The trouble with trends

I watched a documentary recently about the throwaway nature of the fashion industry. Cheap clothes, discarded long before they’re worn out, are costing the planet, but the market seems to be driven by unstoppable forces. To be in vogue is everything.

It’s not just clothing, no industry is immune to constantly changing fashion. Remember the short-lived love affair we all had with the avocado bathroom suite? What was desirable, modern and different soon became an embarrassment. It was a long time before you could reframe the olive-green sanitary ware as a declaration of your individuality. The problem with all these coloured bathroom suites was that their lifespan far exceeded the duration of the trend. That’s relevant for me because the glazing industry offers products with a lifespan of decades. Our customers want long-lasting, durable products but they still want to move with the times.

In glazing, the desirability of coloured frames keeps rising. We’ve witnessed a shift away from classic white towards mahogany, then rosewood, light oak and now, anthracite grey is predominant. This industrial look, accompanied by a renewed passion for rendering, is striking, but I cannot help wondering when it will reach saturation point and consumers start to look for something to set their homes apart.

I’ve been browsing articles on design and architecture. Depending on the source, the next big thing could either be ‘back to nature’ or ‘concrete fortress’. There’s a rise in the popularity of aluminium windows with slim black frames and a burnished metal aesthetic which is gaining ground. It could all change tomorrow or with the next series of Grand Designs, and fabricators like Lancs Trade must react to the changing fashions. The question is how much can we influence them?

Our business isn’t architecture, interiors or design, but we’re as capable as anyone of judging whether a particular finish for windows or doors will look right with a property’s building materials. That capability should be part of every installer’s skillset. Instead of slavishly following the predominant trend, installers need to differentiate – offering traditional period colours or realistic wood effects for heritage properties, for example.

Getting installations right is how we influence the trends. If our industry’s work looks good, it drives more business, but looking good is about more than colour. It’s about proportion, balance in the sightlines, the quality of the finish, the fabrication and the hardware. The most popular colour on the planet could still look like a dog’s breakfast if the other features aren’t up to scratch. But when you get everything right, the results should be beyond fashion with aesthetics that will stand the test of time.

That, I’ll admit, does raise questions. You might think a rapid turnover in fashion would suit us – after all, we’re in the business of selling – but our products are big-ticket, durable items, and customers – unlike radical architects or high-fashion gurus – tend to be cautious with their choices. We might offer an extensive range of colours and finishes but ultimately, our business is the delivery of long-term customer satisfaction, something which, I’m sure, will always be in demand.