Understanding the difference between a long-term trend and a short-term fad can help you align your jewelry business with consumer demand while avoiding the pitfalls of designing around passing styles that die out after a couple of seasons. But distinguishing what’s a trend and what’s a fad is harder than you might think. How can you tell the difference? Let’s start with a few definitions.
A trend is simply a change in behavior in a certain population. Henrik Vejlgaard, trend sociologist and author of Anatomy of a Trend, defines it as:
“A social process in which style or taste changes. This can be about changes in how we dress or what we eat or what we watch on television. Some changes are short-lived and they are normally called fads. A lot of fashion changes are fads because they only last one or two seasons. Some changes are long-lived and will end up being adopted by many people. And these changes are called trends.”
Trends affect many people over a long period of time and usually fill a consumer need or address lifestyle shifts within society at large. They tend to develop in a large population and can last for 10 years or longer. The use of cell phones, the rise of social media, skateboarding, the craft movement, the shift toward organic foods, the use of Cad-Cam, and even computers are examples of trends that took root in the last 20 years.
The terms “trend” and “fad” are often mistakenly interchanged. A fad is fleeting, temporary behavior, while a trend is relatively permanent and lasting. A fad is about novelty. Once the novelty is gone, the fad is over. A trend is about a shift in consumer behavior. Some of the most famous fads include the Pet Rock, cat eye glasses, lava lamps, bell bottom pants and mood rings. A fad it can be out-of-date almost as soon as you purchase it or start designing around it, but trends have staying power.
Sheryl Connely, the head of Ford’s Global Trends and Futuring Division, used a simple example involving blue jeans to illustrate the difference between a fad and a trend in an interview with Brandon Byrnes, editor of the investing website The Motley Fool:
“Blue jeans have been around for 150 years. In the early 1900s, it was often used as a work uniform because it was inexpensive, highly durable, the more you wear it the more comfortable it became. But it was associated with this lower socioeconomic status.
Today, blue jeans are high fashion. You wear them to the office. Some designers at Ford tell me they spend more money on their blue jeans than they do on their suits…
Over the last hundred years our values, our attitudes, and behaviors toward denim have changed. That’s a manifestation of a trend. By contrast, styles of blue jeans—high rise, low ride, colored denim, skinny leg, acid wash—those are fads, and those change with the season.”
In the jewelry world, trends are affected by numerous outside influences, including the media, fashion, the metal markets, technology and politics. Whether you realize it or not, all of these factors have a major impact on what happens at a local level. They affect what consumers are looking for when they shop with you.
Consider the movie Blood Diamond and the abuses in the diamond mining industry it helped expose. The movie directly impacted how the average consumer thought about purchasing a diamond. The trend toward using ethical gemstones and choosing diamond alternatives such as sapphires and rubies for engagement rings was influenced by the greater public awareness of the abuses exposed in Blood Diamond. The movie may not have directly influenced many consumers’ eventual choices when it came to wedding jewelry, but it did make most people think twice about the gemstones they purchase.
Let’s take a look at a few trends that have shaped the jewelry industry over the last 20 years.
The shift toward using alternative metals and materials such as niobium, titanium, steel and ceramic in jewelry was influenced by several things. It was driven in large part by the rising gold and platinum metal markets, which were in turn influenced by the economic crises of the early 2000s. The shift away from precious materials had been gaining popularity even before this time as up-and-coming designers looked for materials and processes that were different and distinctive from those used by generations of jewelers before them. The rise of alternative metals, as well as the shift toward new processes and techniques such as mokume gane, anticlastic raising, and precious metal clay, are all a part of this trend.
A trend can also involve a shift within the industry itself. In the late ‘80s, jewelry design was almost exclusively the domain of men. The rise of women designers coincided with the beginning of dedicated designer sections at industry tradeshows. At the beginning you could literally walk the aisles of that section and see only a handful of women. Today, many of the top designers are women. There has been a complete shift.
One final trend, which I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, is what I call the Pandora influence. When the Pandora bead first made its meteoric rise, I thought it was a fad. As time has worn on, its influence has only grown and become more powerful. Pandora seems to top the list of the best jewelry sellers over and over again, proving they are not just a passing fad, but a firmly established trend.
It’s important to understand the difference between a trend and a fad when building your line or purchasing for your store. You don’t want to jump on a fad that is about to run out, but you do want to pay attention to long-term trends in the marketplace that will drive consumer demand for years to come. These are important considerations as you start and grow your business
Some questions you might ask yourself as you consider trends and fads and how they relate to your work include:
- What outside factors will influence your decisions and sales?
- What trends can you take advantage of and which fads do you want avoid?
- What trends are you personally experiencing in your business, art, jewelry and personal life? What trends might make your business more challenging?
- What trends do you see changing the jewelry world for the better or the worse?
We’d love the hear how trends and fads influence your work. Do you pay attention to them? What are a few you have noticed in the jewelry industry in the last 10 years? Let us know in the comments section.