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Dedicated Follower of Fashion

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: March 22, 2013, from the April 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

I was given a fashion citation. Katie Anderson, associate editor of GCI sister publication Cosmetics & Toiletries, has an actual citation pad, and she checked the “dark socks with light shoes” box. Now, my old-school white Nike Tennis Classic CL kicks happen to look fabulous highlighted with black SmartWool socks and jeans, so I shrugged it off—but I did look through the list of other possible infractions.

Among the 25 listed infractions, and a line to write in an unlisted infraction, “trend victimization” jumped out. Trends are important; trends are among the primary focuses of GCI content. But the citation got me thinking—what happens when trends become one’s sole driver? In the case of fashion, personal style suffers, and the trend is simply distorted and fails for the wearer. In building and nurturing a brand, the failure is more absolute than a fashion faux pas.

Trends are the lights along a pathway—indicating the path itself and highlighting the landmarks. They are not the destination. The destination is the target consumer. The key is knowing them at a fundamental level—the level at which, when external factors are stripped away, your brand still resonates and they choose your brand regardless of whether the economy is up or down, regardless of new methods of purchase (macro trends), regardless of the hot color and regardless of an influx of a new, specific product type on the market (micro trends).

Karen Young, founder and CEO of The Young Group, once told me: “It takes a great deal of discipline to build a strong story base and build on it. It takes time, commitment and focus.” When one trend gives way to another, which they always do (even if the one giving way circles back), your brand has to resonate at that deeper level to survive and thrive. Heed trends but be true to the brand—that’s being true to your consumer.

And to all the fashion police, my white shoes and black socks may be loud but, to quote The Kinks, never square.