It was standing room only at the final Coterie of 2016 last night, as a power panel of four fashionistas came together to discuss the future of trends and where power and influence in the industry now lies.
Hairdresser Jayson Gray (aka the Karbon Kyd); knitwear and fashion designer Harry Evans; broadcast journalist, producer and Director of Communications at the London College of Fashion Maggie Norden; and beauty expert and businesswoman Anna-Marie Solowij of BeautyMART joined Creative HEAD publisher Catherine Handcock in exploring everything from the challenges of seasonal churn to the impact of social media, and whether shifts in culture and society turn consumers on to different purchasing paths.
“When there’s an age of uncertainty, a hybrid is born,” explained Maggie, highlighting the current global mood and attitude to innovations. “I don’t think it matters if we label [what emerges] a trend… We’re redesigning because the world needs it.”
“People are bored of things too,” added Harry, on the topic of reinvention and the way ‘seasons’ are becoming blurred in fashion. “Fashion mags often seem dated now as you’ve seen the clothes already thanks to social media.”
“That pressure to create four collections a year… it causes burnout,” he continued, citing the volume of high-profile fashion house departures in recent years. “In the end, you don’t think about what you’re doing, you just know need to do it, and NOW!”
“Exactly,” agreed Anna-Marie, “designers are being pushed on a success level and creative level – simultaneously and constantly – and it’s not sustainable.”
“The financial model for modern business is broken,” she added. “I wonder how long it’ll be before other industries follow fashion’s lead and begin abandoning the failing circular model?”
The conversation then moved on to exploring what may now be functioning in the space trends and seasons used to occupy.
“It’s a ‘self’-renaissance rather than a focus on trends now,” argued Maggie. “Confidence and emotional buy-in is key for brands.”
“In eras of instability, people look for almost ‘spiritual’ solutions – mindfulness, gaming, yoga…” explained Anna-Marie. “Those sorts of inward-focused ideas are emerging at the moment.”
“Yes – ‘Help me navigate myself’ – in uncertain times that’s what people are after,” added Maggie. “We’re inventing in a border-less way and I’d argue that the hair industry’s always done that. You consider many more personal elements and it’s not as formulaic.”
As for the digital and social boom and the demise of print influence? Our panel were reluctant to call time on consumer magazines just yet…
“I don’t believe in print being dead,” said Anna-Marie. “I think everything is much more visual and people don’t read long-form fashion coverage any more… But there will always be a place for beautifully shot images, great stories and fabulous fashion. It’s about finding the right medium for the content now and any celebrity element demands digital as it moves so fast.”
“I see influencers (who have follower volume) as perpetuating global and more planned trends – people like Pantone and their annual predictions who are covered in print media,” she explained. “Then there are micro-influencers who have a narrower but more specialised knowledge and focus. They are often digital and produce unplanned and viral style explosions.”
“I think memes are the new trends,” Anna-Marie added, “similar thinking at the same time, but not necessarily the exact same thing being produced… To make something ‘old’ relevant for another commercial run through, it needs to be cut with something else – a mashup of sorts.”
Maggie added: “At the moment, I think it’s about legacy and loyalty in fashion – questioning ‘Is this person legit?'”
“The legacy brands have also always maintained their relationship with quality,” said Jayson. “There was an explorer who had his entire kit made by Louis Vuitton – even down to his cutlery holder. It was all about quality of product, not fashionability of the brand… after all, who was going to see or care about his kit’s fashion credentials up a mountain?!”
The panel then questioned whether the dilution of quality to capitalise on fleeting trends has a future, citing the example of designer/high street collaborations.
“It’s not co-creation,” said Maggie, “and I think some of them have been quite crass.”
“I think celebs and big names can actually ruin things with their involvement too (generating) negative publicity,” added Jayson. “Victoria Beckham used to get shunned by people like McQueen as they feared the brand would be tainted by her (then) purely ‘celebrity’ status… We used to have a saying at Toni&Guy about hair trends too; ‘If it’s in X shop – I won’t name them! – don’t do it.'”
“In hair and beauty it’s interesting, as trends have been separated from innovation and quality for consumers in a lot of cases,” Jayson continued. “The ‘Plex’ revolution is moving forward with newer ingredients, but consumers are currently quite fixated on ‘ammonia-free’ colour formulas, which ironically have even more chemicals added to compensate! Ingredient trends can drive popularity ahead of quality advancements.”
Harry also noted another negative way celebrity culture combined with social media has impacted the fashion and trend cycle: “People (subconsciously?) align with celeb dressing habits now too. They see Lady Gaga or whatever changing several times a day and begin to adopt that multi-outfit approach.”
“Yes, with selfie culture making ordinary people ‘celebs’ it has upped outfit churn, purchase churn and the speed of consumption,” agreed Anna-Marie.
As the evening drew to a close, the panel all agreed that in recent years, personal selection and look creation has become far more important than blindly following trends.
“In beauty, the continued growth of tattoo culture and bright coloured hair is like an expression of an intense need to personalise and claim your own body,” Anna-Marie explained. “You don’t have to use products how it says to on the packaging – millennials realise that and there’s a real ‘no-rules’ culture going on.”
“And going back to quality, if the product is good, you can always move brand to one side,” she added. “If you like it, it feels right and makes you happy, then you’ll return to that brand or that look.”
“At London College of Fashion, the students are inventing a happier place with their fashion innovations,” Maggie agreed. “I think brands in fashion and beauty just need to balance trust, function and a little bit of magic to retain their influence and commercial power.”
We want to extend a huge thank you to our sponsors for the evening, JOICO, who provided goody bags packed with K-Pak hair care (as well as a cheeky beauty product gift from BeautyMART) for all guests.
Don’t forget to check out more photos from the night on our Facebook page, and keep your eyes peeled for a gallery full of quotable quips from our speakers!