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Trend forecasting or Trend Dictating? The Big Debate

Is it a coincidence that a huge number of brands have similar looks meandering down the catwalks in the fashion capitals of the World? There is a reason, after all, that we consistently see brands turning out similarly coloured garments or similarly cut silhouettes or even like-themed collections and that is largely due to trend forecasting and the significant role it plays within the fashion industry.

The trend forecasting cycle is part of a creative practice, yet, paradoxically, its process is self-fulfilling and causes a uniformity of trends. Trend forecasting generally refers to the calculation of what colours, fabrics, textures, textiles, prints, graphics, and other design elements will be most relevant for consumers in upcoming seasons.

The role of a forecaster is to analyse the market at any given moment, pin-point patterns in consumer behaviour and ascertain the common thread, which will form the basis of the next “on trend’ trends for consumers.

Is trend forecasting what is really going on here? It seems that companies like WGSN and co. may, more realistically be in the business of trend dictating given the rate with which brands take such trend-forecasted cues and run with them. Fashion news Website Fusion aptly noted last year, if you do not work in fashion, “you’ve never heard of WGSN, but it likely picked out the clothes you’re wearing today.”

The proliferation of such services and the reliance on them by nearly all brands, Fusion further noted: “In the fashion industry if you are not using WGSN, you are the odd one out.” It has created a type of uniformity across the board.  


According to Marc Worth, the British entrepreneur who founded WGSN, the system is not without its flaws: “People complain that everything looks the same today, but is it any wonder? Thousands of companies are signed up for trend forecasting services, looking at the same colour forecasts, the same material swatches and the same silhouettes.”


It is certainly difficult to ignore the common themes that run across the runways each season and the larger trends that are proliferated as a result, pointing to trend forecasting as the instigator is the immediate go to. But is there is something else in play, perhaps the role of increasing risk averse brands? Many brands are increasingly opting to play it safe, so to speak, and align their collections with the forecasting agency-approved trends so that their sales targets are achieved.

There is, of course, the argument that relying so heavily on trend forecasting cues is just the industry’s latest trend.

By Anne-Marie Mc Auley


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