During the last edition of Bluezone in Munich we continued our SI TALKS format, this time under the motto “It’s a Consumer’s World” and as part of the project “Let Them Know” initiated by Bluezone/Munich Fabric Start. During four sessions SI’s Editor-in-Chief Sabine Kühnl talked to several experts to find out more about denim consumerism.
The first SI TALK featured renowned London trend forecaster, designer and denim archivist Kelly Harrington who consults for big chains such as H&M and recently launched a denim capsule for Norwegian brand Tom Wood.
It is so nice to hear you are from London, certainly one of the top cities for consumer research worldwide. So tell us what your job as a trend forecaster looks like.
I’m on the hunt for anything new and exciting that may affect what we wear. I analyze future trends of women’s fashion and denim. For this, I look at things, talk to people, I go to festivals and attend trade shows. I make a lot of notes and, as I’m a visual person, I take a lot of pictures.
Could you describe the big denim picture you are seeing right now and how it is going to change?
I have just finished discovering trends for spring/summer 2020 and–I think–they are quite clear: there’s still a lot of ’80s and ’90s. Skinny is not over. For the mass it continues to be an everyday item, but it isn’t a trend item any more. I rather see now the bootcut, the super wide leg and baggy silhouettes becoming trendy. So it’s more about comfort and relaxed fits.
You have also been browsing around Bluezone. What caught your eye and what will be strong for next seasons?
Tie-dye is huge, all shades of white denim-from bright white, off-white and dusty shades to all kinds of clean utility. I spotted many jumpsuits, easy to wear attitude, tailoring–which might seem weird for denim but it’s huge.
What kind of analysis do you do? How do clients approach you? Is it their very first aim to produce a very sellable product or are they approaching you really with the idea of ‘Tell us what the trend will be”?
From my perspective my work is more trend-led. So I analyze and give a picture of a high level trend.
Could it happen that you talk to somebody at, for instance, H&M and they may tell you: “Bootcut is a nice idea but that is not going to sell.” Does it happen that sometime you have to drop your idea?
Yes, it may happen, but it’s my job to convince them and sell that picture.
Are trends happening in the same way everywhere? Is it still different in Europe compared to Asia?
It is different although thanks to the Internet everything is so much more accessible. I recently went on a trip to Japan, and there once was a street filled with very individual Japanese stores and now it has become a street filled with global stores which I think is a shame but of course it just means that those smaller stores move elsewhere and maybe they are harder to find. That seems to be the evolution.
How do you make your research? Do you talk to people you meet in the streets? Do you read blogs?
I do a lot of people watching, I go to fashion weeks, I analyze what people are wearing when they go to the shows, I analyze online, I look at new upcoming influences, I look at music, new festivals and new store openings. I also speak with people and normally ask them where they got their outfit from.
Are there any special communities, young consumers or nations that inspire you most?
Yes, there are, but probably they are too many to name. Among influencers there is in particular one girl from the US–Reese Blutstein. She wears vintage clothes mixed with designer pieces, high-street items and sustainable pieces. But it’s more about the way she mixes her clothes. That is very inspiring.
What countries are more inspiring for you?
Apart from being here, it was really fun and a good experience travelling to Japan. I also liked to visit Denim Days in Nashville and to travel to Korea–I think that’s probably the most unique forward thinking country. People there are more experimental.
Do you also check statistics when making your research?
No, I generally follow my instinct.
Do you only check for color, fits and shapes or also for macrotrends such as sustainability?
Yes. That is also something I’m looking at.
How did this change in the last decades?
It’s changed dramatically. People are more interested in sustainability. They increasingly want to know the story behind what they’re buying.
But my feeling is that if you ask someone in the street if he or she would be willing to pay more for a green jeans, they would all say “Yes”, but at the same time would all go to Primark or another mass market chain. What do you think about that?
Well, in the end it is up to every single one of us. But there is a trend that people ask for more transparency. I think it’s important because they care where the sourcing happened.
How did your behavior change toward sustainability?
I’ve always been a huge fan of vintage anyway. My wardrobe consists of a lot of vintage clothing. I have become very aware of it and I am extremely interested in trends having this transparent story.
Could you name any brand that is a good example in this sense that consumers could trust?
There is Tortoise Denim, Boyish Jeans and MFGA. They are very transparent in what they are doing
These are rather small independent brands. Is there a chance that big brands and companies become more transparent?
I think it is a circle: If consumers are more interested and will buy more consciously, big brands will be affected by that and so on. Consumers are already offered different opportunities regarding sustainability, for instance, they can take their old garments to stores to be recycled. There are always more and more online stores and apps through which you can buy or resell secondhand items. I really like that you can go and buy like this. And I think that a lot of bloggers and influencers are promoting that at the moment as well.
Since you mention influencers again: What influences consumers most when it comes to shopping clothes today? Is it the Internet as such, influencers or celebrities?
I would definitely say it’s influencers and bloggers. They are even more influential than celebrities these days. Also because they have a closer relationship to consumers and are more accessible.
Note from the editors: The interview is taken from our current issue #288, The Service Issue.