irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry-- with an
occasional guest columnist.
Readers Respond to CLN's Trend Analysis
(October 2, 2011)
(Note: The last issue of CLN
contained articles and a commentary on trends and a request for
reader input. The articles are repeated here, followed by readers'
COMMENTARY: THE ENIGMA OF TRENDS
Much of this issue is devoted to trends, what
keeps them strong, and why, sometimes, they fade. This has come to
mind recently because people are asking, once again, "What's the
next big thing?"
Of course, nobody knows, especially me. I'm
convinced there will be one, but how do you recognize it when it
appears on the horizon? Consider some history:
Many, if not most, industry trends start
somewhere else. Macrame with sailors, scrapbooking with the
Victorians, stenciling with New Englanders, and of course painting,
needlework, and sewing go back almost to Adam and Eve.
And many trends may fade but never truly
disappear. For its coverage of Fashion Week in New York, the 9/14
issue of the Wall Street Journal profiled two "hot" young
designers, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, who created a skirt
that looks like, yes, macramé. They said they were inspired by one
of our industry's early instruction books, Classic Macrame.
P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts on why
something becomes a trend, what keeps it going, and what can
contribute to consumers' declining interest. Email your thoughts to
WHAT GIVES A TREND STAYING POWER?
Numerous industry research studies have
revealed that consumers craft because a handmade gift means more
than a readymade, to save money, and the all-important "I made it
myself" feeling. Every product category meets those needs, but most
categories have qualities that meet consumer needs above and beyond
Social. Whether it's a shop crop, a sewing
circle, or a quilting bee, consumers need to feel a part of a group.
Even much of decorative painting occurs in a group setting.
Something new to learn. Years ago a
company invested a fortune developing products and techniques that
enabled consumers to create paintings that looked like cross stitch,
which was wildly popular at the time. The problem was, after about
10 minutes of practice, the consumer had perfected the technique and
there was nothing left to learn. Hence much of the challenge was
gone. In contrast, every traditional painter believes his or her
next painting will be better than the last.
Ease of entry. A designer could create a
pattern/design for cross stitch, quilting, doll-lmaking, etc., go to
a PIP printer, and presto, she's a publisher. That creates far more
designs in the marketplace to inspire the consumer. On the retail
level, stocking a scrapbook store requires a far smaller investment
than opening an electronics store. The lower the initial investment,
the more people will take the plunge and start a business.
Consumable. If a consumer eats the cake
she made, she's motivated to make another cake. If she sells the
jewelry she created, she has more money to buy more beads.
Heirlooms. A quilt or a scrapbook will probably
be handed down for generations. That can help justify the investment
in time and money.
Education. Wilton has been relentless
for decades about teaching consumers.
Television. Project Runway has
made sewing "cool" to a new generation. All of the cooking shows
certainly help food crafts, and the numerous home dec series usually
include at least one crafty project.
Profits. If a consumer can make money selling
her creations, that's just one more benefit.
Healthy. Knit and crochet projects are
often considered family heirlooms, too, but there is a growing body
of evidence that the repetitive nature of the activities are
calming, relaxing. "The rhythmic, repetitive movements of a hobby
like knitting are soothing and distracting," Katherine Applegate,
Ph.D., a clinical psychologist for the Duke University health system
told the Ladies Home Journal.
Status and self-image. A consumer
creates a little knick-knack, and the neighbor says, "Oh, how cute."
The same consumer paints a landscape and the neighbor says, "Oh, I
didn't know you were an artist." That cachet certainly helps.
WHY DOES A TREND FADE?
Readymades improve. Flowermaking was
once a huge industry trend because the quality of readymade silk
flowers was so poor. If a consumer wanted nice silk flowers, she had
to make them herself. As the quality of readymades improved and
their prices were low, however, there was less impetus to make
Supply & demand. Dollmaking received a
huge boost when Cabbage Patch dolls were introduced. For an
extensive period of time, the demand for the dolls far outweighed
the supply, which caused many consumers to try making dolls
themselves. When the supply caught up with the demand….
Technology. The copier machine and then
the Internet made it almost impossible for the hundreds of
cross-stitch chart publishers to survive. A consumer buys a chart,
makes copies for her friends and uploads it online for the world to
see. Result? The publisher and retailer sell one copy, not hundreds.
Result? As publishers faded away, there were far fewer new designs
to excite and entice the consumer. A real challenge for scrapbooking
is to convince consumers to print the photos they've taken.
Price wars. As CLN explained in
the previous issue, price wars shrunk the profit margin for plastic
canvas vendors and retailers to almost nothing, so they concentrated
on other categories.
Fashion changes. When consumers want "bling,"
jewelry-making and wearable art are hot. They cool when the pendulum
swings the other way to a simple, almost austere look.
Consumers change. If consumers are
content to duplicate a model, they may take up cross stitch or
decorative painting. If they want unique, one-of-a-kind projects
they may turn to scrapbooking or jewelry-making.
1. Look Back, Then Forward"
The one thing aging brings us is a perspective
with some depth. Everyone needs to read or re-read Malcolm
Gladwell's The Tipping Point for a closer look at the way
What I can tell you from experience is that
trends in all things have an approximately 30 year rise and fall. It
takes about that long for the current generation to latch onto
something long forgotten -- at least long enough for them to think
they've discovered something new and in so doing, get excited about
it. They add their own twists with modern updates and what was dead
and boring is made new and trendy. You can see this happen over and
over again in fashion, home décor, and most certainly in crafting.
Just look back in order to look forward! --
Shea Szachara, Shea Design
2. How Many Belts Do You Need?
Unless you are selling your art or craft, there
is only so much of an item you can have or give away. How many
belts, plant hangers, and other items can you macramé for yourself
or as gifts? The same can be said for counted cross stitch or other
embroidered items, and I think this is part of the reason a craft
fades. – Name Withheld.
3. The Value of Project Runway
I have been in the sewing industry in various
positions for more than 40 years, and I believe that shows such as
Project Runway may cause a temporary jump in sales of sewing related
products, but I predict it will rapidly fade and potentially cause a
decline in sewing.
People watching those shows have an unrealistic
idea of what it takes to make a garment and the time, skill, and
effort involved. Contestants on those shows have been sewing and
studying for years. You get people wanting to make a weird-looking
dress out of unsuitable fabric that they don’t know how to handle
with a cheap machine that won’t work smoothly -- and they get
discouraged and quit. Those people, who might have enjoyed sewing
had they taken the time to learn techniques and fabrics, won’t take
it up again.
Custom clothiers are getting clients who come
in with sketches and sometimes fabric wanting the dressmaker to make
their creation. You have to explain to them that certain design
elements just don’t work together. You can not make a suit out of
chiffon. It can take real effort and cost to beat their unsuitable
fabric into submission for a garment with interfacings, underlinings,
and other tricks of the trade.
Mike, you have talked about your wife
beading. If I watched a show on beading, I could no more make my own
version of an elaborately beaded necklace as my first project than
these women can make a good garment the first time around. I need to
learn to properly use the different tools. I need to learn how to
properly attach jump rings, findings, and crimpers. I need to
practice on some smaller projects like earrings then build up to the
showpiece necklace. I would give up on beading very quickly. This is
what I see with sewing. – Name Withheld
4. A Response To Society
I'm curious if trends are a response to other
things going on in society. Do the hobbies fill a need we have and
may not be aware of? Does the hobby bring us closer to people,
distract us from problems, help slow us down in a faster world? I
think the hobbies may reflect what is going on in our economy,
culture, climate and much more!
Look at the GO GREEN trend right now. Could
that be a response to the whole global warming problem? I think it
is, but I think that what starts as a purposeful solution can turn
into a fad or trend. People may forget where it started, but there
is something that keeps them attracted to continuing the trend. I'm
not sure what that is -- maybe it's biological, psychological,
sociological? Carrie MacGillis, Michigan Scrapbooker
5. Changing Faster Than Ever
Note: In a piece for Creative
Retailer magazine, CLN wrote, "Trends come and go," which
drew this response:."Yes, and so fast that an eye off the ball for
longer than a week sometimes spells disaster, whereas just a few
short years ago, it took months, if ever, to build a trend or a
following on a new idea; it can now be the hottest thing since
sliced bread on the first of the month and by the 25th it needs to
be closed out." – Bob Ferguson, Crafts and Frames
6. It's All About the Consumer
Trends are born by the consumer and kept going
by the consumer. The consumer determines the direction the trend
takes. In other words, you cannot force feed the consumer. What many
forget is you have to listen to the consumer, see what she is
buying, and provide what she is asking for. – Bill Crowley