Fashion is mainly the most popular mode of artistic expression: It essentially describes the ever-changing style of clothes worn by those with cultural status and history. A fashion trend occurs when others mimic or have a rendition of any style. Fashion differs greatly within a society over a period of time, but also have an impact through age, occupation, sexual orientation, location, and social class. Trend forecasting now is something that is entirely different!
Take fashion and design. Back in the '60s and early '70s, fashion research basically meant hanging out in European clubs and cafes. Stylebooks were literally printed volumes published with an 18-month lead time to give designers and buyers time to work. As the sector expanded, so did its methods, which soon involved market analysis, political and economic trends, and fads in music, food, and design. But by 2008, forecasting firms began to distinguish themselves by using the Web to offer cheaper, more targeted sub-services and short-term trend tracking.
Forecasting is used in almost every area of business today. Accurate analysis of consumer trends is vital in informing brand direction and development, in the creation of relevant products and services and ultimately in ensuring their success. Most notably associated with the fashion industry, trend forecasting is still a relative newcomer but has fast become one of the most important weapons in a retailer’s competitive armory. In a fast-moving and crowded marketplace, identifying ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ is crucial in staying one step ahead of the competition.
As in all sectors, technology is revolutionizing and changing how businesses operate and function, with the use of data analytics, artificial intelligence, virtual technology and so on - all the while leading to streamlined and efficient processes.
As the pace of the latest fashion trends has increased, the speed of the trend cycle has also accelerated and the demand for trend information has risen. Catwalk shows streaming live, the ability for consumers to 'shop the look' before the model has even left the runway and retail sectors obsession with reducing turn-around times has created a necessity within forecasting to constantly supply fresh trend direction.
This has not only led to major growth in the fashion industry but also seen it change in a very short space of time. Advances in technology have seen the fashion industry graduate from a niche area producing print format reports a handful of times a year to online services with the ability to publish and update new material quickly and the practical appeal of information that can be accessed from any location, day or night. As of 2011 the forecasting industry was valued at $36bn and growing, spawning an ever-increasing number of agencies catering to a global audience who are searching for the latest fashion trends.
The capabilities of the Internet and the opportunities therein have also brought the founding forecasting services a new set of challenges. The growth of social media is a valuable promotional tool with which to raise a company’s profile, and in the case of forecasters, a platform with which to entice potential clients with titbits of information. However, the popularity of fashion blogging and the growing number of freelance forecasters and smaller agencies has been both friend and foe for those currently dominating the scene.
This new medium has made the once closely guarded world of trend information and analysis more accessible to all levels of the market and to consumers themselves. Bloggers are a great source of inspiration to other forecasters but many are now employed by or act as consultants, to brands who feel that they may have their finger more firmly on the fashion pulse or more in-depth knowledge of their own demographic, often at the expense of their long-standing counterparts.
Social media is the king of all advancements at present – and is providing customers with the platform and the space to mend and shape trends. But what most customers don’t realize, is that they are also providing brands with a plethora of data and info that can be used to predict trends and significantly reduce the gap between what is being produced, and sold.
Technological Advancements In The Trend Forecasting World Today
Now, at the beginning of 2019, we stand on the threshold of another major transformation, and that is going to be driven by Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. Early adoption began in 2017 but the time has now come for AI to become the norm. Just like no one can imagine not having an online presence in today’s times, in 2019, it will be data’s turn to shine.
Where Social media stops to create an effect, AI comes in the picture! Rather than manually gathering data, retailers are using AI to collect, organize, analyze, and sort data into important categories, that can then be used to foresee and understand what their customers are looking for – and deliver on the same.
AI in action is demonstrated by Screenshot, an app created by Kim Kardashian that uses AI image recognition to make fashion easier. Users simply take a photo or screenshot anywhere of a look they like and open the app to find similar products at any price – so users can shop the whole look. This handheld fashion store helps users find shoppable prices to ultimately create a better wardrobe. This is something more relevant in the retail world!
If we focus entirely on Indian fashion industry landscape, the many states and hundreds of religions, cultures, and dialects within our cities mean that consumer tastes in colour, styles, dressing up and what to wear on different occasions can change every few kilometers. A fine example of what IBM and Bestseller India have put up is this - Together, they’re developing an IBM Watson AI engine to help them predict the next big trend and the most relevant styles, colors and size ratios. Higher relevancy means a sharper, better-selling assortment, helping them meet consumer expectations while becoming more efficient. Their goal is to offer consumers the fashions they want at affordable prices in stores nearest to them.
From The IKF Desk On How Does Technology Play A Part In Fashion Forecasting?
Overall, digitalization has completely evolved the fashion industry. With the introduction of new technologies such as AI, IoT, VR, and mobile customers, retailers, designers, etc. can expect to receive a more personalized experience that caters to all their needs and concerns Digital transformation is resulting in changes previously unimagined, and we can only expect this change to rapidly advance.
While there is room for such points of view at present if forecasters can position themselves as an inspirational resource with the ability to create and innovate, trends and trend analysis will remain the future of fashion.