March 29, 2012

This Week's Forecast: Seasonless

Whether you’ve noticed or not, we keep repeating a few key words every week: demand, transparency, new consumer, the shift, uniqueness, innovation, experimentation, awareness, trial and error, and most importantly, change, change, change. This says something in itself. No matter how many times we re-iterate it, we are in the midst of change. Things need to change.

Not only is the economy unstable, but weather conditions are more unpredictable than ever before. Just walk outside. From 80 degree weather one day to low 50’s the next and it’s only March. Not to mention, snow on Halloween and the mildest winter we’ve ever seen. Something just isn’t right.

photos via

Looking at the fall/winter shows alone one can see how no one knows what to do next. From ladylike to menswear inspired, sporty, Spanish, Asian, and influences from 19th century wartime origins extending all the way to the 80’s peplum, how do we make fashion fresh anymore? A few weeks ago in the Financial Times, one of the most interesting, imaginary and innovative designers of our time, Rei Kawakubo herself said, “The future is flat.” If that isn’t some insight into the mood this past season just look at the overabundance of black from matte to super glossy finishes embracing the runway.

The retail industry is definitely feeling the affects of the irregular weather patterns and trying to figure out how to react to its instability. If we can’t forecast day to day conditions, how can we plan for months ahead let alone years? Well for one, change is going to have to start at the supply chain. The system we have established over decades ago is no longer applicable as the growing uncertainty of erratic weather and natural disasters highlights the vulnerability of our complex global supply chain. This not only supports an evolution towards a more sustainable lifestyle but as a combination of unstable climatic changes and the growing presence of social media drives the industry to simplify itself, the sourcing of goods will have to shift and lead times will have to shorten. 

photo via The Financial Times

So how exactly do we keep up with the fast paced purchases of various online platforms and diminishing weather predictability? Not only does our supply chain footprint have to be flexible to adjust quickly but companies need more dynamic strategies to ensure profitable and reliable customer service. In addition, there needs to be a better balance between offshoring, nearshoring and reshoring as companies begin to re-evaluate their previous supply chain decisions. Many have begun to look at the prospects of near shoring which include efficient manufacturing in small batches, the ability to respond to rapid production changes, quickly introduce new products and an availability and presence of local skills to prevent constant travel expenses.

photo via

Fashion can defy the weather, but if and only if we shift to a "seasonless" approach. This means the fashion industry will have to react rapidly to the weather rather than only to the trends. The average consumer doesn't want to buy coats in August or bathing suits in January. Some retailers are getting a boost from an early spring as it stimulates impulse buying more than anything. People just don't know what to dress themselves in anymore. One can't just look outside in the morning let alone depend on the weather report to give them a feel for the day's forecast. We need and want to start buying pieces that can be worn year round. Considering this, when will the industry realize it is irrelevant to still think in terms of seasons?

photo via Uniqlo

At this point, the best solution is layering looks. Uniqlo is right on point as they look to blur the lines between inner and outerwear which allows customers to experiment and easily adapt to the changing climate on a daily basis. Eventually, the rest of the industry is going to have to place more emphasis on combining fashionable and functional garments, for instance creating garments that zip on and off. We have already seen layering on the runway for Fall 2012 as a new "stacked" silhouette emerges that not only breaks up shapes but has major utilitarian and practical relevancy. Therefore the ability to quickly replenish bestsellers and new products will be key. In addition, we now have a third factor to work into the supply chain, weather driven demand.

With this said, "forecasting" needs not only new terminology but a new definition. Everything is simply too unpredictable. In today's fast-paced world of technology with all the various curated social platforms, it is more difficult than ever to define what is new in fashion and what will be in fashion. We here at MBF Trend Consulting, directly experience a growing need in the industry for specific in-depth knowledge as retailers continue to try and understand what will be new with their customers and what will be the next big thing in their specific marketplace.

From the economy to the weather to fashion and retail, where are we headed? What does our future look like? Today’s forecast reads inconsistent, but maybe tomorrow’s will be a bit more certain.


  1. Thanks -- great read and right on.

  2. What we need to ask ourselves Manuela is why both economy and weather are are changing. An act of God or the result of our follies?


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