I have been compiling fashion trend forecasts, specifically for the children’s market, for over ten years. During this time, there have been vast developments in technology and the way that we consume and access information online. This has resulted in a huge shift in the way brands and retailers’ access and digest trend information. As a result, the pace in which trend information is delivered and the way it is displayed, is in constantly need of updating.
I’ve been asked an array of questions relating to trend forecasting over the past couple of years, from clients and customers, which has prompted me to write this article. More importantly, it’s made me re-evaluate how I, as a forecaster, react to these questions and answer them visually in our trend publications in a way that’s obvious and easy for our clients to digest and translate into fashion collections.
WHO IS THE PUBLICATION AIMED AT?
At [K.I.D.S] Ltd, we know our market to be predominantly smaller boutique brands; independent designers and retailers that just want a clear and concise trend forecast. Our clients enjoy our forecasts for the break down in age categories, easy visual shape, print and pattern influences, as well as clear and cohesive colour palettes that can easily translate into a capsule collection and as a result, merchandise well as a story in-store.
This is exactly what we set out to achieve when we first established and it’s what we want to carry on delivering. We want our publications to be specific, to the point, and predominantly easy to use. We were inspired to create [K.I.D.S] Ltd forecasts to provide an alternative to the major trend forecasters, who offer so much information, that’s it becomes hard for brands to actually feel confident when trying to define their seasonal direction.
While these mega forecasters provide the kind of information which is great for mega retailers and key figures in fast fashion. It leads to confusion for smaller brands, who often represent something entirely opposite to fast fashion. We’ve found that our clients more often identify themselves as more conscious retailers with strategies focusing on friendly fashion. Instead of mainstream production methods, a vast amount of our client list uses mainly organic materials and production methods and strive to produce products that are made local to them, that are durable and last. We take all this into consideration and strive to reflect the ethics of our client base within the direction of trends.
As well as our smaller brands and independent designers, we also sell to lots of big international brands and retailers who look for inspiration for smaller collections and seek something different and more unique from other forecasters.
HOW ARE FASHION SEASONS TRULY DEFINED?
There appears to be a lot of confusion surrounding the traditional fashion season definitions. I’ve had lots of clients and students asking me questions such as ‘which season should I actually be following for a Spring Summer 2019 drop’
Everyone is familiar with the classification of Spring Summer and Autumn Winter seasons that define the traditional catwalk shows and fashion collection drops in store’s. However, as the demand for fast and more frequent fashion has increased, this has evolved to include other terms such as cruise, resort, high summer, pre-drop, transitional, festival and the list goes on. While the type of clothing we wear is without a doubt still largely defined by season. I’m asking whether delegating trends to a season, or more specifically a particular calendar year, is still relevant?
It is clear that brands, retailers, designers and buyers alike want information NOW and more importantly NEW information. So, when a trend forecast for Spring Summer 2019 becomes available to consumers to react to as early as December 2017 (for example) The likelihood for your average retailer, working on a typical nine-month lead time, is that the forecast will influence their designs for Spring Summer 2018.
Confused? This then creates a problem for lots of smaller boutique (or slower paced brands) who can’t react as quickly to information, due to having longer lead times than their fast fashion competitors. The result is, when they drop their SS19 influenced designs actually in Spring 2019, they find everyone else covered this the year before! Frustrating? Yes, not only is this frustrating, but it can actually have a huge financial impact and affect the reputation of a brand at the same time. No one wants to be late to react to a trend.
So, what is the answer?
We want or clients to take our trend stories and use them to inspire their own creativity appropriate to the direction of the brand. While we still do all the same research as the mega forecasters, we try to be really specific and define 5 key trends every six months.
As a result, our clients can mix and match trends and adapt colour palettes to reflect their own brand direction and ethos. They can also look as past, present and future trends to develop stories that are right for them at any time.
Going forward, we are going to be less specific with our season definitions – instead we will refer to volumes rather than years. As we have an international client base, both in the Sothern and Norther hemispheres, this should help stop season confusion. Instead, we just want to deliver newness as fast as possible, for our clients to react to in their own time.
HOW ARE TRENDS PREDICTED?
Again, I get asked all the time by clients and students how trend forecasters predict future trends. Well the truth is this has changed vastly over the past decade too!
Traditionally, it used to be the trusted method of PESTEL research; knowing and researching what’s happening in the political, economic, social, technological, environment and legal atmosphere and cleverly interpreting and translating how these current actions will translate into reactions in society up to 18 months down the line, and thus result in trends. Sounds confusing? Don’t worry, it takes many years of studying and practise to understand this method of research and the truth is; a lot of trend forecasting comes down to intuition too!
With the rapid expansion of media technology, including most notable the rise of social media platforms, consumers are being fed style information from a variety of new sources. The rise of social media ambassadors through the likes of vloggers, bloggers, you tube sensations etc… have created a whole new demographic of visual influences. Forecasters are just as much having to understand the significance of these NEW style influences as much as the catwalks and aspirational designers and brands that still provide some of the old trickle-down theory to trend too.
This being said, PESTEL research is still important. You only have to scroll through your favourite news app to get your daily brain dump of what’s happening internationally on the news scene. Take one of the biggest international news stories of 2018; the state of our oceans as a result of the over consumption of plastics. These stories have gone viral, with every generation becoming aware of the matter and concerning themselves with how to move forward living more sustainable, and more importantly, limiting their plastic outputs. This is obviously translating into trends both literally and visually in fashion. Whether it be the purchase of products that are upcycled from waste plastic or purchasing a garment that reflects your view on the environment with a key slogan. This is an ‘obviously’ translation of a PESTEL influence into a key fashion movement and trend.
Data science and trend forecasting...
While trend forecasting is still hugely important (as I mention previously, all brands want to have that something that’s new and desirable to their customer) At the same time, it would be naïve to disregard the huge increase in data information that has emerged over the past couple of decades. With more and more people purchasing online and in apps it’s become easier than ever before to see what’s selling on an international scale. No longer do buyers have to sit in sales meetings and await secret information on their competitors’ sales from past colleagues who are willing to disclose their company’s information under the table to friends/competitors. Instead, they can become subscribers to dater gurus such as edited.com.
Co-founder of edited.com, Julia Fowler, who used to be a designer herself, describes the predicament brands are in during this new age of information versus trend forecasting. In an article with the Times, Fowler describes the role of a designer (or brand) “is to make things that people are going to buy. It’s hard because you’re working on products that won’t be in store for six to twelve months. It’s a huge risk you’re having to take, especially when you’re ordering thousands of items.” She goes onto describe her motivation for starting edited.com as “[she] wanted to see what products were performing well so we had a better idea of what would sell. The problem was there wasn’t any information, so it was really frustrating.”
In reality, a successful forecast for any brand or retailer will be coming up with a fine balance of creating a visual forecast which is justified by strong data analysis. Again, fast fashion brands are more reliant on strong data analysis. Whereas for smaller brands, on longer lead times, it’s more important to create a forecast that’s true to your brands future direction and aspirations, making sure you create something that’s really desirable and appeals to early innovators and adopters of trends.
At [K.I.D.S] Ltd, we are constantly out on a task of discovery and research. We constantly keep up with what’s happening on the news, social media, key fashion influences, new brands, while looking at and analysing data information. We then look at all our information to forecast 5 key trends twice annually.
HOW SHOULD USE TREND FORECASTS AS A BRAND OR DESIGNER?
So how do you use a trend forecast as a brand or designer? Well, first you need to really understand WHO you are as a brand and what your ETHOS is and just as importantly what your ETHICS are. This is both true for brand and designers. It’s important for a successful brand to stick to their core values while delivering NEWNESS and gently evolving as a brand in line with their original brand ethos.
Putting all your eggs in one basket (so to speak) and relying on a single trend forecast OR taking a forecast literally is a big mistake. You should use a trend forecast as a foundation or starting place to ignite your own research and spark your imagination. A trend forecast should give you the reassurance that your thinking is going in the correct direction.
You should then analyse data, that of your own and on a more global scale and combine this into your own visual direction that compliments your brand ethos and direction.
UNDERSTANDING CONSUMERS IN A POST DEMOGRAPHIC SOCIETY
Anyone who’s studied marketing at some stage, is generally familiar with a psychographic profile graph, where you plot a consumer somewhere on an axis in relation to how quickly they adopt to trends. These consumers are then often applied a term e.g. innovator, early adopter, late adopter etc… in relation to how quickly they adopt to these trends. This is all part of understanding who your consumer/brand is and how trend driven they are. It’s the foundation of the theory of consumer profiling/demographics. It’s really important for any successful brand to know who their consumer is in order for all the trends they are investing in essentially be purchased by them.
So here lies the problem, issue or hopefully opportunity depending on how you look at it. Communities are expanding and becoming more international and global. Smart brands are reacting to this by looking at their client bases on a more international scale. You only have to scroll through the feeds of your favourite social media platforms to see products being nonchalantly scrolled before your eyes that capture your interest. Fluke? No, this is by careful artificial intelligence analysing your algorithms picked up in previous web searches and directing things that may be of interest your way – sneaky!
Often, when you look at the brands and products being pushed towards you, they are based half way around the world (this can be ultra-annoying when you purchase something and find out the shipping takes 3 weeks!) The point is, these brands are not restricting themselves to a single consumer profile.
Nowadays, in what’s often referred to as a post demographic society, it’s harder than ever to Pidgeon hole your consumer into a generic profile. Instead, you need to look broader and put your focus more on how consumers are evolving and whatever you do - don’t stereotype!
Take the Harley Davidson brand as an example, traditionally we all think of that stereotypical ‘Hells Angel’ comfortably in their retirement, silvering nicely, plenty of tattoo’s who noisily, yet respectfully, hum’s down the road on those first spring day. Well, the brand hasn’t been doing so great recently, but they have engaged with a new strategy that’s right on board with what I’m trying to say here. To try to turn the brand around, Harley Davidson are trying to engage with Millennials via mobile and digital while still catering to their loyalists. During their re-brand they realised that a huge amount of their client base was female – really? Who knew? In fact, at a marketing event they held recently, females were a high ratio of the attendees turning up in traditional Harley Davidson gear with one in a slogan t-shirt with “Born to Party, Forced to Work” go girls! Seriously though, girl power isn’t new, in fact it kind of went off trend in the early 2000’s before re-emerging recently when someone put their hand up to mention there’s still a gender pay gap, then there’s #metoo and (without going off topic) the list sadly goes on. And that’s really the point, make sure you truly know who your vast client base is, don’t Pidgeon hole your consumer and most importantly be inclusive. If not you risk closing your door to huge pot of potential consumers you were ignorant to the fact you may appeal to!
A brand that knows the importance of looking beyond the realms of traditional target consumers and is successfully embracing the new theory of inclusivity or a post demographic society is Dulce and Gabanna. Not only do they do luxury and do it well, they don’t eliminate. They appeal to a broad spectrum of consumers and are always embracing NEW consumers rather than ignoring them. Only today they release their first collection aimed at Muslim women, notably the day after Boris Johnson refused to make an apology for his remark regarding women wearing Burka’s. Whatever side you are on – the future trend os most definitely inclusivity.
To properly understand your potential consumers, you need to be inclusive and look at the broader spectrum. I believe instead of creating a consumer profile, which is so singular, generic and specific you need to create a consumer map. Consumer mapping should be where you identify every potential group that will find your product desirable, or of benefit, and really understand who they are as a community and moreover how you think that community will grow to include others over time.
WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF TREND FORECASTING?
Well that is the BIG question! Living in a rapidly evolving global community, it’s getting harder and harder to have the confidence we took for granted only ten years ago when it comes to investing in and more importantly having confidence in trends. Brand loyalty is very limited in a time when consumers are fickler than ever. There’s also a huge amount of negativity surrounding fashion with the demise of the high street and huge names disappearing every week, so it’s no wonder brand and designers can feel insecure about their appearance a lot of the time. Trend forecasting is supposed to be what gives brand confidence so what is the future?
It’s worth noting that, retail has never been ‘easy’ and forecasting has never been easy, and whether we like it or not the future is moving forward and the more we try to embrace it, the more exciting and filled with NEW opportunities it can be.
No one really know what is going to happen in the future. However, you can make accurate and considered predictions. Fashion is always going to react to trends – it’s the way we see trends that’s changing. Confusing? I know! All we know is that we here make a promise to always be on top of what’s happening, and more importantly, keep you up to date. Whether that be feeding you with the latest and most exciting colour and fashion trends, giving you detailed opinions about the state of trend or changing the way in which we format and present our trends. Trust us to do the hard work for you and more importantly keep you updated!
We are also really keen to hear your comments and suggestions, so we can take these into consideration too. Please feel free to comment or start a conversation in one of our online feeds. You can always catch us at with your ideas, comments and suggestions.
We really hope you have found this article interesting and it has answered some of those illusive questions surrounding trend forecasting.