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Influence in fashion

There are many reasons why we buy one item of clothing and not another. We asked 11 dedicated ringleaders of fashion who influences them and how

March/April 2014

JOHNNIE BODEN 
Executive chairman, Boden
Who is influenced by you? We distribute 60m catalogues a year and have 1.5m active customers, over half of whom are outside Britain. They have an average household income of £70,000+, consider themselves well-educated, and tend to have two children. At the risk of showing off, I also think we influence our competitors.
How? We made it permissible to take customers to a better place—a happier place, not just a cooler place. Now there are certain department stores which will look on our preview site to see what we’re selling and then do cheaper versions. Whatever everyone says, that is the fashion game: we are all influenced by each other. 
Who has influenced you? The honest answer is the boring one: my customers. Because ultimately the best guide for your future design ideas is what sells well. 

INÈS DE LA FRESSANGE
Muse and designer
Who is influenced by you? First, the fashion journalists. Then my collection for Uniqlo will reach people in China, in Atlanta. It’s just in Switzerland that there’s no Uniqlo shops…or is it Greenland?
How? I think about solutions. I tell friends: “Why don’t you put this shirt with these pants?” They would never have thought of it. Only people in the industry think the runway has influence; the influence is what’s in the shops, or what Cara Delevingne wears on the street. 
Who has influenced you? Marlene Dietrich, dressed up like a man, but looking very feminine. 

LISA ARMSTRONG
Fashion editor, the Telegraph group
Who is influenced by you? The combined circulation of the papers I write for is about 1.85m; the readership is maybe twice that. 
How? I don’t set out to influence; that’s the road to pomposity. But in the fashion industry, perhaps in all industries, people want something to believe in. They want something they can trust, and also something they can be frightened of—that’s why everyone bows and scrapes to Anna Wintour. The very essence of fashion is that you follow something, or someone. There has to be influence for something to be fashionable—it can’t happen in isolation.
Who has influenced you? Lucinda Chambers. I worked with her at British Vogue; she’s got an amazing eye. It’s easy to get carried away at a catwalk show by the presentation, the atmosphere, but Lucinda will say “the proportions weren’t right, it was a bit heavy”…and she’s always right.

ALEX MACDONALD
Trend forecaster, WGSN New York
Who is influenced by you? Fashion consumers. WGSN’s clients—companies from across the fashion and design industry—take our research and translate it for their customers. 
How? We look at macro-trends, based on how consumers are feeling, as well as what is happening in the world of art, architecture, the economy. Other, bubble-up trends are much more immediate, and will be influenced by what is happening on the street, in underground cultures, in music and online. We might spot a colour, a fabric, a key item or a silhouette. When we see it happening in several places, we can say that it is an early trend.
Who has influenced you? Right now I’m really into tomboy styling, so Chloë Sevigny, closely followed by Phoebe Philo and Jane Birkin.

LISA SMOSARSKI
Editor, Stylist magazine
Who is influenced by you? Professional working women aged 20-40; we distribute 435,000+ copies weekly in cities across Britain. 
How? The two-page “StyleList” we run at the front of the magazine shifts a lot of product: a big department store told us if we ever feature anything in the magazine they sell out. But our readers, and the industry at large, are first influenced by sociological factors. A few years back the “Twilight” books took off, then “True Blood” was big, and only after that did you see a Gothic look on the catwalks and going into the shops. The mood has to be there first—it isn’t necessarily defined by the fashion industry.
Who has influenced you? Emmanuelle Alt, the editor of French Vogue. I stare at her across the catwalk at shows, just making notes. But I think the strongest influence in any woman’s life is her peers. I don’t know any woman who isn’t influenced by the woman she’s sitting next to.

LUCINDA CHAMBERS
Fashion director, British Vogue
Who is influenced by you? Well, Vogue reaches a large forum of people who want the big picture, an idea of what the mood is. 
How? I prefer to inspire rather than influence; influence sounds like bending someone to your will, and Vogue is not a catalogue—I don’t expect people to buy slavishly off the page. But I understand women who are unsure of themselves, and I hope I can help them digest and simplify what’s going on in fashion. 
Who has influenced you? My mother, and Georgina von Etzdorf, a textile and fashion designer who I’ve known for 30 years. Her fantastic use of colour is chaotic, but full of life and freedom. She taught me to take pleasure in things.

GARANCE DORÉ
Fashion illustrator and street-style blogger
Who is influenced by you? People who read my blog; it’s an international audience. I don’t really count figures—the way I measure the influence of the blog is the results. If I talk about a product there’s a good chance it will sell out.
How? By taking pictures of people walking down the street. I present style in a different way to fashion magazines: it’s more like a personal diary, like taking a note of what inspired me. 
Who has influenced you? The people I shoot for the blog—I think “I want to be more like that. I want to dress more like that.” I also like the style of Jenna Lyons: something personal, true to itself.

GEORGINA VON ETZDORF  (above, right)
Co-founder of her own textiles and fashion label
Who is influenced by you? Our customers have always been people from the creative world—actors, writers, people in the arts—and those who strike out on their own, who have an individual look. 
How? It’s hard to talk about your own influence but I have no doubt that we led the rise of velvet in the 1980s. We started printing on velvet in 1986—the fabric reached its zenith in the early 1990s before it fell off quite steeply. 
Who has influenced you? Gabriela Ligenza, a Polish hat designer. She really understands form and structure, and has a wonderful eye for materials, along with great personal panache and glamour. 

JENNA LYONS  (above, left)
President, J.Crew
Who is influenced by you? In America we have 240 stores; we only have three stores outside the States [all in London], other than Canada. But online has become a very large part of our business.
How? We were late to the game with social media, but the results on Pinterest have been unbelievable: there’s been tremendous excitement and a real desire to put up our images. We’ve had events where people have turned up in a head-to-toe look from our catalogue, or the “Looks We Love” section from online.
Who has influenced you? The people around me. Someone on the J.Crew design team will create an oversized men’s cashmere sweater and all of a sudden that will look more interesting to me than the smaller one I was wearing yesterday. 

STEPHEN AYRES
Head of fashion buying and merchandising, Liberty of London
Who is influenced by you? Our customers. People come here for our edit of what’s available from a designer.
How? We have access to amazing statistics: 70% of our customers shop on our loyalty programme, which means we have a great understanding of what they want—silhouette, colour, price point—and can tailor our buy around that, while also forecasting what we believe would be most suited to them. And we’re lucky enough to be able to work closely with some brands, and feed back to them.
Who has influenced you? It’s a kind of role reversal: we try to influence the customer in how to wear key looks and trends, but they inform what we buy.

LILY COLE
Model, current face of G-Star RAW
Who is influenced by you? How could I ever know? In my ideal scenario people would choose things without external influence.
How? We’re inspired by what we see and if what you’re seeing are other people and how they dress, and images from magazines and billboards, inevitably that has an effect. It’s like a mirror: we’re all mirroring each other.
Who has influenced you? I’d be an idiot to say I hadn’t been influenced by other people, right? I’m a product of my family, my culture, my city — and a product of the industries I’ve worked in.

 

Interviews Georgia Grimond, Isabel Lloyd, Kassia St Clair, Rebecca Willis

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