I recently stumbled upon an article that analyzed the existence and use of fashion discussion forums and came to a shocking revelation—I had never heard of such a thing. According to the article, these forums act as a combination between an internet chat-room and a blog. Users of the site must register and post under handles that are similar to Twitter in their anonymity, and have free reign to post as much or as little as they see fit, start their own conversation thread, and be as brutally honest as they like. For a fashion fanatic, this would seem to be a digital heaven—the freedom to let their voice be heard, their opinions known, and their knowledge shared on a global level—yet such sites aren’t experiencing much use.
The article’s author seems quite puzzled as to why fashion forums aren’t being taken seriously. He speaks of the disconnect between registered users in comparison to active posters and wonders why people aren’t contributing to conversations; either users have a strong voice and post frequently or they go to the websites to simply educate themselves. Fashion forums could be a powerful driving force within the industry—not only can you find the typical threads regarding trends, must-buy items, and daily depictions of ensembles, but new designers to watch out for, global trends, and the state of the market. These are not your average fashion blog.
In addition to the public’s lack of use of these sites, the article also speaks to retailers and bands who refuse to take social media seriously. Of course I can see why brand strategists would be skeptical of some of the information mined from fashion forums, since they are available to everyone, and thus, on a statistical level, not all of the posts will be credible or even worthwhile, but these sites could also prove invaluable for market research. Retailers in particular could benefit from close inspection of fashion forums—delving into discussions about what people are wearing, what kind of purchases they’re making, and what consumers are coveting for the next season could help predict which items should be stocked on store shelves and which will sell-out the quickest. Designers could also benefit from fashion forums—after all, aren’t they looking for honest feedback about their collections? Whether or not people are wearing their designs? If consumers consider their particular handbag or shoe to be the next hot item? Fashion forums are where this information can be found—and best of all, it’s free!