‘’My customers don’t like fashion or trends, why should I use them?’’
Now the interesting thing here is that for many reasons, including the fact that the available materials you have and colours available in those materials are down to trends, it’s the wrong question and the wrong attitude. Generally people don’t appreciate the effect that trends have on the availability of materials, the products being created by your competitors and the views of your customers. More and more retailers and product developers are finally coming around to the fact that no one brand is alone. Your home isn’t covered in one brand, neither is your wardrobe. So why would you expect your customers to only shop with you? No, the answer is simple. Trends exist to start all designers in one place in terms of theme and colour. How they develop products, whatever they are, is really up to them and of course, your customer profile. If you have a great designer, they should be doing half of the adaptions for you already as part of the design process. The more that retailers understand their customers and how they shop, the more they will understand that theme and colour unites all retailers, allowing the customer to buy more freely at all of them.
But going back to the problem of trend adaptions for products, and in a few cases fashion brands, regardless of what you think of trends as a product creator and how you think your customers feel about trends, I guarantee you that by understanding trends and how it adapts to your customer, your life will be much easier and you’ll end up selling more products. So how does it all work? Firstly you need to start by asking the right question.
My customers don’t like fashion or trends, how should I use them?
”How” is such a small word but it has so much to it in this case. Well let’s think about the end-user for a moment. The main culprit in fashion for assuming their consumer doesn’t like trends, are usually those who create work wear, kidswear and most commonly, those who target plus size or mature clothing collections. Living with a product designer has also given some insight also into this world. Widely sweeping statement alert, but the way he thinks is very much in the engineering part of the product and not the aesthetic, so trends to him are not important at all as long as the product functions. ”This is why most products come in black, silver or white” apparently [his quote]. Of course there are many consumers who do and many customers who don’t, follow seasonal fashion trends, but all follow it to some level, and are at some point, influenced by trends whether they like it or not. It’s pretty much impossible to get away from them, regardless of age, gender or place. If your consumer likes to flick through some home decorating magazines occasionally, the colours, furniture style and even the innovations of products have been put together in a lovely packaged picture, influenced by a theme which has come from a trend. Now as a product developer, you know your customer, their likes, dislikes, preferences, needs and wants – or at least you should. Somehow you need to marry the two concepts and this is really down to how far you push the trend on your product, basically how pure you stay to the mood of the theme. There are a few options you can take in terms of tailoring your product and how pure you keep these to your customer is down to your customer profile
Colour palettes are usually very specific per theme and trend. If you have a customer base that is very fashion conscious, you can probably just keep the palette as is. The top row is taken from a colour palette from the theme for Spring Summer 2015, called Fresh. For the full on trend conscious consumer I would keep the palette as it is. Even adding in more vibrant colours for the trend palette
If you have a middle consumer that buys into the elements of trends and not others, the palette can be tailored very easily by keeping most of the palette and just adjusting maybe one or two colours, toning them more to your customers preference. For the middle row, I’ve adjusted the bright pink and yellow to tone them down slightly. I’ve removed the brighter orange, yellow and green. To compensate, I’ve added a dark denim blue and an extra grey.
If however you have a customer profile that purchases products down to preference and style rather than trend, you will still be constrained by the available materials that season. For these customers, it may be that you need to tailor each colour to your brand’s preference. This would mainly be by keeping the general hue of the colour but by adjusting the brightness or strength of the colour. The tone of colour can be engineered to fully align with your customer preference whilst keeping the general mood of the theme alive. You should also look at the undertone colour, which could be adjusted to warm up or cool the colour. For Fresh, I’ve adjusted the blue and pink palette to be more neutral and warm.
Depending on the trend, the level of adaptions can vary per customer and of course product. The colour palettes I am using are based on fashion palettes, but if you are looking at textiles, home furnishings or products, the colour changes would be different again to accommodate the usage of the product, what the product is itself, and material it is made from.
It should also be noted that colour is a very personal choice if your brand promotes a particular colour theme, regardless of the season, then this of course should take president over trends, but more colour options may be something to think about if you don’t want your brand to become stale to your consumer or even to entice new consumers.
There is a well-known company called The White Company in the UK, who’s products are all………. different colours. Of course their main colour is white, but even they, after some years, have realised that by restricting themselves to one colour was damaging their brand and customers were not returning. People by nature want something new and different, even if it is a slightly blueish tone of white.
Texture is a very simple part of the adaptions process. This basically comes down to your customer’s level of luxury and purchasing power. If your customer is a ‘throw away product’ customer that prefers a trend to quality, then you have the option of using fashion fabrics that may not be the best quality, but have interesting textures. In the main, these will probably be man-made materials with engineered textures and surface effects. That’s not to say that you should aim for cheap. As a product creator, the quality should also be as good as you can possibly use, but if the effect is more important to the customer than the lasting quality, then really it’s the aesthetic that’s important.
For those in the mainstream, this is a case of going fairly neutral, balancing the texture and surface effects with quality and cost. In this mid market, there tends to be fairly neutral textures and effects when balancing quality and of course to appeal to the mass market. Here your options are to include any smaller sections or trim effects that might stay within a trend rather than pushing it fully or to find surface textures that are basic in terms of the theme.
Finally and interestingly, quality high-end textures can be both fully trend based or very neutral. Here your consumers profile will be the basis of your choice. The decision is down to their preferences in style, whilst keeping high quality in the texture itself.
Theme really in every sense, controls all other options. But in itself, for all customers, the way in which you adapt the trend into your product is based purely on your customer’s preferences. Depending on the level of trend adoption, this could be:
An all over aesthetic in colour, material, texture and detail
A partial incorporation purely done through either colour, or texture, or could simply be a neutral base with some trend based details to include the trend but not overwhelm.
Simply done through the choice of colour for a minimal effect.
Regardless of the way you adapt trends, the concept of trends is always present in some way in every product. Trends can cover technology, aesthetics which I have concentrated on here, materials, construction, social trends, political trends and even the way you market your product. All aspects of your product are covered by trends and every choice you make in how you adapt the trends still needs the core understanding first, to then be able to manipulate and develop them to your needs.
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