducing a new trend concept and then it getting either lost or overlooked when it comes to selling in the collection.

This is where clear communication from the start to the finish is imperative. Getting trend concept signed off at the start of the creation process doesn’t mean your work is done. It is important that the concept is clearly communicated all the way through to (ultimately) the customer buying the product. So good presentations at key points in the product development period are crucial, so all the other departments can be informed, do their jobs efficiently and the brand can stay focused and aligned.

Image: Glodi Miessi

Make a difference

Trends ultimately are there to make a difference, but making sure they have the intended impact can be tricky. Just picking a trend concept and or strategy is not enough these days. All brands can have access to prediction information, so making sure you personalise the trend you want to use is key to both making sure it works for the brand and (more importantly) you don’t just replicate the trend and risk having the exact same look as a competitor.

Trends ultimately are there to make a difference, but making sure they have the intended impact can be tricky. Just picking a trend concept and or strategy is not enough these days.

Jonn Langan

So adaptation and clever application is often the best way to use trends. Think about a trend as a starting point for a conversation. By talking and analysing the trend you will naturally start to find what exactly draws you towards it. Could it be that the trend is extreme in its nature like a fit trend? Could it be that the trend evokes a nostalgic or retro vibe? Is it a subtle but significant take on what is already prevalent in the collection you are designing for?

If you start to break down these details to the essence you are looking for, then you can build up from this and start to adapt and create from a solid platform. This way you will have a story which can only enhance the reasoning for taking this trend direction in the first place.

One way to make a difference with a trend is through the use of new technologies. As trends cycle around, new and / or evolved techniques can sometimes be a way to drive trend as part of a technology focus. New dying, printing or material engineering are constantly evolving, with prices coming down, so becoming more widely available.

Image: Thomas Despeyroux

Product Longevity

So knowing that trends can make a huge difference to a brand, it’s important to understand the longevity of a trend. There is no point jumping on a trend that is either dying or at least coming to the end of its life cycle.

Many people will tell you that trends are cyclical (and this is essentially true) but some last longer than others. For example some trends these days are classified more as classics. This includes but is not exclusive to print trends like Polka dots, florals or Breton stripes. These trends are in constant use and are often iterated and interpreted on, so in effect they become “safe” options. Safe does not always mean boring or passé, it just evokes a particular image and style that you can use to drive a direction.

Trends involving era’s of fashion often come and go quicker than the “classics” identified above. These trends are sometimes triggered by social or economic situations and are also interlinked on a consecutive timeline. For example a rise in 80’s trends, will often trigger a move onto a 90’s orientated trend and so on. So looking into patterns between cyclical trends to see where a trend may go can help with the development of a product line.

So with the knowledge that trends will last for varying lengths of time, it is important to understand that any product you infuse heavily with a trend will have a shorter life span. Not in the context product or material degradation, but just as a piece of apparel that someone will want to wear. Knowing this in advance can help plan, both if a trend is suitable for a brand, but also for how long you might want to keep it in the collection.

So with the knowledge that trends will last for varying lengths of time, it is important to understand that any product you infuse heavily with a trend will have a shorter life span.

Bear this in mind with the fact that we (as an industry) are looking to create clothing that lasts longer, it can be a difficult choice to follow a trend that may die off quickly. So balancing a brand’s desire to be at the forefront of trend led design with the social and environmental pressures is becoming a real challenge.

The power of trends

Trends are incredibly powerful and can help brands to both stand out from their competitors and also connect to their intended consumers, making a purchase choice easier. But this is a double edged sword fraught with problems that can either work brilliantly or be catastrophic to the success of a product and a brand. Being careful about which trends you choose and how you use them, is a very important task to undertake and should not be overlooked when researching and conceptualising a project.