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Drapers Comment: Trends, is it time to move on?

As the spring 16 womenswear catwalk shows get under way this month, will we see another nod to retro references from the 1970s? Let’s hope not.

Is anyone else bored of the 1970s trend? I am. Are shoppers bored of trends generally? Maybe. Is fashion moving on from the concept of seasonal trends altogether? Probably not.

However, the influential editor-in-chief of American Vogue Anna Wintour recently said in an interview: “Trend, to me, is a dirty word.” While she might be over the idea of a season-defining ‘look’, there’s no escaping the fact that trends still influence the way designers design, buyers buy and shoppers shop, particularly for the womenswear market. One autumn it might be military; the following spring it might evolve into punk. And these trends stretch across the industry, with the impact of standout catwalk collections trickling down to brands and the high street. The cultural zeitgeist, celebrities, digital influencers and social media all contribute to trends too. But recently it seems we’ve seen a slowing down of the trend cycle.

So slow, in fact, that the recent focus on nostalgic styles and iconic decades, particularly the 1970s, has stuck around for longer than normal, with catwalk brands, labels and high-street names all creating similar looks.

Marks and Spencer autumn 15 suede coat

Marks and Spencer autumn 15 suede coat

Just look at Marks & Spencer. For spring 15, a hero item for the retailer emerged that made its way into every fashion magazine and sparked a huge waiting list of shoppers eager to buy into the look. It was a retro A-line mid-length suede skirt straight from the 1970s and similar to those spotted on the catwalks (see Gucci spring 15). For autumn 15, another item has gained almost as much attention: a suede trench coat that continues the look of the decade (see Burberry autumn 15). A quick look elsewhere and both spring and autumn collections have been full of more 1970s and other retro references, from Topshop and Jaeger, Burberry and Chloe, F&F and Asos.com.

“I think the reason it’s been around for so long is it’s one of those era-inspired trends that is very easy to adapt for consumers,” says Robbie Sinclair, womenswear editor at trend forecaster WGSN. “The silhouettes are usually flattering and it’s an era with more sophistication. For example, when brands reference the 1980s or 1990s it’s usually a literal translation – so bright colours or clubbing references. When the 1970s is referenced there seems to be more depth and it can be translated in a more commercial way.”

So if trends are slowing down, what does this suggest? Buying that 1970s skirt from M&S in spring means you can complete the outfit come autumn with the new suede coat. Does that mean fashion is moving towards a less divided approach to the seasons where shoppers aren’t so much encouraged to reinvent their wardrobes with new trends every six months but rather add to them as time goes on?

If that is the case I can’t help but think, with all the suede fabrics, flared denim, tasseled trims and bohemian styles of the pervading 1970s look filling shops – won’t shoppers get bored?

“People don’t seem to be bored of it yet, but I’m not sure how long it will continue as I feel like it’s been around for a really long time,” says Sinclair. “I guess it’s more of a hope that it will move on soon as I think everywhere looks the same.”

Either way, the upcoming womenswear catwalk shows across New York, London, Milan and Paris will help define several of the key trends for spring 16. Personally, while a slowing down of the trend cycle could be a good thing, I’m hoping for some freshness from the new season. No more 1970s.

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