The Trend of Setting Trends

May 11

Ever taken a look at those faded, black and white pictures your parents would show you? “Look sweetie! This was mommy when she was your age!” as she brings out the dusty photo album that looks like it had been through a war, perhaps even two. Page after page, she flips through the photographs of her bell-bottomed jeans, oversized sweaters and permed hair, while you laugh uncontrollably at the dreadful trends of her days.

Fast-forward ten years. Those bell-bottomed jeans you used to laugh at are now on the front page of every magazine, and on every runway at this year’s Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week.

You now begin rummaging through the back of your mom’s closet, praying to score a pair of her old jeans that you just might be able to squeeze yourself into. Hopefully without popping off the button. Or maybe even ripping the seam along your behind.

Trends. The ephemeral, yet cyclical phenomenon that dictates the way we dress, the way we act, and even the way we live. Like soldiers in an army, we march to the beat of our commanders; the fashion managers. Our uniforms, although short-lived, are determined by the seasonal trends that surround us. Instead of standing out, we conform to fit in and to meet the traditional standard laid out by the fashion industry.

Contrary to my belief, Maria Mackinney-Valentin, author of “Trend Mechanisms in Contemporary Fashion” argues that fashion is no longer a victim of conformity. Rather, it has become an individualistic form of expression that allows everyone to create his or her own identity (Mackinney-Valentin 68).

Now, I am in complete agreement that fashion allows people to express themselves. However, I believe they do so under the influence of what they are exposed to. In a survey carried out by Zainab Imichi Alhassan, a Nigerian celebrity stylist, “… everyday people [were asked how they] feel about fashion as a form of expression and if their cultural society restricts their style” (Alhassan). Results showed that several participants dress a certain way in order to avoid living in fear of being judged and or criticized.

There are always exceptions to the rule. These people, labelled as nonconformists, “[…] would like stuff before it was fashionable, during its fashionableness and after it has gone out of fashion” (Alhassan). A primary example is Lady Gaga, a world-renowned singer and songwriter, also famous for her daring and fearless ensembles. Whether being draped in bacon or emerging out of a ginormous egg, Gaga never fails to amaze her audience.

The world of fashion is consuming. Attempting to keep up with every fad can be exhausting, overwhelming and will ultimately leave you with nothing but an empty wallet. Dedicated fashion followers are instilled with the “desperate yet unconscious pressure” to embark on a “ceaseless quest for the moment” (Bos 5). These committed individuals constantly seeking the “new” eventually end up chasing their tails. What’s new quickly becomes old, and the old eventually becomes anew (Bos 6).

The emergence of trends occurs incessantly. The expiration of one leads to the spawn of another. The process progresses at such a fast pace that fashion managers must not only look to the beliefs of their followers, but to their own respective beliefs as well. This in turn allows for an improvement in the techniques used in the management-fashion process, and therefore, continues the smooth transition from one trend to another (Abrahamson 257).

As Eric Abrahamson describes in his article, “Management Fashion”, newly adapted managerial techniques stem from “norms of rationality and progress”. These norms are generally accepted ways of effective management, so that organizations can appear to be using rational means to meet their ends. Aside from being rational, such norms must also be progressive. Management techniques are compelled to keep up with the rest of the world because in today’s advancing society, there is no time to fall behind (Abrahamson 261).

To put it nicely, the book A Career In Fashion: Merchandising And Marketing Management states that “[f]ashion is often viewed as a mirror of the times because it reflects the tastes and values of a people at a particular point in history” (Institute for Career Research 4). In simpler terms, people are more likely to remember the tie-dye hippie era of the 1960s, rather than the fact that the first Wal-Mart opened in 1962. Or at least I would.

Fashion managers, the leaders of the fashion world, aim to constantly be at the forefront of all trend setting in order to cater to the endless needs of their consumers (Abrahamson 255). However, due to globalization, mass production and technology, trend setting no longer solely depends on designers, hierarchy and brand names, but rather on each separate individual (Mackinney-Valentin 69).

According to Mackinney-Valentin, there are three main drivers of fashion trends: dichotomy, point of origin, and hierarchy. In the context of fashion, there are dichotomies to every trend. “[F]ashion leaders and fashion followers, them and us, right and wrong, young and old” (71) used to be prominent opposites in the world of fashion; however, over time, their differences have drastically faded.

In a time where youth prevails, designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier attempt to blur out such a dichotomy by using grey wigs to advertise the beauty in aging. The point of origin of a trend no longer plays a significant role in its materialization, as does hierarchy. Since designers look more and more to their consumers for inspiration, the dictation of trends relies on the alliance of the two.

The common acronym “DIY” (do it yourself), has become a coined term in the world of fashion. It has provided fashion followers with a way to put their own unique spin on the hottest trends, while being their very own designers. Living in our innovative society, we are fortunate enough to have the means to recreate the latest fashions for more affordable prices. We no longer rely on designers to fulfill our trendy needs; rather we have become more self-sufficient. 

May 11