With our myriad cellphones, blackberries, PDAs, iPods, and other gadgets, we have become so info-overloaded, we're rapidly fleeing the Age of Information in favor of one centered around escapism and imagination.
"Daydreaming, fantasy and sleeping are things we need more of," forecast-brand image developer Cheryl Swanson of Toniq recently told WWD, explaining that for brands to succeed, they should design clothes that emanate an "aura of wonder…[and] transcend function and looking cool, and take you to a new place, almost like costuming. Not a uniform. And not all black." (Exhibit A: Prada's Fairy Bag - photo: Bag Snob)
Futurist Faith Popcorn of Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve has a dimmer view of this new era, focusing more on the intangible but pervasive sense of society in a state of collapse, economic uncertainty, layoffs, and ongoing problems in the mortgage market and the Middle East - collectively summed up as life rage. The sartorial solution, according to Popcorn, involves a marked absence of loud logos (an interesting subtext of William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition in which the book's trendspotting heroine finds logos on clothing so abhorrent, they literally give her an allergic reaction). "The plainer brands [like Cadillac and Lego] are going to have a chance," she notes, advising brands that success will involve "taking themselves out of the clutter and noise...and whispering in our ears to be heard above the roar of the mediascape…Classics are a bridge to that. They have a lot of equity with the consumer and don't have to yell."
Here are five other influential trends to keep an eye on for 2008:
LUXURY THAT WHISPERS "I expect women to add a luxurious touch to their personal style, like a luxurious fabric; things that feel a little richer, nicer in an eclectic way," explains Irma Zandl, president of trend forecaster The Zandl Group. "In a slowing economy, the haves will look for less ostentatious design in which the quality is on the inside, but not as visible on the outside," agrees Drew Neisser, chief executive officer of Renegade Marketing. "In other words, it's time to hide the fur. Turn the coat inside out so you know you've got fur, but the world doesn't. Burberry is among the high-end brands that might do well, since their signature plaid is often on the inside. Prada bags that don't say Prada is another example. High-style, lower-cost brands like H&M and Uniqlo will continue to do well."
According to Popcorn, another label to watch for is Muji, the Japanese word for unbranded, and other similar whisper brands.
OUR BRANDS, OURSELVES “The fact [so many] stores carry the same thing has started to become tiresome. Has the day of the 1,500-store chain run its course?" asks Zandl, predicting the possible end of monster box-store mallification. "People are trying to search out things that are authentic — things that reflect themselves." Agrees Popcorn: "First, brands told us what to do. Second, we made certain brands our own. Now, I think we're going to get sick of being a brand person — thinking, 'I'm a Nike person' — and respond to brands that whisper."
FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS "So many fashion brands do too much these days — clothing, fragrance, beauty, optical," opines independent trend analyst Kiwa Iyobe. "So brands specializing in perfecting one product category are very appealing. High-quality brands like Patagonia, which makes fairly indestructible outdoorsy gear, have benefited from consumers willing to pay more for something long lasting (a $175 fleece jacket) that doesn't necessarily scream luxury."
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY An interesting offshoot of the trend toward brand focus is what Iyobe predicts as a market-wide move towards "a single product or product category, like a high-quality cotton shirt or bespoke tuxedos…Quality versus quantity. Built-to-last, collector editions versus disposables. One good pair of shoes that will last five years, versus 20 cheap pairs you wear a few times." Good examples include "Pricey, specially packaged, collector editions, like Radiohead's In Rainbows CD, vinyl records, artwork, lyric booklets and hardback book, slipcased together for $85."
GREEN GOES MAINSTREAM "Green will move from being a fringe consideration to a priority for many fashion brands," says Renegade Marketing's Neisser. "Brands that are green and fashionable will have an advantage over brands that are simply fashionable or green. If two brands are seen as design and price equals, the tie will be broken by the brand perceived to be greener. Marks & Spencer is offering a 5-pound [$10] coupon to customers who bring in used clothes, which is a great way to get shoppers back into their stores and to make a brand statement." (high fashion eco-chic from Linda Loudermilk)
- Lesley Scott
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