In his latest WWD column as “Countess Louise J. Esterhazy,” fashion publisher John Fairfax proclaims that trends are dead. “There are no trends,” he writes, “I have concluded that fashion today is a bouillabaisse of everything. It makes one understand that the word “elegant” is passé. So are all those other fashion words — chic, hot, smart, fashionable. Forget it. They are as passé as passé.” While I would love to see those hollow terms disappear, I think he’s being a bit too optimistic. Such words can still be found in abundance sprinkled throughout fashion publications and websites. But that’s beside the larger point, which is that trends are nowhere near dead, as he posits.
He cites onetime fashion deities as suddenly lacking in influence, the Glenda Baileys and Anna Wintours of the world, along with head buyers at department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Harrods. While he’s right in saying that people may not look directly to those figures to assess what’s stylish, he’s ignoring the reality that many of those characters have simply been subsumed by other, more relevant arbiters of cool. Cue: the younger set of editors and fashion personalities who preach via social media platforms, and the nearly suffocating slew of blogs and online fashion publications.
Such characters and virtual pit stops feed off of people valuing their advice—they are successful for the very fact that people do follow their lead. And with many of our eyes glued to these same sites, reading similar material, trends do arise. All you have to do to see this trend continuity is glance at the weekly street style compilations created on The Cut, which literally pinpoint trend overlap amongst bloggers as far apart as Australia and Seattle. Not only are we all still inspired by each other, which inevitably creates some copycat dressing, but many of these fashion bloggers also work with the same companies and are shilling the same goods.
Proenza Schouler for MAC, for instance, has popped up in recent weeks on almost every blog I frequent. Past contenders include Adidas Stan Smiths and those black Tibi Piper boots. And these are just the specific items, mere details in a collage of overlapping sartorial vibes: grungey-punk (see: the endless bloggers wrapping plaid shirts around their waists, rocking those Balenciaga boots), the white-on-white-on-white monochrome trend that virtually everyone has dabbled in, or the proliferation of ugly sandals a la Birkenstock and now, gasp, Tivas. I could go on, but if you’re up to date on fashion at all, you shouldn’t need me to. The existence of trends is patently obvious.
Fairfax goes on to say that: “Truth be told, women today make their own trends — and thanks to the Internet, anything they want is available to them no matter where they live. Long, short, fitted, loose, patterned, plain — name it, they can find it and buy it. What that means, my dear designer friends…is that women are no longer loyal to you — or to stores.”
You might agree that, collectively, people are fashioning their own trends online, but, then, that doesn’t negate their entire existence. And to deny the exterior sources that often help birth these trends—the freebies, the sponsorships, etc.—would be naïve. While the landscape of what’s hot or not may comprise a larger pool than it once did, it’s still certainly out there, and despite the greater variety of sartorial viewpoints, most are still regurgitated enough to constitute a widespread trend.
Loyalty to specific designers is also robust, what with all the repeated bowing down to brands like Celine and Isabel Marant. People still have favorite designers, those whose collections they look to most excitedly each year. They may not want an entire wardrobe fashioned from the confines of a sole brand, but they are still gravitating towards certain purveyors over the rest. So, yes, while we may not be so trend or brand entrenched as to read “leopard print” and go out and buy every contender we see, or shop an entire mannequin’s look, we are still very much caught up in a fashion cycle that discriminates. We still adore certain brands, and find ourselves convinced by trends after we’ve seen them repeated before our eyes just enough to render them cute.
“Freedom is the heart and soul of fashion and style,” he closes. While that may be true in an idyllic sense, those who totally trump what’s trending are still a rare breed of outliers, rather than the new norm.
In case you’re not convinced, check out Blue is in Fashion This Year, a website bent on documenting all the stylistic overlap in the world today.