Interview with Carla Buzasi, Lisa White, Kim Mannino,Emily Spiegel

Face2Face
Carla Buzasi, Lisa White, Kim Mannino,Emily Spiegel
Carla Buzasi, Lisa White, Kim Mannino,Emily Spiegel
Global Chief Content Officer, Head of The Vision, Sr Consultant,Head of Content Mktg,respectively
WGSN
WGSN

Identifying a trend is only the first step

WGSN is a leading trend authority for creative thinkers in over 90 countries. Their services cover consumer insights, fashion and lifestyle forecasting, data analytics, crowd-sourced design validation and expert advisory services. Carla Buzasi, Global Chief Content Officer, WGSN and WGSN Mindset with Lisa White, Head of The Vision, Kim Mannino, Senior Consultant, and Emily Spiegel, Head of Content Marketing, speak about emerging trends in this interview with Fibre2Fashion.

Your new white paper is titled Anatomy of a Trend. How do you go about forecasting a trend?

Carla Buzasi: It is part art, part science, part maths and part magic. Over the past 18 years, we, at WGSN, have honed a process to discern macro trends and adapt them for our clients. In our white paper, Anatomy of a Trend, we explore how WGSN forecasts trends, and also look at two of the largest movements of our time-artisan and wellness-to illustrate what signals businesses should be looking towards to stay on the right side of movements. At WGSN, we we strongly believe in the power of both data and people to forecast trends: we combine intuition, experience and hard data to identify macro-trends and distinguish them from micro trends and fads. As our forecasts get closer to retail, the sources we look at expand to look at our own data on what product is moving in the market, we get closer to season we refine 
Kim Mannino: A micro trend starts with your early influencers and moves to mass adoption within one to two years. These trends are important for fashion companies, but tend to be smaller scale realisations of the desires underlying macro trends. A macro trend, by contrast, spans at least five years and impacts a variety of industries from technology to finance. Examples of macro trends include the maker movement and the wellness boom, explored later in the paper. Macro trends operate on a continuum and evolve from season to season, year to year. Each year, WGSN create macro trend forecasts for the next two years, called 'The Vision', that talk about the 'big ideas' that will govern design and commerce in two years time. 
Lisa White: We don't create trends. They are all around us. I always say that the past and future are present-you just need to pick up the signals and analyse them. One of the things we do is separate isolated patterns from underlying cultural movements. Each season, we look at these cultural movements and press pause to see how they have evolved in the past six months, and how they are likely to move in the years ahead. In doing so, we equip our clients with the entire context of consumer behaviour, allowing them to proactively change before their consumer knows what they want, rather than react to their demands.

Your new white paper is titled Anatomy of a Trend. How do you go about forecasting a trend?

How does the team at WGSN gather information on these cultural movements?

Carla Buzasi: We look at diverse sources of inspiration to identify trends. From geopolitics to local subcultures, avant-garde artists to Instagram influencers, bio-technology to demographic shifts. We also have eyes and ears on the ground everywhere. Each year, our team of 250 forecasters regularly travel to 90+ destinations. We also read over 800 blogs daily, visit festivals and trade shows all around the world each year. From there, we discern the macro trends from local patterns. Our global team works across 14 offices, including London, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Melbourne and Cape Town. Twice a year, our team of experts comes together and shares its local observations: what's happening in their geographical region as well as in their industry of expertise. 
Lisa White: When we see the same topics being explored by a subculture in Nigeria as an artist in Sante Fe, we have a pretty good signal that we are looking at a macro trend, rather than a fad. To be sure, however, we validate our instincts using quantitative data. We dive into WGSN's archive of retail data, brand perception metrics, and historical archive. Once confirmed, we combine our research and data into a story, a macro trend, to inform our clients.

Please tell us about the whys and hows of the artisan movement.

Carla Buzasi: From embroidered denim jackets to hand-woven baskets, slow food to modern allotments - artisan looks, products and experiences dominate today's marketplace. The trend is epitomised by a revived interest in craftsmanship, the elevation of everyday objects and the importance of gathering communities "IRL" (in real life). Of the many forces behind the transition, three key influences in the early 2010s helped shape the artisan movement:

  • Mass manufacturing backlash and awareness on issues like climate change. As the general public gained greater visibility into the working conditions and environmental consequences of mass manufacturing, especially in fashion individuals searched for ways to reduce the ecological and human impact of their consumption.
  • The Great Financial Crisis. In the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008, companies like Etsy helped millennial crafters looking for alternative work turn their hobbies into businesses. From its launch in 2005, Etsy had grown into a billion-dollar business by 2013, enabling young millennials the opportunity to become professional crafters on a global scale.
  • Dying out of craft. As consumers began to value craftsmanship as an antidote to the digital world, artisans were quite literally disappearing. As one of hundreds of examples, by 2010, Nottingham's once bustling lace making industry (which at its peak employed over 40,000 people) had been reduced to a single factory. Suddenly, there was a renewed interest in young millennials to preserve the knowledge and objects of the past and connect with other like-minded individuals.

While we first started to talk about artisan-related micro trends in 2007, by 2014 the movement had reached critical mass. In that same year, we coalesced the various fractions of the movement into an "artisan" macro trend. Today, we see it in products from apparel to technology, and even food and beverage. In the fashion world, two micro trends epitomise the artisan movement: the brogue and embroidery. In 2014, WGSN predicted that well-made and functional classics would become popular with the mainstream consumer, of which the brogue played a starring role. 

In 2014, we predicted embroidery, which references the culture of custom repair, would emerge. Over the next two years, embroidered items arriving at online retail increased in both the UK and the US by 69 per cent and 78 per cent respectively, according to data on WGSN Instock. Against this backdrop, individual artisans worked hard to make sure craft wasn't entirely replaced by code. From Stitch 'n Bitch, which offers free knitting classes, to Makerversity, which offers affordable classes and workshops, consumers took it upon themselves to ensure that arts and crafts education continued to thrive around the world. While we first reported on maker spaces in 2011, by 2015, 26 per cent of cities in the US boasted a maker space.

Please tell us about the whys and hows of the artisan movement.

What can be expected of these macro trends in future?

Carla Buzasi: As we look ahead to 2019, "making" is predicted to eventually be adopted to solve critical problems on a global scale. Early indications of this advancement include Bolivian cardiologist Dr Franz Freudenthal, who developed the Nit-Occlud - a handmade medical device that can repair heart defects in children without the need for invasive surgery. The device was crafted in collaboration with knitters from the country's indigenous Aymara community. In apparel and footwear, functional denim, raw indigo fabric, embroidery, brogues, raffia and woven leather will be trending.

How can brands and businesses incorporate these trends?

The examples of artisan and wellness reveal that leaders need to look outside their core market to identify and capitalise on growth opportunities. Macro trends like those outlined did not just change their endemic markets, but created new categories and affected everything from apparel to employment. But identifying a trend is only the first step. The most important question we ask at WGSN is: "Is this trend right for your brand, given your DNA and target consumer?" Timing is also an important factor to consider. Adopting a trend in the right way at the right time is, in the best case scenario, an avenue for growth. In the worst case scenario, it can cause the downfall of your brand. Being first is not always necessarily being best, it largely depends on your target market. If you are targeting the early adopter, being first is key. If mass market adoption is your goal, then riding the crest of a trend could be right. When embedding trend forecasting into business, innovation and marketing, strategic planning is essential to not miss out on growth and profit opportunities-and to avoid wasted investments in research and development. Ultimately, it is the key to staying relevant and shows how an entire industry can be transformed.
Published on: 17/11/2017

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.

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