Our transatlantic speaker series returned to New York this month, where we sat down with industry pros to discuss the changing nature of fashion trends.
And to do that, we gathered experts from a broad range of industry backgrounds, gave them a cocktail and implored them to share insights on what these changes mean for retailers.
Joining our panel was Chris Benz, Creative Director at Bill Blass, Yedidya Mesfin Design Director at BLANK NYC, Rob Lim, Head of Design at Saturdays NYC and Crystal Slattery, President at Cinq à Sept & LIKELY, with discussions lead by Eliza Brooke, Senior Reporter at Racked.
In case you missed it, here are some of our favorite speaker excerpts. And if you’d like to be at the next EDITIONS, make sure you sign up to our Insider Briefing list where you’ll receive news on future EDITED events as well as the latest articles and research from the team.
Let’s get to straight to it! Here are the best bits from EDITIONS NYC.
Chris Benz, Creative Director at Bill Blass, on changes in product trends over the last few years
"At Bill Blass when we talk about trends, we think in terms of which categories are trending. Our plan is to be super adaptable, not just from a product perspective but also from a category perspective. Whereas at Marc Jacobs we were coming up with trends as organically as possible.
When we re-launched the brand we wanted to see what the market and shoppers wanted from Bill Blass, because so many people had a preconceived notion of what the brand was and who Mr. Blass is.
We launched with five categories of womenswear which all did fine, but shoes were our best category and have continued to be - which i think is a reflection of the industry at large. We’ve seen handbags be such a huge category over the last few years and now footwear is picking up."
Yedidya Mesfin, Design Director at BLANK NYC, on recent shifts in selecting trends
"In the past we had to travel a lot to find the one trend that’s different and is going to be a hit, and we did that for about 8-10 years. But then this method started to decline and we’re seeing the rise of social media - now we have all these new things that we can glean from social.
I’m from a mass market business background and it’s the newness that we’re really going after, which is now easily accessible and you don’t have to travel.
We combine what’s happening on the runway with a lot of research: going through vintage stores, looking on Pinterest and Instagram. What we find isn’t something that’s necessarily trending on the streets - we also research trends that happened years ago and we make it relative to now."
Rob Lim, Head of Design at Saturdays NYC on introducing your customers to new trends
"For us, we’re coming from the streets as opposed to the runway. Growing up, if something was popular we wanted to stay away from it. That’s the nature of skateboarding, snowboarding and music subcultures.
What’s worked for us is taking a stance on saying ‘hey, our (Saturdays NYC) guy should dress like this, so this is why you should buy it’. That narrative worked at the beginning, but things are shifting. Now we’ve been forced to try and think about other ways outside of this.
As a business we’re trying to come up with creative ways to have a dialogue with our customers and be able to have a back and forth conversation, which at times was one sided. Now we have a better and more open relationship with our customers."
Rob Lim on the risks buying into a trend
"Everything is a risk for us at Saturdays NYC. We’re a smaller brand so we have a SKU count where every single thing matters. We can’t lean on one or two pieces or categories. We have to evenly spread our product throughout.
That means it gets risky when you want to be a little more expressive (with your product line) one season, and when we try to encourage our customer to give something different a chance. If we don’t get the communication right, it’s harder to move the product."
Crystal Slattery, President at Cinq à Sept & LIKELY, on new shifts in the cycle of trends
"In the past, if you plotted a trend out on a graph it would be in the shape of a curve, it goes up slowly and then drops at the end, and now we’re seeing a ‘double-dip’ happening, where trends have a second peak. There are the early adopters who get on the trend quickly and then drop it quickly.
After that it’s easy to think the trend is done and that we need to walk away from it, especially when you’re in a New York bubble. But what we’ve found is actually there’s a second big dip that’s bigger and lasts longer than the first. The second rise is due to the late adopters, who maybe aren’t paying close attention to a trend and she takes some time warming up to a trend.
For the late adopter, it’s not about the price-point or whether the trend is up-market or down-market, because she has the money and she’s going to spend it. But she needs to make sure it’s a good fit and she’s not in a hurry to get there first. And this secondary wave can be even more profitable.
At Cinq-a-Sept, our advance contemporary brand, before we walk away from a trend we check ourselves and question whether we’re walking away too fast. Knowing when to drop something that’s working is one of the biggest challenges in our industry.
If you hang on to it too long, you’re Juicy Couture with the sweat pants. If you walk away too quickly you might have missed an opportunity to build your brand. There’s definitely a fine line and it’s something we think about a lot."
Yedidya Mesfin on identifying your brands’ ‘sweet spot’ when hitting trends
"We definitely follow trends, but our sweet spot is knowing who our customer is. Working that out has helped us a lot. The more we know her, the more we can predict what she wants in her closet next season. If fashion retailers have already concentrated on a certain trend and it’s everywhere in lots of different variations, we don’t want to touch that particular trend. We’re in the middle ground - we’re not mass market and we’re not high contemporary, we’re right in the middle.
To keep our business going we therefore have to find something of quality that they cannot find in Zara. We started hunting after those new trends, until we recently realised that our customers wanted something special. And now we’re concentrating on creating things that we respond to emotionally, so that our buyers also respond to the creations emotionally. For example, those special colors or special embellishment."
Crystal Slattery on data’s role in helping to decipher trends
"The more tools we can give our planners, buyers and designers, the better. And so, If we can aggregate data and use AI to give them one more tool in their toolbox, that’s a little more sophisticated than the others. I think it’s needed.
But (when using data) the role of the designer and the creative is so important. It’s important that you use the information to continue to make decisions using your gut, making sure that it comes from a human place."
And that wraps up our latest EDITIONS NYC panel discussion! Thanks again to all our speakers and everyone who came out to join us.
For those of you in London, we’re bringing our ‘Where do trends come from now?’ EDITIONS panel to you on April 10th, so look out for an invite in your inbox.