What’s In A Trend?


Fall fashion trends, summer fashion trends, winter shoe trends…every issue of any fashion magazine will throw the word “trend” around along with a color scheme or silhouette that they want their readers to think will be trendy for the season. I was a believer in these trends until I took a course on trend forecasting in Paris this past summer that frankly made me question the authority of a glossy fashion magazine. I found that there is a method to the madness and realized, much to my dismay, that popular fashion magazines are often late to the party.

First and foremost, trend spotting is different than trend forecasting. Trend spotting is what it sounds like—you observe what you see on the streets, on runway, in stores, and find commonalities that create a trend. Trend forecasting looks years into the future and looks at the trendsetters—those who seem a little off or strange at the moment—as potential sources of inspiration for upcoming seasons. Big labels, small designers, interior design companies, architecture agencies all take part in trend forecasting by constantly observing the people around them and taking part in as many cultural events as possible. WGSN, one of the world’s most reputable trend agencies, sends its trend forecasters all over the world to experience fashion weeks, music festivals, cultural fairs, all in order to understand the state of the world and how young people like ourselves are reacting to politics, pop culture, fashion, so on and so forth. These people have a keen eye for what is about to burst into the big scene and they collect their own data. This includes photos, street testimonials, and their own daily inspirations from magazines, blogs they follow, stores they love, and people they think are forward thinking. WGSN provides trend information for clients including fashion brands like Diesel and big corporations like Target because it’s not just fashion that requires understanding what the consumer wants and will react positively to.

My super-cool-trend-forecasting professor at Parsons Paris told me that always is writing down what she sees and taking pictures of everyone and everything. She said that with a big book of observations, there comes a time when things start to crossover or connect. “You see something once, it’s a sign. You see something twice, it’s a coincidence. You see something thrice, that’s a trend.” Eventually, the trends start to emerge, as you collect data from all of the people, things, photos, etc., that you observe. What we find in magazines when they hit stands is that their trends are a little delayed. They tend to announce trends as they are happening, not as they will happen. Floral prints and symmetrical geoprints were huge this summer, but designers like Mary Katrantzou had these prints on their garments years ago. But look at fast fashion today and you’ll find dresses that are extremely similar.

Whether or not I believe trend agencies to be the end all be all of the trends we see on the streets, I am not sure. I do believe that trends come from the streets and from what unique individuals choose to wear. Whether it is a certain silhouette, color scheme, or whole style, the people who express themselves through fashion are the ones who really influence trends. Blogs, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and other forms of social media also really influence style and trends because it is due to these global networks that looks can be passed on internationally. Trends follow those who dare to wear that really risky combo of matching denim or those who think that wearing all white in the dead of winter is cool (trend alert). Next time you’re out and about, take a look at what catches your eye. It doesn’t have to be the predictable crop top with cut outs or the maxi skirt with a high slit. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Look for something out of the ordinary. You might find a way to take that seemingly weird outfit into something of your own and in a couple of seasons, it might just show up in the stores just like you predicted.

By Michelle Chang

Image via Bag Service




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