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

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

Particularly as the post-George Floyd era has given way to a necessary demand for a cultural sensitivity that many lacked before.

Today, according to Roberto Ramos, founder and CEO of cultural innovation consultancy The Ideatelier, and former senior vice president of the Doneger Group, “it’s about the role that culture can play, but only about a healthier organic relationship with culture. of the outside. [of the organization] but also from within”.

Trend forecasting has always looked to the world beyond for what’s happening, but the cultural transformation Ramos prescribes for fashion could see those eager to move in the right direction make changes starting with how they seek inspiration.

While a few were once analyzing and driving trends, that sort of cultural “tunnel vision,” he said, “tends to be a culturally appropriate way to harness culture.”

Companies now need to look at culture, just as they need to look at their workforce, their product, and their marketing, in a much more diverse way.

“It’s about how to pay more attention to the outlier, how to go in and have these kinds of conversations. How to create systems that really accept diversity, different types of cultures,” Ramos said. “Because if you don’t have that from the start, then you’re really starting out with a deficit because 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 more than what their customer wants in terms of product or sustainability, but listening and listening to what that diverse consumer is saying is important to them and why. To do so, however, will require some self-reflection and solidification of a brand identity, not simply running “everywhere” in an often messy attempt to quickly latch on to what’s new and now.

“Obviously brands differ in 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 manifest 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 period of extreme resurgence of uncertainty, and creative chaos is part of it, but fashion can do better in terms of going beyond the surface level,” Ramos said.

Today’s consumers, she said, (particularly younger ones) are resourceful, rethinking ownership, eschewing the big establishment, hungry for a new form of leadership, and intersectional identities have needed a fluidity that will come with more than just genderlessness. . bandage. All this is revolutionizing the long-standing notion of a trend.

“The idea of ​​what a trend is is 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 take inspiration from processes and what that would look like in terms of design and trend inspiration.

“To do this well, you need to harness the power of culture from the outside but, more importantly, from the inside,” he added. “The kinds of decisions you make, how you show empathy, how you show bravery, it’s going to resonate for a long time.”

That means looking at cultural transformation holistically. That’s what The Ideatelier advises its retail and brand clients (address a recent one among them) to do, from cross-cultural hiring commitments, to ensuring cultural diversity is part of brand DNA, to reimagining cultural foresight. and trends to lead with a global market. perspective, and hear from that global population directly.

How? Through cultural immersion sessions, Ramos said. It’s really an attempt to enter a culture instead of looking at it from a very distant outside and self-determining what is compelling. It’s talking to influencers and artists, reading literature and listening to podcasts that the community connects with, it’s looking individually at the black experience, the Asian experience, the Latino experience and the nuances within each. It is participating in cultural conversations and what is specific to the groups that participate in them. He calls it the “house party approach,” in which brands and retailers are active guests at the house party and soak it all up.

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

The sociocultural theme “Hyperflow” is something The Ideatelier says is happening now.

The idea workshop

As for what’s happening in the culture right now, The Ideatelier sees a general sociocultural shift that it calls “Hyperflow.”

It is defined by flexibility, adaptability, “deep customization,” a combination of soft/hard, art/science, or what Ramos calls, “a shifting balance of extremes.” As fashion, it is travel clothing, which has all the comforts of athleisure but all the style of haute couture.

“This change has to do with the drastic tectonic changes that we are seeing in socio-cultural structures and the relationship of the individual,” he said. “There is still a strong anti-establishment sentiment. A chaotic state of post-pandemic euphoria to make up for lost time is launching an aesthetic code that is light-hearted, exaggerated and futuristic. There’s an unapologetic vibe at work and it’s broad in the way it draws inspiration. The result is an extreme combination and a feeling of experimentation.”

That experimentation among the young consuming public could easily be one of the things that contributed to the fall/winter 2022-23 haute couture nudity season, as the catwalk, haute couture is not exempt, often more likely. today you follow what is happening in the world you lead it. But equally, and in a nod to the mashup Ramos is talking about, that nudity was also countered on the runways by heavier velvets, layered looks and a more demure aesthetic, styles that serve more to protect than reveal.

Due in no small part to COVID-19, people are scrambling to avoid the banality that has gripped most of the past two years while protecting themselves from a world where too much of everything is happening at once. , which is the other side of what The Ideatelier sees in Hyperflow.

“We see a hunger 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 emotive systems, resulting in technology that feels softer, more interpersonal, and with designs that become aesthetic extensions. Think of the new aesthetic of headphones or the increasingly elegant and playful aesthetic of telephones, home voice systems, etc.

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

The sociocultural theme “Hyperflow”, according to The Ideatelier, has to do with protection.

The idea workshop

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

“It’s about embracing the uncertainty and contradictions of this highly charged era, giving the individual a creative outlet to express themselves,” he said. “We see this in the wonderful experimentation in design and personal style. Existing trends around this are the Y2K obsession with mixing and gaming, emerging Indiesleaze trends drawing heavily from the underground club scene, along with futuristic and dystopian styles.” (Read: Demna’s Fall 2022 Haute Couture Collection for Balenciaga).

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

“What we are experiencing is the biggest reset of the century,” he said. “This will create the urgency for bold change.”