What’s in store for fashion and retail in the second half of 2020 has become the million dollar question. Should the industry return to tried and true strategies or strike out on a new quest for innovation? Seeking answers FashionUnited spoke to Lilly Berelovich, President and Chief Creative Officer of Fashion Snoops, which describes itself as " the next generation of trend forecasting.
Her 20+ years of industry experience certainly brings with it a reassuring level of knowledge and confidence, but feeling for what’s next is an underestimated qualification in Berelovich’s view. She founded Fashion Snoops on what she describes as a “mix of data and intuition, a heart-led methodology. It’s how we can maintain a very human response to what our customers want and need, then we weave in clear directives on what to do with the information.”
On trends for body, mind, and soul
As well as silhouette and color trends, the platform offers a health and wellness program, an idea conceived of one morning during Berelovich’s own meditation practice. “How can someone who’s leading a creative life not tend to themselves and still expect to be creative?” she questioned which led to the building of the Thrive program. “First you tend to yourself, your body, your psyche, and then we provide these layers of inspiration which you can consume in a different way.” A supportive resource for a creative industry which she felt had lost its ability to feel in the dash to consume information and trends, Berelovich describes it as “not so thematic but about building layers of aesthetics, color and material from the perspective of experiencing goodness all around.”
With human connection all but eliminated during Covid’s social distancing, digital technology stepped in to pull us through. But as the shutdown commenced Berelovich was shocked at how many companies were only just waking up to how technological advancements could propel their businesses forward. Now, as we prepare to reopen, having witnessed the emergence of the first fully-rendered fashion shows, digital samples which eliminate waste, and the building of a digital community, the possibilities are endless. “The pandemic forced a lot of companies to lean on these tools and question why they didn’t do it sooner, or why they thought the other way was better.”
Further merging of digital into daily operations will lead to the most successful recoveries. “It’s not so dogmatic, we’re not so programmed anymore,” says Berelovich. “Before, it was this month we all go here, then we go there, we had become these robots all marching down the same path, which is not so creative when you think about it.”
On a post-apocalyptic retail environment
WIth so many brands shuttering or filing for Chapter 11 across all tiers of the market, from Neiman Marcus and Barneys to Brooks Bros and J Crew down to JC Penney and Forever 21, it might seem like a retail wasteland awaits us. But Berelovich is pragmatic: “I hope this doesn’t sound harsh but for a lot of brands, something was already not quite right, whether in strategy or positioning, they were missing the mark or didn’t stand for what they used to stand for.”
For these already compromised retailers Covid was the last straw but the culling may lead to a form of herd immunity that will make for a healthier marketplace. “We had so much choice that some of those layers had to be removed for us to uncover what is really needed,” she says. Brands had been failing to take personal inventory and ask themselves important questions. “It is not a given that because you position yourself on a high street that people are always going to come in and buy,” says Berelovich. “Consumers have so many options, they spell out what they need, they tell us clearly, and we haven’t really been listening. How do we serve, is the first layer, the selling of goods is secondary.”
The Black Lives Matter uprising will further strip the retail sector of brands that fail to rise to the demands of this historical moment. Others will be toppled by the exposure of racist practices by watchdogs and former employees. Berelovich issues a particular warning to brands who have relied on Black spending but have turned a blind eye to the real needs of the Black community. “I think this is a huge uncovering of everything, of how conveniently some have chosen to look away and profit,” she says. “Real diversity and inclusivity starts at the decision-making table. Consumers will be looking for brands who take on this challenge in a genuine manner, who really address this moment of change from the inside out. I don’t think we can get underneath the diversity and inclusivity layer without some kicks in the butt, excuse my French, without some real rude awakenings.”
The beauty industry is ahead in the areas of digital and diversity, she observes. “There is newness and ways of looking at things that are slightly fresher than in the fashion industry.” She prefers the word Conscious to cover both Diversity and Sustainability: “It’s about being awake to your choices and seeing the whole ecosystem and how it is impacted. As a creator if you’re conscious, attuned to yourself, responsible, clear and educated on the significance of choices, that’s most important.”
According to Berelovich, customers crave protection, to feel comfortable, to feel happy and excited again, and connection. Recovery from a pandemic is no reason to revert to polluting the earth. A recession is no reason to assume customers will be unwilling to pay for the sustainable option. “We can’t leave it in the hands of the consumers,” she reminds us. “If I’m the conscious creator, this is what I’m putting out into the world.”
Says Berelovich, “Creatives need their power back. They need to be trusted and their creativity and imagination and intuition need to be honored again.” As a designer over 20 years ago she remembers when the creative voice mattered and how the designer’s vision made it all the way through to selling, whereas currently designers have become robotic, forced to mix so much data into the design process that they have lost their intuition or fear creeps in as soon as they access it. “The more you hear something’s not possible, the more you don’t do it, and the creative soul just burns out. That’s been painful to watch,” Berelovich says, adding that the fragile, emotional aspect of designers is something to cherish not kill. “In our team, we are so lit up by ideas, and the research is so powerful but when we push it out into the world, as much as we believe in it fully, there are so many roadblocks that the tunnel of ideation can become a tiny little opening regarding what gets through.” In these times of great uncertainty and fear, her hope is that companies lean on their creative leaders to really question things. “That’s where the answers are. Data is powerful, we use it a lot, but the answers are in the imagination, the what-ifs, the exploration and experimentation.”
Still, as we emerge from the battlefield of Covid, there will inevitably be brands looking around in panic at their fallen brethren, bullishly prioritizing past sales figures and tweaking formerly successful strategies to regain a familiar sense of normality. Berelovich urges them to make space for mistakes and risk-taking, and gives the example of a company that invited sci-fi writers into design meetings to throw around ideas.
“The pathway to innovation is so short, so segmented, so broken, there is no time to consider big ideas,“ she says, Certainly, if the pandemic offered us anything it was time, the opportunity to slow down and really consider matters rather than rushing to conclusions. This behavior should not suddenly be scrapped. “We’ve started to realize that certainty is not real. We believed in numbers that looked right on the page but boom, it all exploded in our face. If nothing is certain, let’s think anything is possible. The more companies stretch that perspective to be a little bit more curious and explorative, that’s where a lot of the magic lives.”
From the words, Reset and Reboot, which dominated fashion media during the early part of the shutdown, we have moved into a new phase, Rebirth. But to this Berelovich offers the following reflection: “We need to let things die to have real rebirth, give permission to let things fall away.”
As our expectations undergo a reset, letting things die becomes a most fitting directive for the second half of 2020. This is not only a reopening but hopefully the dawning of a new Conscious era.
Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.
Photos Fashion Snoops