How to spot a fashion trend
As Fashion Designers, we need to possess a certain set of skills – as briefly mentioned in a former post – in order to evaluate, when something is or will become a trend. Let’s look at what these skills are, and how you actively apply them.
When first starting out as a nascent fashion designer, being curious is a tool you’re actively working with in your everyday life. It’s no longer something you just are, but something you use actively. Being curious is native for human beings, but for people working in the creative fields that skill needs to be nourished, as it is the kick-starter of any trend-wise stream or lead. Therefore, not being narrow-minded and open to most things can lead to great discoveries. As a creative, your senses are never really on “holiday”, and you must always be alert, because inspiration can hit you anytime – and most likely when you least expect it.
Being observational and alert is the step that comes after being curious. When you’re curious, you discover and see new things. When you’re being observational, you pay extra attention to what it is, you actually see, and think about what it is, what it means, and how it can be used in combination with other snippets of impressions. You will notice, how some creatives, when they’re REALLY looking and thinking, are tilting their head, leaning backwards or crossing their arms over their chests. It’s not just looking at something – there’s a lot of thinking behind.
It can be a good idea to always have a pocket book with you and make notes or sketches, when inspiration hits you, or when you start noticing that there is something about for instance dots. Sometimes inspiration will lead to nowhere, or not become relevant until years later, but the notebook is god at keeping track of ideas.
Thirdly, we need to be objective, and not let our personal taste intervene with what, we experience out there in the field. This is almost impossible for us to do, because we are all subjective cabinets of memories and experiences that make up our personal taste. Nevertheless, we need to try to put this aside and keep an open mind, because it will help us get a wider perspective on things and not make us too fixed on our own personal darlings.
I happen to just LOVE velvet, and I’m thrilled to see, how it will finally (!) be a trend in aw16. I happen to know that Bette Bondo isn’t super fond of velvet, and we recently discussed velvet based on our childhood memories of growing up in the 80s, where polyester velvet in strong colours, as purple, was really hot. Regardless of what our personal view on velvet is, we can’t deny that velvet is one of the trends that aw16 will be about – together with classic mens wool fabrics as you often see in winter collections.
Fourthly, we have intuition – the sixth sense or real talent – which is an important player, and completely in contrary to what we just said about putting our subjectivity aside. How to master both staying objective and listening to our subjective intuition at the same time is a balance, and it’s something we will master with experience of understanding, how these two can collaborate rather than exclude one another.
“I listen like a slave to intuition. I train it like an athlete, thank it like an individual, and now I’ve come to believe that it’s not even my intuition—it’s the way the human body is linked to a bigger experience and context.”
—Li Edelkoort, Trend forecaster
Therefore we must practice, what Li Edelkooort describes as an ongoing interrelationship, and where we’re always sculpting the world and each other in a context acting, at the same time, as the observer and the maker of things.
With an idea of what trend forecasting skills include in terms of how we use our senses and combine it with what we know, we can now start to make the evidence that will allow us to investigate, if we’re onto a trend. It’s like a trend “toolbox” with a step-by-step guide of how to go about it.
1/ Start out by making field research and take a camera/mobile phone and perhaps notebook with you. Be alert, open, objective and curious – all of the things mentioned above – and observe with a clear mind letting inspiration and the sixth-sense work for you. Go to events, on the streets, out in to the nature or visit your grandmother.
2/Ask critical questions of Validation of whether things, you see, are new, cool, refreshing, and relevant. Listen to yourself and the people you meet. If you’re onto something, the next question is how you can put it into (a new) context fashion-wise.
3/ Take your gathered field research material, and at home or in your studio start piling it into different mini themes. These can vary depending on the scope e.g. if you’re doing trend forecasting on colour, you will most likely divide your finding into different colour piles, but if you have to make a collection, you need to make sure that you have silhouette, colour, fabrics etc. for the same collection. Here you can also choose to work hard copy or digitally, and most creative have a preferred way of sorting out their thoughts.
4/ Have some big boards (physically or for instance on Pinterest), where you can display your material and obtain an overview. Most likely, you will work with this over some days, where each morning allows you to see the project with new eyes, and you can make small amendments.
5/ Take your inspiration to the next level and do some desk research. Find that architect that designed the building, you just photographed and find out, if she is doing other interesting things? Look up the street artist, you passed down the road, and see if he’s maybe having an art expo coming up soon etc. Add this material to your research.
6/ Now take the investigation even further. Start looking into other branches, events, or influential leaders backing up your hunch about this trend. What are they doing, saying, singing, or exposing that makes it even more possible that this could actually be an emerging trend. Cross-referencing between different industries and geographical location will give a broader understanding, and also see, how different people are reacting to something.
7/ Collect samples of textiles, trimmings, colour swatches, or other tactile evidence, that supports the trend and your inspiration. Again, it depends a bit of the nature of the job, but if you’re going to make a fashion collection, you’re going to need fabrics. If it’s a trend board for a fashion magazine, perhaps this is not necessary.
Now you have a thorough pile of evidence of a trend. Your observations started this, but now you have backed it up with hands-on proof that there is something about this trend. Or; perhaps your ideas didn’t lead to anything, and had to be left for now. Then, if you were just ahead of time, you can come back to this later, and if it was just a darling of yours, it’s still quite nice being able to track your inspirations in a Visual Diary format.
Again, what you do with your trend from here depends on the nature of the job. If it’s a fashion collection, the next thing will be moving on to silhouette, colour, muse etc. and develop the actual collection. If you’re a trend forecaster, you may sell your knowledge as a Trend Forecasting Report. In any case, it’s very useful to know how to spot a fashion trend.
Now go out and practice!
Cover is from Candy Forest tumblr.
Soap is from Bridie Hall.
Shoe is from Travis Rathbone.
‘I’m very busy’ is from Teenwitches Tumblr.