If, like many, you’re wondering why certain trends like “Y2K Fashion” or “Power Bohemian Florals” seem to explode out of nowhere, you have social media to thank. While it’s great to know where these trends are coming from, figuring out how to take online inspiration and incorporate it into actual fashion offerings might be trickier.
As Fashion Snoops (FS), a consumer insights and trend forecasting company, pointed out in a recent webinar entitled How to Track Trends Using Social Media, trends are increasingly being consumer dictated and influenced by multiple sources – niche influencers and the Internet – first brands for celebrities and designers.
“Whereas the traditional adoption rate of a trend used to be around one to two years, today’s trends can go viral in just a few weeks and have varying shelf lives from several years to just a few months or even a week.” explained Jenna Guarascio, Vice President of Content Strategy for Fashion Snoops. “Brands not only have to react differently now, but also anticipate and interpret trends for future ranges. When you know where and how to look, social media can be leveraged to better predict consumer expectations and make more informed decisions at every stage of the product development process.”
Guarascio advised brands to define and segment the different types of profiles they choose to follow. For example, while it’s important to follow celebrities, it’s also important to look at brands and people that are either ahead of the curve or are more niche and outside of the mass-market sensibility. Knowing what to track is also important to determine if a brand is at the peak of its popularity or if it could be used for future ranges or brand strategies. But the most important factor, she says, is knowing why these trends are occurring.
“How are consumer expectations changing and why are they driving the desire for new products?” asked Guarascio. “The answer is what we at FS call cultural sentiments, which we identify at the start of each seasonal forecast to really guide the way of what to expect from a product and design perspective. Sentiment is just the starting point as there are various sources and influences that follow and define a trend throughout its life cycle.”
Sentiment regarding the influence of social media on style also varies. When asked about their fashion inspo sources, 33 percent of women and 26 percent of men cited social media in 2022, according to Cotton Incorporated lifestyle monitor™Survey. This percentage increases to 50 percent for consumers aged 13-24 and remains high at 40 percent for 25-34 year olds. It drops to 25 percent among 35 to 54 year olds and to 9 percent among 56 to 70 year olds.
Among younger consumer groups, social media is the second most popular influence behind what they already own and like (67 percent). monitor™Research.
The most popular sites for fashion ideas are Instagram (73 percent), TikTok (52 percent), Facebook (49 percent), YouTube (45 percent), Pinterest (42 percent), Snapchat (23 percent), Twitter (22 percent), and Tumblr (5 percent), after the monitor™Research.
Among Gen Z consumers, Instagram is the favorite (78 percent), followed by TikTok (71 percent), Pinterest (49 percent), YouTube (40 percent), and Snapchat (23 percent). monitor™ research. Facebook comes in at just 17 percent, followed by Twitter (14 percent) and Tumblr (3 percent).
Interestingly, YPulse, a Gen Z and Millennials-focused research firm, found that the fashions trending on TikTok’s For You page aren’t always what’s worn in real life. More than half of 13-39 year olds told YPulse they only wore an outfit to take a photo or video for social media. Almost two-thirds (61 percent) say their style on social media is how they want others to perceive them. And a quarter of young people say they’ve worn comfortable clothes to a film location only to change their outfit for a social media shoot.
YPulse also discovered that while younger generations “seem as if their shopping decisions revolve solely around the latest #Core, their go-to style remains pandemic-chic: casual and comfortable.” Almost half (47 percent) states that her social media style is different from her everyday life. In fact, comfort continues to define their daily wardrobe choices, “which is why mom jeans and sweats continue to be offline uniforms.” Most respondents (74 percent) say their everyday style is defined by comfy “basics,” and two-thirds say they would consider their favorite sweatshirts part of a smart look if styled right – demonstrating the relevance of loungewear continues.
Another note for brands: Consumers are unlikely to buy directly from social media. So far, according to 2020, about 20 percent of all consumers have bought a product outside of social media by clicking on a link or an image monitor™data. Those aged 35 to 55 are most likely to do this. Looking ahead, just 30 percent say they’re likely to buy an item directly from the social media platform they first saw it on.
After Guarascio explained the emergence and lifecycle of a fashion trend on social media — like Barbiecore, defined by a range of pink tones in clothing and accessories — it became clear that some of these “viral” trends have actually grown by a legion of over time Influences that bring them to the fore. Additionally, the weight of a hashtag can kickstart an already familiar look (think Grandma on the Coast). And pop culture can accelerate a trend, although it’s not usually the first manifestation.
“Trends are no longer linear,” Guarascio said. “They are a multi-layered ecosystem. Social media can affect a trend at different stages of its lifecycle, sometimes reactivating or expanding its relevance. A lot usually happens under this layer, which says more about how consumers are feeling and what they expect or need. From that point of view, understanding consumer needs and expectations really helps define a clear and forward-thinking path.”
The Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ survey is an ongoing research program that measures consumer attitudes and behaviors about apparel, shopping, fashion, sustainability and more.
For more information on the Lifestyle Monitor™ survey, visit https://lifestylemonitor.cottoninc.com/.