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On the hunt for the elusive zeitgeist

In an attempt to unearth saleable fashion trends, Bashir Mohammed goes off the beaten track

I am nearly at the end of my buying for the winter season. Just a few stragglers to see next week and then I can sit back for another four months to ponder my choices before the whole merry-go-round starts again.

This year, I feel I have worked harder than ever to nail the elusive zeitgeist, who seems to be quicker on his feet every year. We decided not to attend the major shows but to try to seek him out at the smaller events. As a result I did not go to Bread & Butter, a decision I am now quite pleased about having spoken to many who did go and reported nothing new, but ever-longer queues.

My favourite trip was to Copenhagen. I read Mark Hale's account of the event (Drapers, March 3) with interest as we clearly have different opinions of this show. We found lots of quirky bits and pieces to give our stores the point of difference that we need. I also like the Danes' business-like approach. I have always considered what I do to be a business, which is ultimately about making money, and am very happy for people to try to sell to me as hard as they like, because of course I don't have to buy. Many of the short orders that we placed are already in store just three weeks after the event - a testament to Nordic efficiency, an attribute that is sometimes sadly lacking at home.

While in Copenhagen we also went to a tiny show called the Gallery, which was mostly fashion graduates. Fashion brand Sand also had a stand there, but it may have been sponsoring the event. Anyway, there was nothing we could actually get our customers to wear, but that was not the point. What we did see were great new ideas that I can see translating into a more commercial look in a few years' time - lots of directional tailoring, some odd but strangely appealing fabric combinations, use of new materials and lots of imagination.

So what have I learnt as a result of my two months of travel and frenetic activity? One tip I would pass on is that if you want to know what men will buy next year look at what women are buying now. This year I have spent a lot more time with my womenswear buyers and have gone to some of their buying appointments trying not to look too hard at the models and very hard at the clothes. This has helped me enormously with the men's selection, where I can now create the impression with my suppliers of having a crystal ball.

I am much more confident about what I believe are the key trends for winter, and accordingly have put my money where my mouth is and increased our forward buying budget and reduced our short order one. I have found in the past two seasons, that although short order is fine in principal, if something really takes off then of course you can never get hold of it. I have therefore decided to back my hunches. I will let you know if I was right in six months' time.

- Bashir Mohammed is the owner of west London-based designer fashion independent American Pie.

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