Covid-19 has turned the fashion industry upside down, as stores close, the fashion event schedule is emptied and the picture of buying trends becomes very blurry. Not knowing what is going to happen next has turned many brands and retailers to trend forecasters, now almost the only people who can tell us where we are headed, like the modern-day Fates of Greek mythology. Major firms like Stylus and WGSN are working harder as they try to fill in the gap left by brand’s own data being foggier and the absence of high-profile events to give guidance. Still the larger trends from a pre-pandemic world will likely still prevail.
Both production and marketing are in a tailspin: no manufacturing has led to no product and no product means no marketing. The Paris-based trend forecasters Heuritech, who use AI and social media to predict future trends, have seen hugely increased interest in their projects. Stylus, based in London, have amplified their efforts to reach their audience, spending six times as much time with their clients compared to last month.
Clients are now hoping to ask questions and probe further into the analysis as their own operations have suffered losses to information collection. Q&A sessions and webinars for subscribers to Stylus are at the core of this, although many clients want one-on-one attention. Heuritech is offering weekly updates in lieu of the monthly updates from before. Questions are about short-term plans now, as the long-term has taken a backseat in the midst of a global crisis.
No longer able to gauge the direction designers will be taking, nor how social media is reacting to these directions, the cancellations of trade shows and fashion weeks, some of the biggest trend indicators in the industry, has placed further importance on independent forecasters. Some of the biggest losses are Milan Design Week and SXSW.
Forecasters have found other ways around this, as they ask speakers and exhibitors directly what their plans were and cross-referencing these with other indicators further afield. First and foremost, geographical patterns are playing a big role in trend prediction, as evidence suggests a revival of luxury spending in China.
However, brands should be wary of putting all the eggs in the same basket. Forecaster Geraldine Wharry has likened this situation to the Great Recession, where many companies sought the advice of risk assessors, resulting in similar looking collections and a creatively limited landscape following the recession.
It would be wiser to stick to the macro trend recommendations made before the pandemic, where sustainability and a trendless and seasonless model were reigning supreme. It is clear that the build-up of stock in warehouses would have been avoided if the fashion industry were not governed by seasons. A re-evaluation of business models is happening globally; for example, Gucci is leaning towards creating and evolving their own brand in a timeless way.