If you’re interested in fashion, whether that’s personally, to make sure your wardrobe is at the cutting edge or professionally, so you can be sure your designs and stock choices are appealing to the market, you need to know about the forces that shape each new season of clothes on the catwalk and on the high street. There are big movements lasting years that shape the trends that last a season or two, the influence of designers and materials that are bigger than any annual trend for patterns, stripes or metallic effects.
Today we’re taking a look at some of the big trends, the tides that drive smaller changes.
Almost every fashion choice is a compromise. The most a la mode outfits for when you really need to impress don’t often match up to the most comfortable items in your wardrobe, and the most luxuriously soft and cosy clothes you have are not often the ones that would help you make a splash at a formal event.
All fashion chooses a point between these two extremes, with the most successful trends finding a new compromise between the two. Athleisure, for example, has built a following that’s not going anywhere based on infusing comfortable leisure-wear with some of the design sensibilities and high end materials of fashion. A cashmere track pant by a boutique label like Chinti & Parker, for example, or Beyoncé endorsed Ivy Park hoody allows the wearer not just to dress comfortably but also to signal their high fashion status.
One of the main ways brands can signal they are high quality, high fashion and, ultimately, worth the asking price, is to come with the heady promise of exclusivity. The price itself can help with this: a sufficiently high price tag doesn’t just promise quality, it also comes with membership of the exclusive club of people who can pay for a high fashion piece.
So materials come with built in exclusivity. Good quality cashmere is made from a specific layer of hairs on the hide of a specific species of goat that lives in specific habits in the world. That means that the amount of cashmere that can be produced every year has a real, hard limit. It’s 0.5% of the total wool production in the world, approximately six and a half thousand tons annually.
That means this material doesn’t just have those celebrated qualities of softness, warmth and luxury: every cashmere item (especially those using the best cashmere) is a limited edition by the very nature of the fabric. That’s what allows it to command such a reputation and such high prices!
Every movement in the fashion world is driven by some interplay of these factors, with of course, that secret ingredient, novelty. Trends that are simply novel will have a life of a season or two, whereas trends that can use these deep factors to create novel new designs that really appeal to the public will run and run.