The world of fashion and creative industries is constantly evolving. Forecasting is crucial in this world but why is trend forecasting important?
Fashion is a mirror of society, one of the cogs of business, culture and human identity, as demonstrated in Stewart Brand’s The Clock of the Long Now (1999), by Ian Babineau. Trend forecasting why it is important?
Because in the fashion industry and creative fields trend forecasting is widely used. Fashion futurists can work in areas as diverse as fashion, beauty, technology, marketing and innovation.
Today, brands are evolving in a complex world with major shifts in technology, materials, design concepts and systems, supply chains, ethics and sustainability, health, consumer behavior, economics and geopolitics. More than ever before, the future is on everyone’s mind and predictions are becoming commonplace in the media
What are the areas of trend forecasting?
As “future tellers“, forecasters and futurists are mythmakers and part of the culture production machine.
But the truth is that the trend forecasting business is actually very niche. Yet has a large reach, as forecasts are used to influence key decisions and decision makers working in the following fields. (This is not exhaustive)
- Research and development
- Design and product direction
- Short and long-term strategy
- Marketing and advertising campaigns
- Brand positioning
- End-user (also known as consumer) understanding
Why you need to stay on top of future trend forecasting methods?
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned expert, you must stay abreast of future trend forecasting methods.
Trend forecasting is about detecting the signs of change and understanding how they point to the future. These signs and the methods for detecting them are an essential part of the work of designers, forecasters, marketers and creatives. The ability to spot trends is a necessary skill for creative practice, product survival, brands or retailers. Therefore, a thirst for knowledge and curiosity is a prerequisite, as the function of future forecasting is to help predict, innovate and therefore question.
While forecasters have an important sphere of influence. The work of trend forecasters and futurists is a skill that very few people understand. For those of us who work in this field, it can be complicated to explain what we do at the dinner table.
Because it requires a mix of approaches, a wide range of interests, and our services are used in many ways. But as future forecaster Els Dragt says in her book “How to Study Trends,”. “We are all futurists to some extent”. We have always tended to want to prepare for the future. From the ancient Greeks’ reliance on oracles to our current obsession with the ability of algorithms to map the future.
Then intuition kicks in. This adds a layer of complexity to the work of futurists or forecasters in the creative industries and fashion. For although future trend forecasting has been called a “soft science,” it requires a healthy dose of sensitivity. We blend creative thinking and intuition with data and hard facts to analyze where the market is. Get the latest innovations from factual research, and from there, suggest future scenarios that may not have happened yet.
This requires a unique ability to predict the future and imagine possibilities. Which is probably why it is not a field that can be summed up in a single sentence. The work of futurists straddles the line between pure creativity and pragmatic advice, an attempt to do so. But the reality is very different because it is much more than that.
What is the emerging trend?
A trend forecaster and futurist must sense the changing tide. That moment when what is on the cultural fringe. It’s also known as an emerging trend, is about to enter the mainstream.
Working like a futurist in terms of innovation strategy requires the ability to map the future and strategize between possible, probable and distant futures, using a mix of techniques from scenario planning > science fiction > speculative design.
No matter how obscure the field may seem. The various skills of “futurology” (from data research to intuition to strategic guidance and more) have become critical in a world of rapidly changing tides and shifting winds.
Trend forecasting agencies and consultants provide their clients with critical strategic intelligence. To help them understand the purpose of their brands, the needs of their users, and the future of product development and marketing. This can also be done by existing internal teams within an organization.
Every product implementation and brand activation must be done in advance with the future context of its market in mind. And, especially since the Great Recession of 2008, brands have become increasingly risk-adverse and “obsessed” with future projections that give them certainty. In addition, in an age of information overload. They require help filtering through the vast amount of information available to them to determine what is right for them.
Why is the discipline of forecasting essential in fashion?
The discipline of trend forecasting is an essential element of the fashion industry.
Many fashion companies, from raw material producers to finished goods manufacturers, design brands, retailers and marketing. They believe they need trend forecasting to stay competitive.
In short, futurists and future trend forecasters help organizations align with the future or possible future. And through their “forecasts” map backwards the key steps they need to take to make this future happen, or to align with it if it is already fast approaching.
This “future” role is based on constant research. Not only to inspire, but also to enable companies to make the right business decisions when it comes to technology, economics, changing lifestyles, sustainability, materials and ethics. And how they shape an upcoming wave of systemic and philosophical change. Which is essentially a new playbook for the fashion and design industry.
But unlike a decade ago, when forecasting was still about predicting “certain” outcomes. Today’s trend forecasters and futurists are adopting more of a “possible future” mentality; combining the fact that the future is what we make of it with the fact that it is unpredictable. Committing to 100% accuracy is tricky.
Trends are constantly rearranging themselves to form new trends. We can methodically study and look for signs of the future. But the truth is that the future is a moving target, a constantly changing environment. By predicting or dictating new trends, we are actually colonizing our future and creating it. Thus, we can move from a “predict the future mindset” to a “create the future mindset”. This last point is critical when creatives are in the driver’s seat of designing the changes they want to see in the world.
Why be more open to unforeseen and adjacent possibilities?
At a time when our systems are ripe for change, we must be more open to unforeseen and adjacent possibilities.
Whether we are generating or evaluating innovation, the truth is that the sooner we realize that the future is fluid and unpredictable. The sooner we are open to new ideas and free ourselves in terms of imagining future possibilities.
In terms of helping to “predict” the future. More specifically in the fashion world, the job of fashion trend forecasters has traditionally been to point out. It indicate what products brands and retailers should design and sell, based on what is already in vogue or what innovators and early adopters are doing. Depending on how much the brand or retailer likes to chase the “new”. The fashion industry has a high expectation of being and staying “on trend.
This role of predicting trends is as problematic as we know it to be when it comes to the climate crisis and the responsibility fashion brands. It have in the demise of our planet’s ecosystem and the fair treatment of workers. Our obsession with the next trend has even given the word trend itself a negative connotation.
As the matrix of how we design, how we use products, and where we exist is rewritten. So, are some of the fundamental values and needs of trend prediction. We must use time-tested approaches and methods. As well as ask ethical questions about the relevance of trends today and in future years, and explore new approaches.
Because when it comes to our concepts of time, innovation, growth and adaptability, these signals are pointing to a shift. This includes a shift in demand in terms of sustainable development and purpose-driven business.
We’ve been at a turning point for quite some time now.
A realignment of style and creative industries is taking place due to climate change, technology and the formation of a new socio-cultural contract. The events of 2020 have only accelerated this process. And called into question what was already standing on an unequal or simply broken system.
As we look to the future and face the challenges, as we experiment and prototype, navigating the discomfort of uncertainty. This may be the time to truly rewrite the framework of design, business and ultimately society. For this reason, future predictors, mythmakers/chasers/spreaders, as we also like to call them, have a key role to play.
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