Despite one of team S&TS working in the industry, trend forecasting is one of those disciplines that I’ve never fully grasped. So when Helen’s company, mode…information Ltd held an open day recently I went along to try and find out what that mysterious concept really means for the fashion industry.
‘Trend Forecasting is the art of predicting and analysing trends,’ Helen told me. ‘Not only in fashion, but for lots of other areas like politics, consumer behaviour and economics.’ In terms of fashion specifically, trend forecasters examine garment and colour trends, producing reports on clothing trends that are happening across the globe and making predictions up to two years in advance as to what direction retailers will be going in. Remember that scene in The Devil Wears Prada when editor Miranda Priestly explains how the cerulean blue sweater Andrea’s wearing was essentially dictated by fashions shown of the catwalks years ago before the colour eventually showed up on the high street? Well, trend forecasting facilitates that kind of movement.
Who are the main trend forecasters/analysts?
They’re usually based in the major fashion capitals. Carlin International in Paris is the oldest trend forecasting firm, while Fashion Snoops is the big name in New York and A+A is Milan-based. The major players in London are Trend Bible and Mix Trends and Dcipher.
Where do they research trends?
They draw inspiration from all areas of society – subcultures, street style, music, film, art, politics and more – then produce retail reports detailing emerging trends on the shop floor and at fashion industry trade shows. But it’s not just a case of taking a bunch of pictures and sticking them in a book, says Helen: ‘It takes years of experience and a massive amount of intuition. It’s not an exact science, which is why some of the most experienced trend forecasters, who have been in the game for years, can charge exceptional amounts of money for their expertise.’
How do they effect future trends?
This is where companies like Mode Information come in. They sell trend books (the huge publications that the forecasters produce), graphics books and industry magazines to a huge range of customers. Creative teams, designers and buyers from well-known high street retailers use these reports for inspiration and guidance for their design teams. The spring/summer 2014 trend reports will be arriving soon, ready for designers to start work on deciding what you’ll be wearing in two years time. It’s a bit mind-boggling isn’t it?
How does colour trend forecasting work?
That’s a whole other kettle of fish, dominated by king of colour, Pantone. You know those little Pantone colour swatches that have been turned into mugs and notepads and lots of other novelty things? Their primary use is by designers who want to decide what colours to use in their designs. Helen tells me: ‘The human eye can differentiate between 16 million different colours, but Pantone have created 2100 colours in their Fashion and Home assortment, which is the main range the fashion industry uses – and they’re creating more all the time.’ Design houses will usually have a big Pantone book in the studio which they use as a reference guide. By big, I mean they can cost more than £3500 a pop and contain files of thousands of different swatches. Pantone also produces a colour forecasting trend book each season. It’s very popular because it displays all the predicted colour trends in categories from apparel and makeup to homeware.
If 2100 colours aren’t enough, they can use Pantone’s bespoke service to create a brand new unique colour. That’s what Jay-Z did in 2007 to create Jay-Z blue for a car he endorsed. You can bet Christian Louboutin wished he’d done the same for his famous red soled shoes. Because he used an existing Pantone red, his copyright infringement claims against YSL fell apart in court.
So there you have it, a beginners guide to trend forecasting. There’s a whole lot more you can learn though. I find Pantone’s work particularly fascinating – check out this video which shows how they created a swatch of the colours of the Queen’s outfits over 60 years.