Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cultural Influences On Trend Forecasting

For everyone who works in the fashion business it is important to be able to recognize and to foresee social and cultural movements, in order to understand the fashion environment and to be able to operate in the direction in which the fashion industry will move. Being able to anticipate what will happen in the next future is what puts a fashion designer, a retailer or a fashion buyer in the position to make better decisions in their work. And in this, fashion is not at all an isolated industry but is connected to the rest of our life. Fashion reaches beyond clothing and into the way we choose to live our lives. Lifestyle is how we communicate, how we travel, how we decorate our homes, how we eat and how we dress.

Lifestyle and trends are strongly influenced by social-cultural changes, such as modernization, technological innovation and also by artistic movements. Trend analysis looks at the interaction of shifts in fashion, consumer lifestyle and culture and is a framework for understanding and interpreting fashion changes. It is important to realize is, that trends are made by people, who on different levels get involved with different artistic environments.
In order to understand a fashion trend, we need to be aware of what will surround us in terms of our social-cultural way of living. The development of new trends usually involves three main sources, which influence our cultural live and lifestyle. These three main sources are high culture, pop culture and low culture.

High culture refers to elite activities such as visual art like painting and sculpture, other forms of art, such as music and auditory art, but also applied art like photography, architecture and design. Art is a product of human activity, made with the intention of stimulating the human senses, as well as the human mind by transmitting emotions or ideas. In terms of fashion inspiration, these emotions and ideas can later on undergo a further process and lead to new forms of inspirations and concepts, in the case of a designer; it can bring him to a collection idea. That means, that by observing contemporary art, we may get information about what influences designers and upcoming fashion trends. As an example of how art influences fashion can be found in the Louis Vuitton collaboration with several contemporary artists, like Stephen Sprouse or Takeshi Murakami, who in the past had embellished their famous Louis Vuitton Monogram bags.

Popular culture, or pop culture, is a cultural section, which is followed, understood and appreciated by a larger audience. Pop culture is highly influenced by celebrities and includes the daily interactions and cultural 'moments' that constitute the everyday lives of the mainstream. This culture is seen as a commercial culture, mass-produced for mass consumption. In terms of fashion, an example of how pop culture can influence our lifestyle and our looks, can be found taking into account the most stylish TV shows, like in the 80ties ‘Dynasty ‘and in the end of the 90ties to 2004 ‘Sex and the City’. Everybody wanted to dress like the protagonists of these serials. 

In the last years mass media has increased the exposure and power of celebrities.
The celebrity culture has and always will have an influence on society as they are constantly in the media. Celebrities are a kind of role models; their looks are studied and copied by a lot of people, which makes them very interesting to fashion companies who try to place their products on them. This year we notice a strong trend in replacing models by Hollywood stars in fashion advertising, like Katie Holmes for Miu Miu, Victoria Beckham for Giorgio Armani Underwear or Madonna for Louis Vuitton. Fashion brands want to use the glam of Hollywood actresses to project that glam on their products and at the same time to show that luxury is doing well during this economic crisis.

The third culture level is the low culture or subculture. Subculture includes local street movements like graffiti, Hip Hop or other groups outside the mainstream. The influence of subculture to fashion can be clearly seen in surf and skateboard culture from the 70ties to present day. The spirit of the skateboard and Graffiti movement had greatly affected the whole world of sports- and street wear until today. It may be difficult to recognize certain styles as subcultures because their look is quickly (particularly clothing and music) adopted by mass culture for commercial purposes. Like the Japanese Harajuko girls for example, who are teenager girls, originally from the Harajuko district in Tokyo, who dress in a specific way.
Some of these girls have been hired as backup dancers by American singer Gwen Stefani, who named her 2005 world tour and her clothing line after them. A subculture has become fashionable and was adopted by the fashion market.

To observe the street is of equivalent importance than to keep updated with fine arts and as well the pop culture. None of these three cultures lives in isolation and each may influence the development of the other and equally they influence the fashion environment development of trends.