Fashion brands

Fashion brands need a cultural transformation, says The Ideatelier – WWD

Fashion and culture have an age-old relationship, but one that could probably benefit from an overhaul.

Especially since the post-George Floyd era ushered in a necessary demand for a cultural sensitivity that was so lacking before.

Today, according to Roberto Ramos, founder and managing director of cultural innovation consultancy The Ideatelier, and former senior vice president of the Doneger Group, “It’s about what role culture can play, but just a relationship healthier and organic with outdoor cultivation [of the organization] but also from within.

Trend forecasting has always looked beyond to better understand what’s going on, but the cultural transformation that Ramos prescribes to fashion could lead those wishing to move in the right direction to make changes starting with the way they seek inspiration.

Where a few once scouted and led trends, this sort of cultural “tunnel vision,” he said, “tends to be a very culturally appropriate way to tap into culture.”

Now, companies must consider culture – just as they must consider their people, products and marketing – in a much more diverse way.

“It’s about how to pay more attention to the outlier, how to come in and have these kinds of conversations. How to create systems that really embrace diversity, different kinds of cultures,” Ramos said. “Because if you don’t have that from the start, then you really start with a deficit because then these products are not designed to reflect the new emerging global national majority.”

Brands need to become “listening brands,” according to Ramos, and they need to listen to more than what their customers want in terms of product or sustainability, but listening and hearing what this diverse consumer is saying is important to them and why. Doing so, however, will require self-reflection and the cementing of a brand identity, not just running “everywhere” in an often messy attempt to quickly cling to what’s new and now.

“Obviously, brands differentiate themselves by their emotional intelligence around which they play with culture. There are those who are true creators of culture [and there are others among which] there is a lot of insecurity. And you see that manifesting in terms of these extreme collaborations, trying to co-opt. And a lot of that is fine, we can’t judge because it’s a time of extreme resurgence of uncertainty, and creative chaos is part of that, but fashion can do better in terms of going beyond- beyond surface level,” Ramos said.

Consumers today, he said, (especially younger ones) are resourceful, rethinking ownership, shunning large establishments, hungry for a new form of leadership, and intersectional identities have required a fluidity that will come with more than genderless band-aid identities. All of this upsets the notion of a long-standing trend.

“The idea of ​​what’s a trend, it’s so much more fluid and that’s why it becomes less about colors and fabrics and more about what those conversations are. [being had]”, Ramos said. “That’s why brands need to have a better system for embracing culture, from how they hire to how they learn from processes, and what that does. would look like in terms of inspiration and trendy design.

“To do it right, you have to harness the power of culture from the outside, but especially from the inside,” he added. “The kinds of decisions you make, the way you show empathy, the way you show courage, will resonate for a long time.”

This means looking at cultural transformation holistically. This is what The Ideatelier advises its brand and retail clients – Target a recent among them – to do, from commitments to hiring across cultures, to ensuring cultural diversity is part of brand DNA and to reinvent cultural forecasting and trends to lead with a world perspective and to hear directly from this global population.

How? Through cultural immersion sessions, Ramos said. It’s really about trying to get inside a culture rather than looking at it from a very distant outside and figuring out what’s compelling. It’s about talking to influencers and artists, reading literature and listening to podcasts that the community connects with, it’s about individually looking at the black experience, the Asian experience, the Latin experience and the nuances of each. It is to participate in cultural conversations and in what is specific to the groups that participate in them. He calls it the “house party approach,” where brands and retailers are active guests at the house party, taking everything into account.

“The goal is to help clients on this accelerated journey of what’s happening in culture, what are the opportunities in terms of creative concepts, product concepts, categories, where there’s an under-indexing of these bands, etc.”, he said. “And then with a lot of them, once we have this product, to tell this whole story from a marketing perspective.”

The socio-cultural theme “Hyperflux” is something the Ideaatelier says is happening now.

The Ideaworkshop

When it comes to what’s happening in culture right now, The Ideatelier sees an overall socio-cultural shift they call “Hyperflux.”

It is defined by flexibility, adaptability, “deep customization”, a mix between soft/hard, art/science or what Ramos calls, “a shifting balance of extremes”. As a fashion, it’s travelwear, which has all the comfort of athleisure but all the panache of haute couture.

“This shift is about the drastic tectonic shifts we see in socio-cultural structures and individual relationships,” he said. “There is still strong anti-establishment sentiment. A post-pandemic state of chaotic euphoria to make up for lost time launches a carefree, exaggerated and futuristic aesthetic code. There’s an unapologetic vibe at work and it’s broad in the way it draws inspiration. The result is an extreme mashup and a sense of experimentation.

This experimentation with the younger consumer audience could easily be one of the things that contributed to the Fall/Winter 2022-23 couture nudity season, since the runway – couture is not exempt from it – is often more likely today to follow what is happening in the world than lead it. But by the same token, and in a nod to the mashup Ramos is talking about, that nudity has also been countered on the catwalks by heavier velvets, layered looks and wiser aesthetics, styles that serve to protect more than to reveal.

Thanks in large part to COVID-19, people are struggling to both dodge the mundane that has claimed most of the past two years and simultaneously protect themselves from a world where too much is happening at once. , which is the other side of what The Ideatelier sees in Hyperflux.

“We see a thirst for systems and designs that protect and augment us,” Ramos said (hence the at least perceived “security” of the metaverse and all the augmentation that comes with it). “We see the continued blending of technology with softer emotional systems resulting in softer, more interpersonal technology and with designs that become aesthetic extensions. Think of the new aesthetic of headsets or the increasingly sleek and playful aesthetic of telephones, home voice systems, and more.

Collage of images including a black man in a safari suit, protective first aid equipment, solar panels and a notebook

The socio-cultural theme “Hyperflux”, according to L’Ideatelier, is all about protection.

The Ideaworkshop

It’s kind of creative chaos, Ramos said. And these days, there’s no choice but to embrace it.

“It’s about embracing the uncertainty and contradictions of this very busy time, giving the individual a creative outlet to express themselves,” he said. “We see it in the wonderful experimentation with personal design and style. Existing trends around this are the Y2K obsession with mashups and gaming, emerging Indiesleaze trends that draw heavily from the underground club scene, as well as futuristic and dystopian styles. (Read: Demna’s fall 2022 couture collection for Balenciaga).

According to Ramos, brands and retailers that boldly and intentionally embrace the necessary cultural transformation will lead the post-pandemic world.

“What we’re going through is the biggest reset of the century,” he said. “It will create the urgency for bold change.”