Trend forecasting is a complex process that allows brands to stay ahead of the game. It is important to develop an understanding of social and cultural phenomena and their long-term impact on trends. This wide perspective will help you to look for potential gaps in the market and create the right product. We have spoken to industry professionals to learn how to decode today’s fashion on your own.
HOW TO INTERPRET TRENDS
To follow trends means to imitate. Fashion is competitive, so an innovative, unique proposition is key to succeed. One needs to remember the trends are all interlinked: “No trend can live for very long without being supported or linked to other trends. Megatrends, micro trends, style and colour trends, as well as short term fads – they all interact with each other and reflect the spirit of time and societal shifts,” says Louise Byg Kongsholm, the CEO of Danish trend institute Pej Gruppen.
Rachel Higginbottom, the founder of Tactile Trends specialising in textiles, thinks it is important to ‘retain a good balance between facts and intuition, while always catering to the needs of your final customer’. The differentiation between short-term and long-term trends also needs to be made: “Short-term trends can be recurrent and are generally sparked off by runway collections, magazine editorials and celebrities. They usually peak quickly and have a reasonably short life. Long-term trends are forecasts made approximately two years in advance and can take source from culture, technological innovation or scientific discoveries. They are eventually filtered through lifestyle and art to become products.”
To spot the trend, one needs to devote some time to research and observation. Byg Kongsholm advises to look beyond one’s niche or industry. “Art, music, food – all different aspects of lifestyle say a lot about what consumers are interested in,” she says. Louise Stuart Trainor, a trend consultant and a lecturer at London College of Fashion, supports this idea: “As a designer, you can find ideas in politics, art, history and science. Look beyond your comfort zone to publications and news content that you wouldn’t normally reach out to.”
Cecile Poignant, the editor of Trend Tablet – the platform founded by Li Edelkoort – and the lecturer at Parsons Paris, thinks that trends can be found in places where people are expressing themselves: “Trends are everywhere – not only in glossy magazines or on the websites. You can find them in the supermarket or during a dinner with friends. Looking at things in real life is key.”
Social medias are also important. Higginbottom points there are plenty of useful hashtags to explore – #crafttherainbow, #gameoftones, #dstextures and #dscolours. If you wish to take a bit of time to read, sites such as Dezeen, Trend Tablet or Trendland (and many more – see our recommended list at the end of the article) will provide you with great journalistic content. “Despite the wonderful web, my main source of inspiration still comes from print publications. Some of my current favorites are Talking Textiles, Tiny Atlas, Kinfolk or Cereal.
I believe in supporting good research and journalism and you can tell when information has been thoughtfully curated. The cost of these magazines is minimal for what you get,” adds Higginbottom.
Is street style important in the trend forecasting process? “Street style expresses the zeitgeist in a way that is more natural than in magazine editorials or the runway shows. It gives evidence of which trends are growing or shrinking and can inspire new styling ideas,” says Trainor. Byg Kongsholm thinks it can inspire the final details or styling, so that the collection resonates with the consumer. Still, trend forecasting is all about being one step ahead.
TRANSLATING TREND INTO A PRODUCT
By the end of the day, the trends should become strong, desirable products. Having outlined the basics of trend forecasting, how can designers translate the concept into something physical? “It’s important to start with macro trends – from the wider environment – rather than looking to fashion first. Ideas, movements, lifestyle, culture, the way we live now and how we will live in the future can give rise to new product design,” says Trainor.
Poignant gives emphasis to ask a lot of questions during the process of product development: “You have to start with why – why and to whom is that trend important? What does it really mean? Be empathetic with the people you are addressing – why would someone be happy to wear your design?”
For Higginbottom, designers should devote time to sourcing innovative and interesting materials, as they are one of the most compelling means of communicating about the trend. One should also consider the timing. Byg Kongsholm draws attention to the decision ‘whether one wants to set or follow the trends’.
TRENDS VS. BRAND IDENTITY
The trends are significant in the process of product development, but one cannot forget about defining brand identity first. “The most important thing is to have a clear DNA, a design direction and to make sure that your product reflects what the brand stands for,” says Byg Kongsholm.
Just like consumers, brands also can fall prey to current trends and as a result, compromise on their vision. According to Trainor, designers should use trends to see what has already been done and benchmark themselves against the competitors. ‘Is the collection new enough to spark interest?’ – this is a question young creators should ask themselves at the very beginning. Researching ideas on a daily basis and following the intuition are skills each designer should include on the CV. Trends are important but they should be critically examined so that innovation remains the priority.
ONLINE TREND SOURCES
Thanks to our speakers, we developed a list of inspiring trend sources online.