I eagerly follow New York Fashion week every year, desperate to see what flashy new trends are emerging among my favorite designers. Although fashion week is long gone and we’re headed into summer, fashion week still sits top of mind for me. During the infamous week, the WSJ covered a story, Fashion Industry Meets Big Data, about fashion brands using big data subscriptions to predict and forecast trends. Before digging into the article, I was shocked! How dare these unique brands I have come to love use big data to fill the runway? But, as I read on I understood the business model and why one particular fashion data company has seen 40% growth over the last four years. It seems almost foolish for fashion companies not to use these kinds of services to make sure their styles are on track, their products will continue to move, and ultimately they will increase revenues.
However, I have some concerns about these data services predicting and forecasting what we will be wearing next season, especially if they are all predicting the same styles. For example, it’s no surprise that floral patterns have made a comeback. Every store I have been in the last few weeks has incorporated florals into their summer line. Floral pants, skirts, leggings, blouses and headbands. Of course I realize that trends like this catch on every season, leather in the fall, neon in the spring, but I have to wonder if the overload of florals had something to do with big data fashion companies. If 3,600 corporate subscribers use the same big data company… isn’t there a good chance their lines are going to have sweeping similarities? I continue to hope that this won’t be the case, that somewhere in all the data our favorite designers won’t lose creativity, uniqueness, originality, or expression. Anna Clarke, head of women’s wear for J Sainsbury’s Tu clothing range said, “We use [trend forecasters] to support, validate and give us confidence we’re on the same page.” I think it’s great that there are services that offer guidance to the competitive world of fashion and I wish these companies the best of luck. My hope is that so many of the companies arise and subscriptions are spread across enough vendors that we don’t have to worry about seeing an overkill of trends, a conformity among brands, or for a lack of better words, the same exact thing on every shelf.