On the Outs With Fashion Ins

According to the 2011 Trend Report, this outfit, featured in Vogue Paris (the generally acknowledged Bible of Trend), had all your bases covered… in 2002.

While I profess lots of high ideals about fashion, I admit I am often drawn to its lowest common denominator. At the drugstore I stop to look at the weekly magazines’ “Who Wore it Best” sections and, in the first months of the year, never fail to type “red carpet dresses” into my search engine. Every few weeks I browse a local fashion site to inspect their collection of fashion “winners” and “losers.” (Although it does assuage my shame to note that I tend to appreciate the “losers” more.) It was at this site that I recently noticed a link for a fashion week “Trend Report.”

The report (ooh, how official) promised to synthesize the top trends coming out of New York for fall/winter. I couldn’t resist clicking over to see what they would “forecast.” I was confronted with the following list:

Bold Patterns
Neutral Nude (as opposed to… electric nude?)
Bright Colour
Fur Finishes

The list appeared as a series of titled images — runway photos with designer names and virtually no explanations. I looked at it three times and thought to myself, “And this is why people think fashion is stupid.”

In my mind, the notion of trend was always attached to fairly specific things — even if they were interpreted in broad ways: wide-leg or narrow trousers, tight sweaters or loose, stillettoes or flats. Maybe one year would be all about recreating the military structure of the 40s only to give way in the next to a soft 1920s silhouette. You know, trends.

But this list is utter nonsense. At its best, it could be the result of sloppy reporting by people who don’t care about clothes. At its worst, an advertisers’ conspiracy, as though after consultation with manufacturers and retailers, it was decided that the best way to sell something was to push everything — and to do it as vaguely as possible. Don’t like bright colour? Well, you’re in luck because neutral is in! Don’t like graphic prints? Well have we got the stripes for you! This report isn’t telling people anything. It may as well have listed clothes as a trend — or shoes — or skin.

I want to stress, I don’t necessarily have a problem with trends. Just a few months ago I was looking for a pair of glasses frames and, quite accidentally, discovered that round frames were gathering speed. And I bought a pair and the fact that they are most definitely a trend doesn’t make me like them less. It’s good to see them come around again. As Serah-Marie said, there’s something about them that just feels fresh. That’s why things resurface and why people latch onto them. To never embrace a trend is to close your eyes to living fashion — and I like fashion too much to ever do that.

But I hate being told what I “must have.” In 2011, a trend in fashion is just an idea, floating around with a lot of other ideas. Like everything else Post Modern, fashion has lost its common narrative. And I hate that the Fashion Industry (or someone in it) thinks I’m an indiscriminate consumer monkey, and they can tell me any fool thing and I’ll pull out my wallet.

The list doesn’t include black and white, though. I guess they assumed the absurdity was clear enough.

- g.

above image from Prête à tout, Vogue Paris, June 2002
model: Natalia Vodianova
photo: Mario Testino

8 thoughts on “On the Outs With Fashion Ins

  1. Agree. I love fashion, but I get really annoyed when a magazine calls something a “Must Have” and then two months later talks about how “out” it is. Personally, I prefer more “classic” things (with maybe a little trend thrown in, if I actually happen to like it). The list above of “it” things aren’t my favourite this season, but I could prefer more next season.

  2. fashion is a business and they will always have to push it on the masses, sometimes it does feel degrading.
    i like the crazy places it goes though, it’s inspiring even if slightly unwearable, i think that’s when it passes into the art realm, when it loses it’s functionality and exists solely to enthrall or appal people.
    trends are a tricky thing, actually created by the masses because fashion goes so fast i think we need something to hold onto and you never know which of the trends are going to last for years…..like a decade.

  3. I have a feeling that the eighties have been ‘back’ every season since the nineties ended. Trend and ‘must-have’ lists are indeed infuriating. When everything is ‘in’ all the time, the only silver lining is that it’s up to us individuals to trust our own instincts and wear what we like.

    That being said, worst dressed lists are almost always more fun.

  4. Hehehe “neutral nude”…

    In response to this Gwen,” fashion is a business and they will always have to push it on the masses, sometimes it does feel degrading.” I think this is why fashion is often degraded as not a “real” art form, that is because it has such close ties with the commercial realm. It’s basically symbiotic. The point can also be made that trends are forced on artists, or at least the ones who are specifically looking to sell their art.

    Reciprocally this totally supports your point that fashion becomes art when “it loses it’s functionality and exists solely to enthrall or appal people,” when it’s free from commercial constraint and can just be created for its own sake. Perhaps this is more rare in fashion then art?

  5. This is exactly why people think fashion is stupid — because it is dumbed down to a list of what’s “in” and what’s not. (I, personally, want to know when stripes were ever *not* in). Lately I’ve noticed discussions popping up about whether “trends” are disappearing. It’s interesting to think about. Like you said, “a trend in fashion is just an idea, floating around with a lot of other ideas.” Great post, Gwen.

  6. I totally agree with the frustration about vague trend lists like this. I too, am someone who is hesitantly pretty interested in trends, if only because they are such a fascinating reflection of a culture’s common interests.

    I think that trend lists CAN work and be accurate and interesting, it’s just that for me has to be more specific, and it’s generally helpful to base it on a mood, theme, or story. Trends come from world influences, and it’s the influences that could really help a person understand a certain theme.

    I mean, what KIND of ‘metallics’? If they said instead “King Arthur battle metals” or “Slick Android Sheens” then I’d be on that bandwagon in seconds flat. “Metallics” alone just doesn’t sell me, so these marketers aren’t even doing what they think they’re doing with boring, catchall terms like that.

  7. Oh, eot the good old days when there were 2 collections a year: sprig/summer and fall/winter. People, people, it’s about MAKING MONEY; that’s why they “hedge their bets with everything is “in style” at once, and why “trends are “in” one moment and “out” the next..it’s to get you to SPEND MONEY.

    Also, the fact that designers are pressured to come up with FOUR collections a year means we get stupid, ugly, absurd garbage fobbed on on us (like that horror at the top of this page) …because they are OUT OF IDEAS! Hence we also get “trends” like, say, “socks with high heels”; the fashion industry is so “starved’ for original ideas, they are now REDUCED to declaring fashion faux pas-es that would have earned you a big black bar across your eyes any other time as “the very latest thing”! >big eyeroll<

    I have been following fashion for DECADES now; in fact I moved to toronto in the 70s to become a fashion designer…..I stopped years ago(early-to mid nineties) because I saw where this was all going; we were being “sold a bill of goods” in terms of “fashion”, and I have NOT changed my mind about any of this; it’s worse that EVER, in fact!

    But…THERE IS HOPE! The one good thing about all of this is that now that we are not so ‘bound’ by fashion rules and regulations, there has never been a better time for TRUE INDIVIDUALITY in dress (nor so much “material” to DRAW ON). I encourage WORN readers to DISDAIN “fashion” and CARVE OUT YOUR OWN STYLE/ARTWEAR NICHE. It’s environmentally SMARTER, LOTS of FUN… and WAY WAY CHEAPER that following “trends” that are, at base, only so much hype designed to get you to SPEND YOUR MONEY!

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