I recently attended the ICBA show in San Antonio, Texas, where I joined the Apparel Institute educational track. One of the session presenters was Dr. David Wolfe, Senior Creative Director at the Doneger Group. He has earned international credentials in the fields of fashion, color, and trend forecasting. His presentation was incredibly enlightening and fun, but it made me wonder…as the age gap grows between me and my teenage customers, how will I keep up with trends?
I remember high school days, college days, and soon after when I concerned myself with my wardrobe and what other people were wearing. I’m a long way from those days, but now I sell to that age group. I know that the stores I frequent are not the stores my customers frequent. I don’t read the same magazines or even watch the same television shows. My son is only 6 so he isn’t helping me out yet, although he did recently ask for a specific kind of shoe. (If anyone is interested I think the Sketchers brand Airators shoe is going to be big with the grade-schoolers this year.)
Since I was flying to Texas to learn about trends, I took advantage of the huge selection of magazines at the airport. I decided to buy ELLE magazine. I concentrated on the advertisements. Actually, I had to--the first 25% of the magazine was advertisements. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for but I looked at colors, patterns, lengths, heights, bags, bags, bags, bags…my gosh, the money they must spend on advertising purses! I was thrilled to see a Diesel jeans ad showing high waisted jeans. I noticed metallic silver and metallic gold fabrics and big jewelry. I wondered how I could ever translate this all into sweatshirts and t-shirts, or if it even mattered.
Without knowing it, I had taken my first step.
When Dr. Wolfe gave his presentation on trends, I saw in his power point, some of the same images I had noticed in ELLE. Another presenter told us that Teen Vogue is the number one magazine for our college-aged girls. During the trade show, I learned that the hottest thing going is the shortened sweatpant worn just below the knee as seen in Victoria’s Secret.
I began to see how important it is for me to cruise through the mall, watching what stores the teens are frequenting and then visiting them myself. That’s what I did the next weekend. Carrying my Lane Bryant shopping bag, I visited Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Hollister. I imagined taking my son into these places when he is a teen. I still wasn’t convinced that my Grinnell College students were wearing these things. So I had lunch at the dining hall and watched them walk by. I was amazed to see how many were wearing my stuff!
I think I get it now.
I am not designing the sweatshirt lines--but our vendors are. Our vendors are watching the trends for us and they will help me keep up. I just need to recognize it when I see it. Gone are the days when I look at my vender rep. like he has two heads when he shows me, for instance, wrinkly, stringy fabric appliqués on sweatshirts.
From now on, I’m taking a workday at the mall just before my major buying appointments. Call it “Market Research”.
Cassie Wherry, CSP
Manager, Grinnell College Bookstore
(Photo by Chance Agrella; www.freerangestock.com)