Trend forecasting is an are of fashion business that in my opinion isn’t appreciate as much as it should be, in Finland. Through trend forecasting services, businesses can find the strategic window for their business endeavors. Fashion is a business driven by change and knowing where that change is headed is a key element of surviving in the business.
Trend forecasters don’t decide what will be the trends for a season. They analyze the current zeigeist, how it’s going to develop in the future and how it will be translated into trends. Consumers feel inclined to buy apparel that somehow connects with the zeitgeist (Blumer 1969). This is the basis of trend formation. Trend is determined by what the majority of population buys and wears.
In modern day, trends can be formed by three different theories: trickle-down, trickle-up and trickle-across. Trickle-up is the oldest one of the theories. In trickle-up, trends are first adopted by the high social classes and spread there through the different social classes, until it reaches the low social class. In trickle-up, the trends are first introduced by the low social classes and start to spread from there to other social classes. In trickle-across, the trend is simultaneously introduced to and adapted by all social classes. The affects of trickle-across can be seen in mass-marketing; products are manufactured and marketed for different social groups simultaneously.
Before the birth of ready-to-wear industry, trends spread by trickle-down theory. This was the time when fashion houses dictated the trends of the season. But the birth of ready-to-wear industry created more factors into fashion business. Up until the 70s, trends mainly spread by trickle-down, which made trend forecasting easier. Nowadays trends can arise from anywhere. This has created more challenges for trend forecasting.
As trends can arise from anywhere, observing the major fashion houses newest collections isn’t enough to determine the trends of the future seasons. Besides, whether a fashion house’s collection succeeds is determined by how well it fits the zeitgeist. This was why Dior’s New Look was so successful in the 50’s. Dior’s New Look fit the needs of women to feel feminine again; the fashion had been regulated due to shortage and the appropriateness of war time.
In order to make accurate trend forecasts, one needs to understand the zeitgeist. Which is difficult as the trend forecaster needs to objectively analyze the spirit of their own time. Understanding the dominating events, social groups, ideals, attitudes and technology help the forecasters understand the zeitgeist (Brannon 2012). Comparing these factors to past zetgeists can help understand how the fashion will develop in the future. Trend forecasts spend their time collecting information about the developments in politics, fashion industry, technology, economy and other fields, analyzing the deeper meanings behind those developments and translating them into forecasts about future trends.
The forecasts are divided into long term and short term forecasts. Long term forecasts are aimed at seasons over 2 years away. Businesses use these forecasts for decisions regarding re-positioning, re-branding, extending product lines and planning new stores. Short term forecasts are are aimed at seasons under 2 years away and are used for inventory management, marketing, product development and product positioning. As the seasons draw closer, the long term forecasts become more distinctive with the additional data and transform into short term forecasts.
Trends aren’t just limited to fashion business. The zeitgeist affects the buying behavior of consumers across all categories. Through the help of trend forecasters businesses can expect the changes in the market and react accordingly.
Blumer, H. 1969. Fshion: from class differentiation to collective selection. International encycloperdia of the social sciences. 341-345. New York: Macmillian
Brannon, E. 2012. Fashion forecasting. 3rd edition. New York: Fairchild Books