Fashion Forecasting and Lidewij Edelkoort

You’re just gonna have to look it up to see how to pronounce that.  I did.

"There is no creation without advance knowledge, and without design, a product cannot exist. " Lide
“There is no creation without advance knowledge, and without design, a product cannot exist. ” Lidewij Edelkoort

I’ve been getting really excited preparing for a lecture about trend forecasting.  I’ve always loved pouring over the books I got at trade shows but enlightening students on this career has made me want to cultivate my own micro-forecasting world.  I don’t know anyone who has a career in this but I would love to hear all about it if anyone out there is one!  The thing that excites me the most is that in order to become one, you basically need an immense amount of knowledge on all things past and present.  The end.  And then you need to be able to interpret how they affect our lives.  That’s all. (I’m guessing they’re probably very smart people.)

This is what one looks like.

Can I be you one day?
Tissue scarves are IN.

Her name is Lidewij Edelkoort and she’s been doing this for at least thirty years.  From her website, it looks like she knows a LOT about cool things like fashion, color, design, technology, art, history, politics, the environment, literature and… sigh.  I bet she sits at her cool kitchen table in Paris and flips through Taschen books she gets for free and takes calls from Virginie Mouzat while sipping some tea we won’t hear about for 4 years (am I glamorizing this job or what?)   There are a few other impressive forecasters out there too like Martin Raymond and David Wolfe but their pictures aren’t nearly as dramatic so here’s a book one of them wrote:

"Trend forecasters are lifestyle detectives." Martin Raymond
“Trend forecasters are lifestyle detectives.” Martin Raymond

It’s not lost on me that “forecasting” sounds like something mystical and interpretive.  It sounds like a scam to a certain degree.  When I introduce the concept in class, I always have a student ask me, “If designers are the ones setting the trends, why do they hire someone else to tell them what’s going to be popular?  That’s crazy!”  It’s like when I got my fortune told and the fortune teller said my “aura was stuck” but that she could help me if I came back and paid her more.

Rasputin knows the colors for Fall 2016.
Rasputin knows the colors for Fall 2016.

So it’s a really good question.  And it’s a big one to answer but I have a two thoughts on it: 1) times have changed and 2) it’s complicated.

The Kaiser said, “You cannot live in an ivory tower and make fashion or anything artistic….You’re to live in the real world.”  Indeed.  Even a couturier like him knows he’s not alone in creating fashion.  Gone are the days when a single person decided what was in.  If a couturier with all the skill and talent at their fingertips is truly an artist, they need to consider more than what their subjective view of the world is.

And when you’re living in that world as a designer, there are a lot moving parts.  To get a garment made requires many different people, across many cultures, with many steps and things to keep track of.  You’re like an air traffic controller except the thing you’re trying to get down the runway doesn’t weigh as much (but it took the same amount of fuel to get there.;))  Simply, you don’t always have the time to shop the market and see what’s out there.  Sometimes you need someone else to organize that information for you.

Like these guys.
Like these guys.

These agencies are smart and know what they’re doing, so don’t be too shocked when you see the price tag that goes along with their reports and subscriptions   However, remember that while they might be seasoned at interpreting the trends, they get their information from the exact same world we all live in.  Your most important skill to foster your inner trend forecaster is to keep those eyes open, make connections about what you see, and, for goodness sake, find inspiration in them.