Wednesday, August 13, 2014


By Ella Johnson

Fashionable Finance: The Costs of Trending

Photo courtesy of Eva Mueller

Fashion enjoys a vast world of inventiveness and diversity, exploring new trends and redefining identities, but this creativity doesn't come cheap! We investigate the cost of keeping on trend.

Fashion has a deeply integrated relationship with commerce and capital and have introduced new spheres of ingenuity through marketing and setting cultural trends.

This compels not only designers but schools of PR teams to establish the latest brand on the wave of a social shift in style.

But what about the cost of these new waves and revivals, and how do they impact on the greater public?

Photo courtesy of Dior

Knowledge is everything, especially when promoting

All successful companies know their audiences well, and understand how to market to them. They face two potential challenges:

  • Constantly keeping up with emerging trends while balancing what they know is well-loved, and offering something new (essential)
  • Reinventing itself to narrow the market down to a niche audience or extending the line to expand their clientèle (optional)

Each endeavour requires its own budget - for instance, a succinct and artful advertisement from a leading fashion company such as Dior that airs only a few times per day, especially during prime time (and increasingly so over the festive season) will cost more to produce than frequent, low-budget adverts which cater to crowds seeking a cheaper wardrobe.

A Dior lover expects to see expertly-produced adverts with good art direction, good music, and a bit of celebrity to enhance the brand:

Watch Christian Dior's J'Adore, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud on Youtube.

Video courtesy of Dior

Filmed in the Galerie des Glaces at the Château de Versailles, set to the elegant yet rocky sound of Gossip's "Heavy Cross" and starring digitally-rendered versions of icons like Grace Kelly and Marilyn Munroe with a stunning Charlize Theron, it is hardly surprising that between all the expenses of production, royalties, rentals, and labour, this gem would rack up millions in expenses.

Researching and creating

Of course, it's not all about promotion, although the promotional process is intertwined with the cyclical process of long-term planning (projects aren't as linear as we think - an idea for promotion may influence the outcome of an end product as well as the steps leading up to it).

Following trends is in itself a past-oriented term - companies and corporations cannot afford to "follow" any movement in fashion.

Instead it's about predicting, seeking out, and trend-setting, and this requires an intuitive ability to sense what society desires, whether it's conducted within the company itself or through the help of professional trend forecasters.

Sometimes, it is society who sets the trend - hipsters have notoriously upset the scale and churned out their own niche of clothing styles, and fashion designers have only picked up on this after the fact. In other movements, it's more spurred on by the brands and companies themselves.

Interfilière Fashion & Color Trends AW 2014/15, Key Theme IV: Playful

The creative process involves several elements which are often repeated or rearranged, but generally follow this flow:

  • Evaluating current line
  • Brainstorming
  • Primary and secondary market research and monitoring current and past trends
  • More brainstorming
  • Sourcing
  • Producing
  • Evaluating product, re-making or refining
  • Finding sellers and disturbing
  • Promoting

Some companies and organisations can be funded by grants such as those offered by initiatives from several different outlets, from research centres to community-run projects.

Individuals or small companies aspiring to start up their own line can expect to put out anything from a few thousand dollars to several in the United States, a haven for start-up ventures. This includes photography and website services, critical for the promotional and sale-related purposes.

Photo courtesy of

On stage

For these ventures as well as commercially-run ones, there is more to trend-setting than advertising on billboards and glossy magazines.

Taking the spotlight brings in the performance aspect of fashion - although geared primarily towards fashion enthusiasts with clothes crafted for the catwalk versus everyday life - and it is a great way for artists to showcase their ingenuity as well as give companies the chance to compete amongst the finest.

These shows can cost up to $500,000 for high-profile events (approximately £300,000). This includes renting venues and promotion as well as the actual set-up and show itself - but excluding the other costs of research and production before the show.

Backstage at New York Fashion Week (Photo courtesy of Skip Bolen)

Backstage at New York Fashion Week (Photo courtesy of Marie Claire)


Thankfully for revivals, fashion brands can practice the "if it worked before" mantra.

The primary design is already there, and in the wake of nostalgia and vintage, entire companies can devote themselves to revived styles as well as putting an innovative new twist on them. Of course it's risky, although big brands have some space to move around when circulating more line at once, thus dealing with a diverse range of clientèle.

From music to film and office throwback Thursdays, blasts from the pasts are extremely popular. Thrift shops and big dusty closets are popular sources here, especially when pushing for the original and authentic - so companies have to be prepared to offer something even more stylish in the same tone in order to make an impact.

Sometimes it is a matter of expanding the clientèle on a geographic level - popular chain Superdry invested in other regions of Europe to see a return to form with a rise in profits of 22% last year.

Known for iconic, faded jeans, retro tees and worn leather accessories among a variety of clothing and goods, Superdry is a prime example of a company which keeps expanding itself while remaining fairly accessible to most people who pursue its styles of fashion, demonstrating that it's worth the investment.

Superdry Autumn/Winter 2014 (Photo courtesy of Superdry)


One of the biggest cost issues facing trends in fashion is the use of labour. Online marketplaces and outlet malls have not only decreased the cost of clothing, but sourcing material and labour has played a considerable role. "Fast Fashion" as discount clothing is known has been brought to the headlines over disasters relating to workers' safety, raising questions about the ethical nature of producing goods for cheap abroad.

Companies profiting from this labour have been forced to revisit the nature of how operations are run, and some experts predict that the days of the fast fashion trend are over. Now, an increasing selling point for trends is towards a more sustainable, ethical future, which may mean higher cost for the consumer and producer, but a better quality in clothing and better conditions for the workers themselves. It's a staunch reminder that where trend is concerned, the concept of cost is about more than money - but about people themselves.

Photo by 731 / Courtesy of BloombergBusinessweek


Ella Johnson is a freelance writer from the UK. She started in retail fashion in her teens before going on to study business and design, and working at various levels in the fashion industry until taking a step back. Now she spends more time with her family and enjoys writing articles on personal, family and business finance including where possible, the fashion industry.

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