Trend prediction, and its importance

Have you noticed how occasionally several designers will show runway collections inspired by the same things (probably something you wouldn’t have though of yourself: pirates, Victorian Britain, bikers, etc.)? If so, you’ve probably asked yourself what was going on? Did these designers — who are competitors — conspire or steal each others designs? No. What they did do was make the same estimations about trends.

Trends in fashion and in culture emerge at different rates. As a general rule of thumb, if a trend has bubbled away under the surface for some time (and that’s often the case) and then starts to become suddenly much more popular in that underground scene, then it’s probably about to go mainstream. By the time it’s being used in adverts to sell soap, online banking, or whatever have you, it’s already passed its prime as a trend — at least as far as the designer is concerned.

Let’s look at a concrete example. A couple of decades ago tattoos were considered pretty taboo. Sailors and soldiers got them, and so did criminals, punks, and extreme fashionistas. In other words, a tattoo meant you were outside the mainstream. Today, one in three New Yorkers seems to have a tattoo on display. In other words, they’re now totally mainstream, in NY, LA, and other big cities, anyway. As tattoos were getting popular Christian Audigier launched his fashion line. Every garment was emblazoned with a tattoo-design. Audigier had latched onto a niche market that was about to explode. As tattoos got bigger so did Christian Audigier the fashion brand.

Indicators of whether a trend is emerging, declining, or going along steadily, are out there every day. Trend prediction means observing them constantly, preferably before anyone other designer has picked up on them.

Other trends can happen more quickly. A major event can spark a trend overnight. Such an event might be a dress worn at a celebrity wedding or at the Grammies.

These are ore difficult to predict, but you can still get behind the trends by thinking big.

Culture tends to react in similar ways to similar events. Around the year 1999 a lot of people were talking about high tech fabric. Almost everyone believed that this kind of fabric would be used in the year  1999 and 2000 fashion shows, since we were moving obviously into a new century, and into the future.

But, personally, I suspected the opposite would happen. And I was right. The trend that burst onto the runway was for knit, macrame (a type of textiles knotting used to make fabric), felt, and other antique, even archaic, fabrics and techniques. But why? Cultural historians will tell you that, counterintuitively, societies tend to look back rather than forward at the turn of a century. Culture tends to draw on the past at such moments, and tends to become nostalgic. So does the population.

When it comes to trends, just remember that they’re emerging at different paces, and will appear sometimes unexpectedly (but not unpredictably) at different times. One trend can take two decades to emerge. Another will take a year. Most will take less than a year. And some will explode overnight. It’s best to have a good grasp of cultural history as well as what’s going on today.

At Design Works Intl., we make sure we always understand where the trends are going, and what’s happening in your market. To find out how Design Works Intl.’s trend prediction services can help you plan your brand’s success in the market call us at t. 212-594-0777. Or contact us via our website.

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