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Crack the youth code to unlock the future

For the fashion sector, more than in many others, understanding how and where trends are generated is the key to unlocking profit.

Getting the trend right is also the key to unlocking profit. And to get the trend right you need to understand youth culture. It all starts with trend development - the process through which a trend moves from a tiny idea to a mass product.

Traditionally, this followed a linear model of thinking with four key steps. An idea is created by a ‘taste-maker’, then it moves to an ‘early adopter’ who picks up on the look, then to a ‘trendsetter’ - the people who read fashion magazines - and then to the ‘mainstream’.
Until recently, linear thinking was the way most trends developed, but the impact of the web on global culture has added a new dimension to trend migration. This model means that the beginning of a trend can pop up anywhere in a random fashion.

The youth market has grabbed the concept of connection and run with it. This group communicates, participates and collaborates more than any other.

No other generation has ever behaved the way this one does - living so much of its life online. That means everything they do, from their jobs to the way they live and socialise, will be different from previous generations.

At the heart of this is the power of social networking. I don’t think anyone in marketing or product development is ignoring this any more. The question is, how can you approach it in a way that will have integrity for your brand or product?

MySpace and Facebook have managed to turn everyday life into live drama. Everything is on show, from who you date to your taste in music. This has become as important to today’s youth market as the clothes they wear or the clubs they hang out in, and it is a key driver in defining their personal style.

Blogs, Facebook and Twitter updates are creating a culture in which advice, recommendations and comment are just a few clicks away. People will soon use social networking to source opinion and advice from the masses. It’s a fantastic tool for researchers and marketers, if only you flip the concept on its head.

Opinion is formed and identities built on Facebook, Bebo, Twitter and Ning, and as technology enables us to become mobile, the communication will never stop. Mobile applications will enable us all to see where our friends are in real-time - and comment on what they are doing or buying.

Why is this so important? All these networks will enable friends and family to influence the youth market at the point of decision. This instant advice will drive decision to purchase - and brands and retailers need to think about how to leverage that.


  • This is an edited version of a speech made by WGSN content director Juliet Warkentin at the World Retail Congress in Barcelona last week.

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