What do runway trends mean for your range plan?

Anna-Louise McDougall
February 1, 2024
3 mins

Live streams, backstage footage, influencer and showgoer coverage; your average fashion punter has more access to the runway than ever before, and it's upending the buying cycle. 

Is DTC now ‘direct to community’? Do customers dictate merchandising? Up-to-the-minute, detailed visuals of luxury runway collections alongside the rise of TikTok have amplified the ability to push a micro-trend mainstream — and it's the brands that have the capabilities of speed to market that get to cash in on peak customer demand.  

In today’s digital climate rife with internet sleuths, for retailers it is getting riskier for social communities to assign stereotypes from runway shows that center on a particular theme — like Prada’s worker-bees or Louis Vuitton’s Wild West — as they can easily be distilled into a literal interpretation of a ‘look’ (i.e. the cowboy, rather than the worker jacket). With a catchy hashtag and a few million views, a micro-trend from a runway show can all too quickly be TikTokified into an ‘aesthetic’ that will most likely result in consumer fatigue as fast as it started (tomato girl summer, anyone?). 

This is the problem for brands reacting to and aligning their merchandising with social trends. You don’t want to be building #mobwife into your range plan if leopard print coats aren’t in your brand DNA — because by the time your order drops 6 to 12 months later, will you still be able to sell it? 

The Core of Trend-Core

Viral fashion trends usually offer implications about the cultural climate and changing consumer behavior. Looking back at the past few years, you can deconstruct the trends that have had the biggest impact on global fashion and why they deeply resonated with consumer psychology. 

For example, as discussed in McKinsey’s State of Fashion report, technical outdoor wear or ‘gorpcore’ was propelled by consumers’ post-pandemic embrace of healthier lifestyles. With the widespread use of Ozempic, this is more than likely to accelerate in 2024. McKinsey suggests that “more outdoor brands will likely launch lifestyle collections while lifestyle brands embed technical elements into collections, further blurring the lines between functionality and style.”

This brings us to ‘quiet luxury’ or uniform dressing. This muted style of dressing is in retaliation to the Y2K resurgence; the post-pandemic cry to dress for shock value (logo-mania, low-rise pants, lingerie tops, sheer garments), and merges technical comfort with high-end 90s minimalism. And don’t underestimate the power of cinema and screen to influence the zeitgeist; ‘quiet luxury’ was also in response to a penchant for Loro Piana in Succession. Meanwhile, ‘Mobwife’ hinges on the 25th anniversary of The Sopranos, and ‘Barbiecore’ is the pink that spawned a thousand Barbie-themed parties. 

Image: Annie Collage - The Row

To Trend or Not to Trend?

Trends that can stand the test of at least a couple of seasons will have common traits; they’re accessible, they’re easy to style, they fit into the existing wardrobe and they’re stylish enough to be worn long after the craze has ended. Often it’s small tokens of these full ‘aesthetics' that eventually seep into the collective consciousness to reveal if they have staying power; like Adidas Sambas (#cleangirl) or Margiela Tabis (#balletcore). 

When it comes to your own planning, consider what pieces have evolved or come to light from the micro-trends of late, and what a change in preference means for your consumer. 

Take Barbiecore for example; what does this mean for your brand’s range — a color, a power suit, or a stiletto? Or, you could choose to align this trending hyper-femininity to the popularity of the #girlhood trend, propelled by the likes of Sandy Liang and Simon Rocha. The overt use of girlish traits (ballet-esque finishes, coquettish lace, and bows) might suggest women are looking to the comfort of nostalgia in a world of future uncertainty, and your brand can react as such.  

If you can unpack what is at the core of a trend, and assign it authentically to you as a retailer, that may be your best possible chance to capitalize on certain ‘looks’ that your community may (or may not) want to purchase from you. 

Image: The Zoe Report, Sandy Liang

Let Your Data Do the Talking

So, how do you know if your customers want in on a TikTok trend? There are countless data avenues and metrics to analyze to know how your customers are reacting to micro-trends. 

Continually using sales data to recalibrate your future orders (and not relying on the last 6 months) is key to giving your customers what they want. Look at any changes to patterns in acquisition and sales - are they coming from social media and what are they buying, or have stopped buying? 

Aggregating your data can help you identify current patterns in colour, sizing, and silhouettes, as well as items bought together, or second-purchase items to help inform confident, data-driven decisions for your range plan. 

If you’re looking to embrace a viral or runway trend that is currently in its most commercial throes, consider if you can: 

  • Skew your merchandising in-store or online in this particular theme 
  • Implement marketing campaigns that turn the trend in your favor
  • Use segmentation and personalization that speak to the customers demanding the trend

On the other hand, trying to keep up with micro-trends could distort your brand vision and alienate your community. Remember why your loyal customers keep coming back to you, and why they bought from you in the first place. 

Fashion is cyclical, trends come and go — don’t fall for the hype of a gimmick if the data isn’t giving you the green light.

Industry & Trends
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