Millennial Pink. Crimson Red. Dusty Rose. Pastel Peach. These hues have been swirling round the runway, social media, and many popular #instafamous bloggers. The market has been inundated with GRL PWR graphics alongside bold silhouettes, ultra feminine styles including ruffles and pussy bow details. Feminism is back and better than ever, and fashion is along for the ride.
I’m always interested in the “whys” of trends. For example, why has this trend emerged now and how long will it influence design, tech, lifestyle goods and our favorite street style mavens? Knowing how to predict the viability of a trend is key to a successful forecast. In my experience, the trends that pay off have several things in common. Follow along for a roadmap for trend analysis. It’s proved successful for me on more than one occasion and always informs my predictions of what’s to come.
1. Know Your History: A Roadmap for Trend Analysis
If you can identify important historical parallels between the present and a past era/decade that furnished similar trend signals, you’re on to something. Case in point:
In my early twenties, I often foolishly wondered if I had been born too late, feeling called to have participated in the revolutionary days of the 1960’s. But here we are, in 2017, facing down the same kinds of evils and hates and prejudices that rained terror on the freedoms and civil liberties of minorities around the world in the 60’s. On March 20th, I walked the streets of San Francisco, participating in the largest women’s rights protest in history (also important to note here: the zeitgeist of the 1920’s when women gained the right to vote.) In 2008, our country elected the first African American male to office – something that would have seemed nigh impossible when African Americans gained the right to vote in 1968. But the poignancy of a nation ready to receive the leadership of Barack Obama bears striking resemblance to a nation ready to grant equality to African Americans in the 1960’s. Neither event came without the cost of human lives nor am I arguing that we as a nation have come to terms with, or come close to, eliminating the rampant and systemic racism that continues to end lives and threaten freedoms of the African American community. But historically, the fervor of these two eras is worth considering.
2. Track New Business: A Roadmap for Trend Analysis
Now, let’s look at what’s happening in business. You’re looking for examples that support your forecast philosophically (mission statements, business models, etc) as well as watching to see which companies are thriving and which companies are flailing. The women at Witchsy and Kirrin Finch are two interesting examples of how women are working (and changing) the system to get ahead.
These Women Entrepreneurs Created A Fake Male Cofounder To Dodge Startup Sexism
Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer faced a lot of sexism and condescension when they launched their e-commerce marketplace for weird art–that is until they introduced an imaginary cofounder named Keith. Read the full story HERE.
“After setting out to build Witchsy, it didn’t take long for them to notice a pattern: In many cases, the outside developers and graphic designers they enlisted to help often took a condescending tone over email. These collaborators, who were almost always male, were often short, slow to respond, and vaguely disrespectful in correspondence. In response to one request, a developer started an email with the words “Okay, girls…””
It’s downright pathetic that Gazin and Dwyer had to invent a male cofounder to be taken seriously, but it’s also an ingenious way to trick an old paradigm of male dominance into granting power and status to the people it refuses to take seriously.
Kirrin Finch is queering clothing, as it were, to make room for new interpretations of androgynous style. They’ve identified an important niche market, are raising awareness about the LBTGQ community, and are posing important questions about gender fluidity.
Doreen Pierre, shown above, is a New Jersey born fashion blogger, freelance photographer and Student Employment Specialist at NYU. She started the blog, Dapperpenniless, in 2015 and has already gained the attention of Buzzfeed and DapperQ.
3. Look Global: A Roadmap for Trend Analysis
Next, broaden your lens and observe what’s happening around the globe. This part of trend analysis is kind of the opposite to activism’s “think global, act local.'” The idea is to see what other countries are doing. For example, what initiatives, social policies, grassroots movements, and technologies do you see emerging? Can you identify similarities between what you see happening at home versus what’s happening abroad?
The Pink Auto Service in India is an excellent example. It’s a new service that aims to give women a safer option for traveling around Indian Cities. By women, for women. Read the full story HERE.
4. As Steve Jobs Would Say, Stay Hungry: A Roadmap for Trend Analysis
Food trends and the restaurant scene are also important to watch. Personally, I love looking to food design for future trend signals. From menu and restaurant design, to new ingredient pairings and preparation, the worlds of food and fashion are more intimately connected than one might expect. Take the newly designed, Pietro Lolita:
In the middle of a quiet Elizabeth Street block, above an unmistakably pink subterranean stone entryway with flower boxes of mottled caladium leaves, a neon starburst with a smiley face announces the arrival of this full-service “healthy Italian” restaurant. The décor is overwhelmingly pink: a Memphis Group-inspired rose designed by Jeanette Dalrot. There’s a zigzagging leather banquette, set in pastel-stained wood against a wall painted with pink-and-white racing stripe; and there are slices of mirror and neon bars throughout, as well as white starbursts hand-painted on the bar.
Personally, I’d travel to New York City just for the t-shirt, made famous by Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert.
5. Listen to the Music: A Roadmap for Trend Analysis
Another great place to look for future trend signals and for consumer adoption patterns is at music festivals. This year’s Afropunk Festival in NYC was awash in shades of pink and red.
Photos via Vogue.com. Click here to see Vogue’s full coverage of the AfroPunk Music Festival. Shown here: Young Blood, @letthekidkill; Jay Raheem, @raheem4rmjuice; Onicz Grey, @sliqnic; Malik Hill, @thatssomuhleek; and Riahkhai Seigle
Photos via Vogue.com. Click here to see Vogue’s full coverage of the AfroPunk Music Festival. Shown here: Grace.
6. Watch the Pavement & Red Carpet: A Roadmap for Trend Analysis
A lot of time and thought goes into red carpet street style chic and it’s important to watch what trends surface here. Whether it’s the VMAs, the Oscars or an important film premiere, you have the chance to see what celebrity stylists are excited about and how they’re dressing their biggest clients.
7. Catwalk Cues: A Roadmap for Trend Analysis
And last but certainly not least, scour the runway. Look for overarching themes, colors and eras of inspiration. Naturally, there will be a few standout collections (Johanna Ortiz’s 2018 Resort Collection was one of my favorites), but there will also be design motifs that surface amidst several collections. Once you identify these details, go back to the beginning and cross-reference your findings with history, business, street style, music and your global findings. When you can identify the pattern, you’re making serious headway.
I hope this roadmap has proved helpful! The more closely you pay attention to the world around you – to the ripples and waves of politics, to the rise and fall and flux of fashion, to the artistry of food and music, and to the lessons of history, the better you will become at predicting the trends which will succeed.
Trend analysis is one of the most fascinating sciences I’ve encountered, and its study often evinces important truths about the state of the world around us. One of my favorite philosophers, Walter Benjamin, “took seriously the debris of mass culture as a source of philosophical truths.” In his unpublished work, The Arcades Project, he helped develop what scholar Susan Buck-Morses describes as a “diabetic of seeing,”; a means for understanding and translating our present. Benjamin described The Arcades Project as a “Copernican revolution” in the practice of history writing. I see it also a primary for trend science. As Benjamin sought to disrupt the narrative of the “present” in order to reveal important and hidden historical truths, his analysis of “the debris of mass culture” is important for anyone in the field of future studies. We as trend forecasters must also look to the debris of mass culture for signs of what’s to come. What rings especially true for me in light of the current political climate is that Benjamin undertook this Copernican Revolution as a means of inciting political action and change. He understood “the transmission of culture (both high and low) as a political act of the highest import. Not because culture in itself has the power to change the given, but because historical memory affects decisively the collective, political will for change.” And now more than ever, are we in need of new memories and histories to disrupt a frightening vision of our possible future.
So follow these clues closely, dear readers. The present and future are counting on us.
Yours truly at the SF Women’s March.