An Analysis of Trends and Trend Forecasting: Pt 2
November 9, 2018
The previous piece explained the importance of looking at trends. Here, we explain how forecasting instruments work and how socio-political and socio-economic factors may be able to predict trends ahead of time.
What is trend forecasting?
Trend forecasting is a quantitative measurement method that tracks patterns in historic data to predict future trends.
The largest trend forecaster is World's Global Style Network (WGSN), providing data, analytics and insights to retail companies. According to fashionista.com, there are more than 75,000 users paying thousands of dollars annually for its service. Customers range from CEOs, visual merchandisers, buyers, marketing executives, students and designers.
Before the internet, trend forecasting was done by people. These 'trend forecasters' were found at runway shows creating detailed reports of what they saw. These reports ran the fashion market. Sent out in fashion magazines, their observations came to fruition on the runway within a year. However, since the creation of internet, trend forecasting has become faster and easier to access.
Trend forecasting can be categorized into two groups: the first being independent labels and stores; the second being larger stores such as department stores. According to HighSnobiety, companies such as Urban Outfitters "run vertically integrated models, meaning that they have their own in-house trend forecasting." Similarly, independent labels and designers tend to rely on their own instincts and visions rather than on those of forecasters. However, a brand that lacks the flexibility and operational capacity for fast turnovers needs trend forecasting data.
According to HighSnobiety, WGSN "claims to be able to forecast colors and trends up to two years in advance." This means that their textile and materials teams need to work with the cut, the sewing, and the fabric material of trends as early as two years before customers see them in stores.
How do trend forecasters predict trends two years ahead of time?
Truly anything can influence trends. Any lifestyle, health, economic, political or social phenomenon can influence trends. Although generally, we rarely see huge changes in these factors over a span of a year, if we focus on specific regions, different cultures, age groups or economic backgrounds, these changes happen every moment, every hour, and every day. Along with the constant demands of the market for new products, the need to produce novelty products at a fast rate puts companies at an advantage. In most cases one of the deciding factors that separates a very successful company from just a successful one is the ability to fulfill this demand.
However, it really just seems like a juxtaposition when we look at stores such as Zara, Topshop, H&M, and Marks and Spencer and see very similar trends, colors, patterns, and cuts; and this would make sense because these shops all subscribe to WGSN and all share the same "database of colors, patterns and practically ready made templates" (HighSnobiety). What determines which store gains high customer loyalty depends on the quality of their material at the lowest price possible with the same production time.
What is the future of fashion? A hypothetical:
Suppose today is November 9 2018. My name is Gwyn and I now work as a trend forecaster for a hypothetical company, called GZForecaster. My task is to predict trends three years from now for the Fall 2021 season. How would I go about doing so? I could start off by looking at the pantone for fall colors, usually a dark red, maroon, orange, or brown. Then I could analyze current trends that are likely to carry into the next couple of years, considering how the market may change such as the prominence of streetwear brands Supreme, Comme Des Garçons, Off-White, and ASSC. Next, based on current fashion trends, I could look at what events influenced a particular trend and use regression analysis to see what the strongest correlation is between one factor with fashion. Knowing which factor might have the strongest influence on trends would help me predict some future events for example, a focus on sustainability, a certain celebrity's wedding and their choice of fashion (like we saw with Meghan Markle), and the needs of the consumers.
This is only the preliminary process of trend analysis. The importance of trend forecasting, whether through forecasting equipment such as WGSN or through individual forecasters, determines how well a fashion company does, what distinct style the fashion brand will embody, and its value to its customers. While trend forecasting sounds like a simple idea, the prominence and the necessity of it for each company requires complicated analysis.
There are much more things to consider such as pricing and social influences on fashion trends. The next article will focus on pricing, and fashion in cinematography, commercials, prominent social figures, and other social aspects such as culture and geography that may play a part in trend and product pricing.