Mudpie- the world renowned trend consultant; how does it define ‘trend’-as a science or a fiction?
We have a specific and refined process for our trend forecasting. This is a method we have developed in house, and is widely recognised to be the most accurate. The process itself is based on thorough research where all the information is distilled from 100s of micro trends into 3 main themes. The skill is not in gathering and processing the information, it is assessing the likely speed to market which requires an accurate assessment of when that trend will be at its most important. If the emerging trend is too accelerated it may not be advanced enough to go in our printed publications and may be more suited to a closer to season trend on our online service Mpdclick.com.
To forecast a trend it is essential to have a good understanding of the present - 'Where are we now', this means what is going on in our world today, and what effect does this have on the consumer? For this it is essential to have a good handle on news, current affairs, economics, cultural and creative happenings and socio-economic trends. People make different choices based on their emotional connection with the present, which is why their future feelings can be second guessed by looking at the factors that may affect the future. These factors are often socio-economic, political, and technical or simply influences from popular culture.
What is so difficult about conventional approach to trend forecast? Why should industry players invest in consultants?
We create our information with the fashion industry in mind which has made it popular with a broad range of industries; our trend services sell to car manufacturers, financial institutions, mobile phone brands and pharmaceutical companies as well as a broad range of fashion brands and retailers. Today every product is a fashion product and therefore influence by fashion trends. Marketing agencies, industrial designers and technology companies are all big users of trends and often use information which is very long range. The longevity of the information required is usually linked to the lifespan of the product. Most people do not change their car every 6 months so mid range trends are needed for this which tends to be socio-economic and influenced by longer range technology trends.
Inspirations that represent a decade are important touch points, such as architecture. Architecture built today will be defined as 'teens', reflecting the period 2010-2020, and industrial design will follow the aesthetic principles of this period in many ways. The fashion industry uses trend forecasting for planning and building collections, these run in parallel to the fast fashion offer which is much more reactive and close to market. Currently there is a trend for longevity and classic as a reaction to both considered consumption and sustainability (buy better less often) this translates in fashion to vintage, design re-issues or ‘vintage inspired’ the same is true for cars, architecture, and interiors, look at the re-design of the fiat 500 for example. The Fiat 500 will not last forever, nevertheless it represents classic and is an accessible statement of vintage brand values.
The fashion industry needs forecasters more than it thinks it does, other product related industries look much longer range. Automotive design, interiors and architecture as well as consumer hardlines design for a decade rather than a season, or in the case of architecture the design often represents the attitudes of an entire generation. One of the problems with the retail environment today is the fixation with the runway rather than own design. Runway and celebrity inspiration is fine for a fun fast fashion line, however it should not replace consumer insight or become a way of short cutting creativity. Looking at the consumer allows the brand, retailer and designer to understand the bigger picture. Currently the profits of almost every high street retailer depend on a ‘re-work’ of the same runway collections, creating a dangerous precedent where ubiquitous poor quality product can only be differentiated by price. I firmly believe in the words of Alan Kay, the pioneering computer scientist “The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Brands, retailers and designers should use trend information as a tool for creating an original desirable product which represents the values of the brand- this is something that Topshop Unique does very well, and could be done by other creative retailers in a very commercial way.
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.