Is Instagram Causing the Decline of the Trend Cycle?

From Laver's law drafted in the 30's, to the ubiquitous trend cycle taught to budding trend forecasters the world over - we have always sought to gain an understanding of trends and their development. Does the traditional notion of fashion trends still actually exist? It is almost a truism to suggest that because of the proliferation and ubiquity of social media that both the rules and arena have shifted dramatically.

It has been suggested that in this new social media dominated fashion world that the established system of trend forecasters and large brands attempting to control trends is impossible to sustain. In such a dynamic and capricious industry in which big fashion players are slaves to the whims of social media stars; with Jenners and Hadids being embraced warmly at everywhere from Chanel to Dior, can the traditional big brands still flourish or has the advantage shifted to fast fashion?

What is certain, whether revolution or evolution that the adage to "adapt or die" has never held such pertinence. Aware of the threats posed by fast fashion, large fashion houses are clamoring to regain an advantage anywhere they can. This is especially noticeable in the evolving attitude held by these brands towards social media icons; where before they may have subtly scoffed at them, now they understand to thrive, they must adopt a symbiotic relationship where the benefits are both mutual and twofold.  

The control of trends is of course tantamount to profiting from said trends, and is thus of extreme salience to fashion brands seeking to capitalise on the market's current yearnings.  Vis-a-vis the proliferation of social media, and the meteoric rise of the celebrities it creates, the development and creation trends has again evolved. Technology facilitates speed; people by their very nature are impatient and neophilic. 

Each technological advancement enables a faster turn-over in trends; the improvements in manufacturing processes for  example has not only enabled the adoption of fast-fashion as cultural norm, it furthermore has created an infra-structure in which social-media driven fashion trends can flourish. Instagram acceptance and popularity (or the lack of it) can galvanise or crush a brands chances of being a seasonal heavy-hitter. Pieces that may be ignored by the fashion media, and even unheralded as a key seasonal piece by the brand itself, may ascend to prominence as a result of a particular social media influencer favouring it. 

How does all this influence the inner-workings of luxury brands? Whilst, it is driven by commerce and pragmatism. Ignored by the fashion industry, not because of a commitment to principles but rather a fear that the espousal of social media may seem faddish, may alienate their older customer base and cause said brand to lose a veneer of luxury.  

Trend forecasters understand the dynamic principles of successful business practice. The mantra of "evolve or die" seems apt. Whilst some agencies such as Peclers Paris  continue to publish seasonal books which purport to offer advice as to what will be in trend in 2 years, the largest trend forecasting agency WGSN has adapted its methodologies to reflect the fact that fast fashion has gotten even faster. Marc Worth, the founder of WGSN, who has since created Stylus, a more modern take on the trend forecasting agency has offered his take on what his new agency offers:

“We don’t forecast, we don’t predict. We provide inspirations for creatives to create trends; we track trends as they evolve, but we’re not forecasters in the traditional sense,” he said. “Social media dictates trends today. The trend emerges overnight and disappears almost as quickly.”

Nelly Rodi, the original trend forecasting agency has followed a similar inspiration-based course, whilst simultaneously offered more traditional services. 

Brands live-streamed shows are live-critiqued on instagram with conclusions drawn before the designer has taken his customary bow and wave to the audience. People trust people, people particularly trust people whom they aspire to be like and whose regular content inspires them. The role of fashion influencers in this lightning-quick trend appraisal is crucial to a brand's success. The support and acclaim of a top-level influencer will lead to literally millions of regrams, retweets and reposts - it's an . Further, the appraisal of the influencer will be echoed in those of her followers - you can't be cool if you don't agree with what is cool

Contrasted with the rigidly defined definitions of the pre-millennial generation, "trends" have now taken on a more abstract meaning, obfuscated by a fog of perpetual change. The cycle of trends which previously seemed a truism, now appears to be an anachronism - there is no cycle, when a single influencer may create and destroy a trend in a period as arbitrary as it is unexpected. Some trends linger on, far past their expected demise - Balmain ridging in menswear for example outlasted it's womenswear counterpart owing to a combination of prestige pricing and influencer adoption. Conversely, the Kenzo tiger sweatshirt, which Kenzo used to return to relevancy, burnt like a cheap cigarette - it was over before the majority had even understood it had begun - a more accessible pricepoint which enabled mass saturation in social media was partly to blame.

People don't generally follow social media influencers solely for their fashion choices - whether consciously or not. An influencer is a product, and their followers are consuming the full package. They're more than in individual, they're a lifestyle. Their fashion directions are part of that lifestyle - it becomes deeper than consumerism and trends, it's graduated to a complex study of identity and aspiration. Trends that exist as part of a lifestyle are more sustainable and prone to evolution and growth as opposed to expedient deaths. For a brand, understanding and harnessing the power of an influencer, opens a wealth of opportunities - conversely, failing to understand how the environment has changed may lead to a course fraught with difficulties.

For a trend analysis, this egalitarian multi-lateral approach to trend consumption, without a singular voice or a time-trusted methodology, creates new challenges and new opportunities.

It has also contributed to the morphing fashion calendar which now seems to a be continuous cycles of fashion weeks, without pauses or breaks. With Pre-Fall and Resort, designers have extra chances to either create trends or offer their own individualised response. For major fashion houses like Valentino, the four ready-to-wear seasons are supplemented with haute couture and menswear. Needless to say, the schedule is relentless and unforgiving - yet one that always offers a designer a chance to quickly right past wrongs and turn their ideas to reality before the trend has dissipated.

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