How long are trend and throughline cycles, and how will that timeline change moving forward? This is a quick guide for brands on how to approach fashion trends and throughline cycles as they get shorter and more demanding…
A fashion trend is a popular style or design of something that quickly gains acceptance or adoption within a specific culture or a group of people who share the same likes and dislikes.
These fashion trends can refer to clothing, hairstyles, makeup, shoes, jewelry, watches, bags and other accessories, or any other aspect of personal style.
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What Factors Influence Trends and Throughlines?
Fashion trends can be influenced by various factors, such as:
- cultural movements
- social media
- innovative new designs
- technological advancements
- and even historical events.
They often follow a 5-step cycle or pattern, but the speed and predictability of this cycle varies and depends on the influence of modern technology and social media.
What are the Stages of a Fashion Trend Life Cycle?
Generally speaking, a fashion trend’s life cycle consists of five stages:
The fashion trend is first introduced to the market through designers, influencers, or celebrities. Most recently, the trends have been to introduce more and more shockcore elements into new trends. This refers to a specific subculture or style that incorporates shocking or provocative elements into fashion designs.
- A great example of this are the big red “Astro Boy” boots by the MSCHF brand featured below.
The trend gains popularity and begins to be adopted by early adopters and fashion enthusiasts. Trendsetters and influencers begin using the trend, which leads to everyday people adopting the trend, too.
- Ciara, Lil Wayne, Seth Rollins, Janelle Monáe, and Lil Nas X were among the first early adopters to wear the big red “Astro Boy” boots, which were reportedly sold out in minutes on MSCHF’s app and website.
The trend reaches its peak of popularity and is widely adopted by mainstream consumers. Adaptations and customizations to the original designs are released to cater to individual tastes and consumer demands.
- The big red “Astro Boy” boots are also available in other colors, such as white, black, blue, Timberland yellow, and “cartoonish” patterns. A warning though that some of these may be knockoffs.
The trend loses momentum and begins to fall out of favor with consumers. That’s not to say that the designer loses fans, but rather that other designs (or designers) may have bigger and brighter shockcore items.
- Just before the big red “Astro Boy” boots peaked, MSCHF released the Backward-Forward Sneaker below (known as the BWD), a reversible shoe that can be worn either forwards or backwards.
5. Obsolescence (Rejection)
The trend becomes outdated and is replaced by new trends.
However, due to advancements in technology and social media, the life cycles of fashion trends have become shorter and less predictable than in the past.
Let’s take a quick look at predicting these cycles.
Types of Trends and Waves of Change
Not to get too much into the singularity talk, but the change in technology and trends happens faster every time one of these trend waves occur, and even faster than you might think!
It’s also important to note that luxury and fast-fashion brands navigate through the trend cycles at a different pace. Also, it’s good to know what type of trend it is, for example:
A fad typically has a shorter lifespan than a fashion trend and can be characterized by its temporary nature and lack of long-term cultural significance. Fads are often driven by social influences and spread rapidly through word of mouth, social media, or other forms of mass media.
2. Seasonal Trend
As the name implies, a seasonal trend is generally influenced by seasonal changes or associated with a particular time of year.
A classic is a fashion item, style, or design that has remained popular and relevant over an extended period and has not gone out of fashion despite changing trends and styles. Sometimes also called timeless classics, these items tend to have simple and elegant designs, are made of high-quality materials, and feature superior craftsmanship, making them versatile and durable.
Examples include the “little black dress”, trench coats, denim jeans, and white button-down shirts. They are considered to be a good investment and can be worn for many years without going out of style. Timeless classics are often associated with luxury and sophistication, and form the basis of a well-curated wardrobe.
4. Long-Term Trends
A long-term trend may sometimes be mistaken for a classic but it will eventually go out of style.
Trend forecasting can help you make the right choices and decisions when designing your next collection so you base your strategy on the right trend behaviors for your brand.
Trend History and Forecasting
The DTC blanding trend cycle lasted for about 8 years, all in all.
Now, what this means is that if one trend took 8 years to cycle down, the next one is going to take 6 years to do the same, and so on until the world we live in is essentially unrecognizable year to year from a trends perspective.
As we enter this Maximalist era, the trends from here on are set to speed up even more, refreshing and renewing every 5-7 years or so, but probably closer to 5.
And the throughlines in all of this move a little faster. Now, throughlines include the themes that occur within the culture. A great example of this is the almost “cartoonish” maximalism happening right now in standout items like the big red “Astro Boy” boots highlighted above.
Eventually, there’ll be a backlash and a stand down on this pure, unadulterated ‘attention for attention’s sake’ product development and things will calm down a bit.
Overall, expect 5-7 year trend cycles, and 3-year throughline longevity as the best way to approach building your brand in the future.
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