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Trend Forecasting: Method Behind the Madness

What is a Trend Forecaster?

Trend forecasters are lifestyle detectives; they spend their time detecting patterns or shifts in consumer attitudes, mind-sets and lifestyle opinions. Trend forecasting requires curiosity and interest in a wide array of subjects ranging from art and design, science and technology, socio-economics, food and travel (just to name a few!).

The globally recognised career focuses on upcoming trends, predicting the colours, fabrics, textures, materials, prints, graphics, beauty, accessories, footwear, street style, and other styles that will be presented on the runway and in the stores for the upcoming seasons.

Research – Making Sense of the Truth

Trend forecasters use a sequence of techniques; gathering cultural and social insights, track social media and internet engagement and travel. “You become a translator, looking at cultural signposts and connecting things” said Helen Job, Head of East Coast Content for WGSN, in New York. An ‘evidence wall’ or ‘mapping wall’ is formed. This is anything that allows you to scribble and map ideas, thoughts and images on to an area that can be constantly replenished and re-arranged.

Early on in the forecasting process, the wall should be overstocked with inspiration. A fantastic collage of images, clippings, printouts, swatches, materials, and colour pallets. But as the work progresses, the wall becomes less cluttered and more methodical in arrangement, focusing and drawing out specific concepts and crucial messages. At this point the trend begins to take shape. With this information, the final trend and colour palettes are created!

Why do we need Trend Forecasters?

Trend forecasting is vital for companies that want to create a distinctive/new/edgy product inline or ahead of current trends. A watchful eye on developments in global fashion culture, catwalk trends, street style and the market in general, is a must for companies that want to be ahead of their competitors.

However, it’s not just about monitoring the present or analysing the past; the trick with fashion is to try and predict the future! Trend forecasting agencies include; Trend Bible, Fashion Snoops, WGSN, PromoStyl, Carlin Group,Trend Union, Mode Information and Trend Stop.

How do we use Trend Information?

Retailers, designers and manufacturers use trend information to help them with important product and strategy decisions. There are several ways in which a company can acquire this vital information such as; in house trend team (researching), visiting trade fairs (Premier Vision, Bread & Butter) and purchase trend information from an agency.

A trend will be interpreted differently according to brand, market level and target consumer. For example, elements of the high fashion catwalks such as a puff sleeve or tiered hem will be filtered down and adopted by main stream fashion icons such as COS, Warehouse and Mango which will then be implemented in designs by lower end fast fashion giants such as Primark.

The Life-Cycle of Trends

A ‘FAD’:

A fad is short-lived and can be difficult to predict. It is something that quickly gains in popularity and may fade just as quickly. Clothing, foods, exercises, hairstyles, language are all areas that are subject to fads. They can be an individual item, a look or style that becomes intensely popular overnight but then dies out as suddenly as it came in. They are fleeting and often last a season but this does not mean we ignore them, indeed, we do need to be aware of them. Fads are often heavily driven by social media. In fact, social media at one time was considered a fad, which has now evolved into a macro trend if not a megatrend.

Micro and Macro Trends:

Micro & Macro Trends are a bit slower paced but represent something that is occurring on a much wider scale than a ‘fad’. A micro trend typically lasts 3 to 5 years. A fashion trend may start slowly with low acceptance in the early stages and then build up momentum over time. It may peak and then taper out gradually. A macro trend lasts longer, more in the 5 to 10-year range.

For example, social media is a macro trend it has taken a gradual pace to develop but now has the staying power that indicates it is a permanent alteration of the landscape. As Stan Mack of Demand Media says, “A macro trend is a large-scale, sustained shift…”.


Megatrends are the long-lasting, years in developing, things that shift the world. It could be social, cultural, economic, political or technological. It is slow to form but will undoubtedly influence the globe over a much longer period of time. According to the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies “Megatrends are the probable future – Megatrends are certainties.”

The identified megatrends of today are; an increasing population growth, human longevity (health changes), globalization, increasing technological change (artificial intelligence and digitalisation), urbanization, increased network speed and the speed of everyday life.

The Methods Behind the Madness Really Does Effect Us All!

In one of the most iconic fashion movies of all time, “The Devil Wears Prada”, the silver-haired editor Miranda Priestly highlights the importance of trend forecasting by lecturing her naive, fashion-unaware assistant, Andy, on the likely origin of her “lumpy blue sweater.”

That sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapez, it’s actually cerulean. You’re also blindly unaware of the fact that in 2002 Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean blue gowns. Then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent who showed cerulean military jackets. Then quickly cerulean showed in the collection of eight different designers that filtered down through the department stores and trickled down into the tragic casual corner where you no doubt fished it out of a clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs. It’s comical how you think you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when in fact you’re wearing a sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of ‘stuff’.”

Very harsh, yet all very true. Our everyday fashion decisions are carefully choreographed by each and every trend forecaster across the globe!


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