These unisex shoes by Sabah that have been all the rage as the “ideal travel shoes” are just the starting point of the reborn “mule” trend that’s been making a comeback this past year. Granny loafers and vintage shoes have been marked for their sophistication and comfort, ranging in style from these popular slippers to the Gucci (duped millions of times, of course) mule and open-toed suede mule heels.
But how do fashion trends start in the first place? Why are they so important, and does anyone (besides the people making and selling these clothes) actually care about what’s “in” and “out” on the runways, when haute couture and designer collections feel like a foreign luxury to most people? In light of exploring this one hot trend, I wanted to take a look at how all fashion trends come to life, and how far back this history of trend-setting by leading designers go back.
A trend, according to Arielle Elia, assistant curator of costumes and textiles at the Museum at the New York Fashion Institute of Technology, is “something that continues to evolve.” A major marker of a trend is that it starts out as a unique statement that is caught on and developed by the masses, gaining a following. This is contrasted with a fad, which “becomes popular but does not progress beyond its initial purpose.” This appears to be the main difference between mere fads and genuine fashion trends: trends have a meaning, a life behind the momentary look itself.
Another aspect of fashion trends is that those who start them generally tend to stand on the upper-middle to downright rich class of socio-economics scale. Which makes sense, considering you need money and influence in order to a) purchase fashion items that other people would covet, and b) convince others that they would want to copy their look.
The first trendsetters in the designer industry were, of course, the royals. Queen Elizabeth I had an extensive wardrobe filled with beautiful, exclusively and meticulously crafted couture that would make her the envy of every eye amongst the royal court. Much like today, the whole purpose of a trend was to demonstrate to the public where the wealth and power lay within a social dynamic. The queen’s clothes displayed kind of level the crown represented, and consequently, where members of other social classes stood in terms of luxury and influence.
Following trends in this generation basically follow the same pattern: we see expensive, luxury items on celebrities and influential people, items that most of us in the middle-income bracket can’t afford to buy. Yet it is precisely because we wish to look, and ultimately be like these higher powers in society that we inadvertently choose to follow so many trends. By copying the fashions of those rich and influential people, the have-nots can at least play the parts of the haves to the extent of their own amount of money and leisure.
The fashion industry has certainly taken advantage of the marketing schemes behind this concept. Budget retailers and brands provide cheap ways for the masses to follow their favorite trends without breaking the bank. Advertisement campaigns use popular models, famous actors and singers, and now Instagram personalities and bloggers to make people want their items. This idea of trends that come in and out of style every season is a terrific(ally terrifying) business tactic that has made fashion consumption rise tremendously over the past few decades. The more it becomes ingrained in people’s minds that throwing out clothes after a few months for new ones is normal, the easier it is to convince them to buy more and more.
So now you have a better understanding of how trends work, and why they may have started in the first place. As the concept of social standing and image within that society grew amongst humankind, so did our desire to keep up with “trends” set by the rich and mighty. It might be harder to see in this generation how a celebrity’s choice of wardrobe can possibly have an impact on your daily life; but that’s only because our population has grown large enough for the influence to trickle down much more gradually to the public. That dress you saw on that girl across the street that looked really cute and convinced you to buy something similar was probably a dress that was printed on an online magazine that was worn by an Instagram celebrity that was endorsed by Bella Hadid that was in the Spring Massimo collection on the Paris runway. Simple as that. Well, not really, but you get the picture.