Have you ever thought it was peculiar how a certain color, skirt length, type of denim and even a particular gemstone is deemed "HOT" for the season? Who decides these trends and what gives "them" such power and influence over society?
Very few trends explode organically. Most trends are influenced by outside sources such as marketing companies, style editors and designers. But where do a large portion of these industry leaders get their sources of inspiration? Believe it or not, many secretly turn to trend forecasting services.
Above: Fashion Influencer, Alexa Chung, an example of someone a trend forecaster might follow for future trend inspiration.
Trend forecasting companies staff professionals who research and study trends. They attend the major fashion shows around the world, observe global street styles, stalk teens on instagram and cross reference other markets such as furniture trends, hair trends, cars, technology, hollywood stars, movies, youth culture and music festivals. These forecasters compile their observations and analysis into trend reports that are broken down by season, color, industry and so on. Reports, which are typically released two years prior to the respective season, are purchased by clients from a variety of industries who use the reports as inspiration for their own product line and marketing campaigns.
To give you a better idea of how serious a business trend forecasting is; Pantone, the largest and most reliable color forecasting company in the world, has a top secret panel of color influencers. The group meets secretly in Europe twice a year, by invitation only, to discuss color trends. Once the colors are set for each industry; ranging from fashion, interiors, toys, cars, cosmetics and so on - an index book of exactly 1,925 colors is produced and sold around the world to designers, manufacturers, artists and retailers as a reference.
Trend forecasting services are not cheap. Famous designer brands spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on trend forecasting from companies like WGSN - the largest trend forecasting company in the industry. The exorbitant price makes it impossible for smaller designer brands and businesses to utilize these services. Recently, boutique size forecasting companies are soliciting this untapped market - offering smaller brands a la carte reports at more reasonable price points. The a la carte menu allows clients to choose reports exclusively on color, prints & graphics, materials & textures, silhouettes, street styles, runway shows and so on. The more you spend, the more information you will receive. A la carte reports can add up quickly if you are on a tight budget - which is the case with most small brands.
Above: Coachella Music Festival is a resource for trend forecast companies.
Many independent labels and solo designers choose to handle inspiration and trend forecasting on their own because of a tight budget or brand authenticity. Smaller brands in favor of using trend reports feel that the reports are a matter of good business practice. They view the reports as a safety net and what is truly relevant is what the artist or designer creates from these trend references. Being a designer and/or manufacturer is big business, "The fashion industry alone has become so trend and profit driven that true creativity is being squeezed out," says Fern Seto of High Snobiety. If you are not on trend you risk losing a lot of money and potential failure. As Project Runway's Heidi Klum says, "Either you're in or you're out!"
So what happens when a designer/manufacturer decides not to follow these trend forecasts and does his or her own thing? John Crocco, former creative director of menswear at J.Crew has his opinion: "It's a self fulfilling prophecy. If designers choose to use such forecasts they will be part of what ultimately becomes a trend. But if designers disregard the trend they risk irrelevance - just about the worst thing imaginable for any label." (NPR)
What do you think about designers using trend forecasting reports? Do you think it's okay to use them or do you think it's wrong?