Off the Cuff with Creative Advisor Simon Collins

Simon Collins, creative advisor and chairman of WGSN’s advisory board, tells brands the things they don’t want to hear, but need to hear. The former Dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons School of Design keeps a pulse on what’s next in fashion, design and retail with his innate ability to cut through the “BS marketing buzz” and see ideas for what they are really worth.
For example, despite designers like Diane von Furstenberg and Tory Burch tapping into wearable technology with accessories, and retailers like Macy’s dedicating substantial space to the gadgets, Collins remains skeptical about the direction wearable tech is going.
On the topic of Apple Watch, Collins says: “I don’t understand why people are wasting their time with a watch that does everything your phone already does.” He would, however, like to own a jacket that keeps him warm in the cold months and cool in the hot months. Or how about a jacket for his child equipped with GPS so he could track their whereabouts with his phone, Collins suggests.
Collins’ common sense approach to trends is invaluable for brands trying to make sense of the astronomical amount of solicited and unsolicited information pouring in from social media and the Internet. “You can argue that everyone has access to trends and information, but it’s the editorial and how everything comes together that remains important. That hasn’t changed,” he said.
The leading fashion editors and trend forecasters continue to have strong roles, he says. “If they decided it’s important, then it is. You need that group that can look at everything and recognize what’s important,” Collins said.
One buzz word that Collins can get behind is transparency. “Total exposure—we’re going to see more of it,” he said, noting that consumers can recognize which brands use it as marketing propaganda and which have a genuine interest in responsible production.
Collins says it takes a “strong, honest and open commitment from a company” to create full transparency, not to mention thick skin. He names H&M as one example of a large corporation taking steps in the right direction by publishing an annual sustainability report—even if it means exposing themselves to criticism.
As consumers become more invested in where and how their garments are made, Collins predicts there will be a renewed appreciation for fabrics and mills. J.Crew is shining a spotlight on England’s Abraham Moon mill, featuring the mill’s name on the label of its tweed blazers. Meanwhile, brands like Converse have marked the 110th anniversary of Cone’s White Oak Mill with commemorative products.
“We’re back to celebrating quality fabric,” he said.