What is a Fashion Trendsetter? A Complete Guide

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What is a Trendsetter?

The term “trendsetter” emerged in the 20th century, and it describes a person with a significant influence on public tastes known for introducing new trends or reviving existing ones.

The word trendsetter results from the combination of “trend” – the direction in which something is developing, and “setter,” representing a person who establishes a course or standard.

Fashion Trendsetter Origin

While in the past, royalty and aristocratic classes dictated what was trending in fashion, the advent of the internet and media placed the role in the hands of fashion designers and influencers.

Trendsetters’ fashion choices¬†set the tone for mass media and the general public, either immediately or gradually, affecting a specific demographic or crossing cultural boundaries.

What Are the Main Characteristics of a Trendsetter?

What Are the Main Characteristics of a Trendsetter

  1. Originality – Fashion trendsetters have a profound understanding of classic fashion styles and their subcultural roots and use them as the foundation of an original way of dressing that combines personal tastes with the latest fashion trends.
  2. Cultural Awareness – Fashion trendsetters are well-versed in cultural influences and are critical to creating unique dressing styles that influence a global audience.
  3. Risk-Taking – Whether introducing avant-garde parts or mixing fashion styles, trendsetters are not afraid to challenge the status quo by being at the forefront of experimenting.

How Do Trendsetters Impact Fashion Styles and Subcultures?

Madonna mixed high-fashion and '80s American street style with a touch of post-World War II glamour.
Madonna mixed high fashion and ’80s American street style with a touch of post-World War II glamour.
  1. Cultural Interlocutors – Trendsetters act as “fashion style translators” from subcultures to broader audiences.
  2. Adaptation and Reinterpretation – While fashion styles originate within subcultures, trendsetters adapt and blend them with current trends. For instance, Madonna blended post-World War II glamour with the 1980s American street dressing style.
  3. Elevating Subcultural Capital – Trendsetters can elevate the status of subcultural styles by incorporating them into high-profile or high-status contexts. Consider how Anna Wintour, through Vogue, has the power to elevate specific subcultural trends into high fashion. Similarly, with the advent of social media, trendsetters globalize local subcultural styles, making them visible and accessible to new communities worldwide.

What is the Difference Between a Trendsetter and a Fashion Influencer?

While “trendsetter” and “fashion influencer” signify influence and leadership in fashion, the terms are not synonymous.

A trendsetter introduces new styles (or revives existing ones) by catalyzing notable shifts in public fashion preferences.

Trendsetters create new fashion styles, while influencers popularize existing ones

The trendsetter’s influence transcends momentary trends, setting the stage for enduring fashion styles.

On the other hand, fashion influencers influence their social media followers, with whom they share fashion tips, critiques, and style inspiration on how to dress clothes, style garments, or put together outfits.

Unlike trendsetters, influencers do not introduce new fashion styles but popularize or inspire new ways of wearing existing ones.

Trendsetters’ source of influence emanates from their creativity and unique fashion sense, while the power to influence requires a strong media presence and credibility within the fashion community.

What Are the Examples of Fashion Trendsetters?

Examples of Fashion Trendsetters - David Bowie and Vivienne Westwood
Examples of Fashion Trendsetters – David Bowie and Vivienne Westwood
  1. David Bowie – known for showcasing the androgynous way of dressing, Bowie’s fashion choices made as many headlines as his music.
  2. Coco Chanel – revolutionized women’s fashion in the 20th century and several fashion styles by introducing garments like the “Little Black Dress” and Chanel Suit.
  3. Vivienne Westwood – for her role in bringing punk aesthetics to high fashion.
  4. Dapper Dan – took the aesthetics of hip-hop subculture and elevated them into luxury fashion.

Final Takeaways

While trendsetters and fashion influencers wield considerable sway in the fashion industry, their roles, impact, and methods of operation differ in crucial ways.

Trendsetters are originators of styles, while fashion influencers serve as amplifiers and curators of existing trends.

Fashion trendsetters create new trends, redefine fashion styles, and imbue ways of dressing with new meanings.

And, as fashion continues to be a significant part of cultural expression, the role of the trendsetter remains as impactful as ever, shaping not just wardrobes but societal norms and values.

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with the latest in fashion, beauty and style!

After years of managing hundreds of fashion brands from London's office of a global retailer, Mandy has ventured into freelancing. Connected with several fashion retailers and media platforms in the US, Australia, and the UK, Mandy uses her expertise to consult for emerging fashion brands create top-notch content as an editorial strategist for several online publications.

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