The low-down on trend forecasting, what it is, how it’s done, and how you can use trend forecasting for your business.


“… that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and its sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff”. 
Miranda Priestly – The Devil Wears Prada, 2006

Forever remembered as the most savage bit of sass ever to grace our movie screens, this epic excerpt is not just for us to reminisce on the work of art that was the Devil Wears Prada but is actually an essential bit of (ahem) research into the crazy world of trend forecasting. The buzz word that’s quite literally taking the world by storm, trend forecasting is the newest development in business circles, the must-have, must-do phenomenon that’s deciding the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and what we’ll be spending our money on in the future.
If you’re feeling as overwhelmed as we are, don’t stress. We’ve been crunching the facts and have brought you the low down on trend forecasting, what it is, how it’s done and how you can use it to elevate your brand.
Cast your mind back to Miranda Priestly. To our favourite scene in the Runway offices, where poor Andy Sacks is still recovering from having her blue sweater torn to metaphorical pieces. That scene is trend forecasting in a nutshell, a chain of events connecting Oscar de la Renta’s (fictional) collection of cerulean gowns to Andy’s blue sweater from the clearance bin at Casual Corner. Taking this into the real world, trend forecasting gathers information from catwalks and street style galleries, amalgamating this with data on economies and lifestyle movements to identify key trends that will be the next big thing. While trend forecasting has its roots in the world of fashion, it has evolved over the years and is now used for everything you can dream of, a one-stop-prediction-shop to help companies learn what people will be buying in the future.
Trend forecasting can be broken down into 3 streams. The first is “top-down”, where high powered people in high powered jobs (a la Miranda Priestly) make decisions and write articles that directly influence our purchasing habits and the trends that we subscribe to. The second is “bottom-up” and is driven by influential everyday people (think street style galleries and influencers). The third one is a middle ground, a more complex and analytical approach that calculates lifestyle and real-world experiences to predict what will be popular in coming seasons. You can think of this middle ground as a sort of social anthropology, a science that relies on qualitative and quantitative data rather than aesthetics and creativity.
Within these three streams, every forecast can be broken up into micro and macro trends. Microtrends are those smaller trends or design fads that have a small lifespan like off-the-shoulder tops and bell sleeves. Macro trends are those deep-rooted trends or movements that have larger effects, such as the move to sustainable fashion. While micro trends are easier to spot (take a look in the latest street style galleries for NYFW and LFW and you’ll see plenty of orange and tiny 90’s inspired sunglasses), macro trends require some insight into global shifts and are generally the domain of specialised agencies such as WGSN (World’s Global Style Network) and Promostyl.
These agencies (WGSN in particular) are the authorities on trend forecasting and have made names for themselves by providing comprehensive reports and specialised data to the companies that subscribe to their services. At WGSN, they predict colours and trends up to 2 years ahead and will forecast materials even further into the future. For a (VERY) steep price, they provide brands with patterns and templates, adaptable designs predicted to fly off store hangers. Giving us our own Andy Sacks blue sweater moment, it’s crazy to think that those new jeans we’ve just bought – the high waisted pale denim with the frayed hems – they’ve probably been forecasted years before we even thought about swiping our card for them.
If this is enough to make your head spin, don’t worry. Trend forecasting isn’t just for the WGSN’s and Miranda Priestly’s of the world and doesn’t have to be a complex labyrinth of stats and data. The internet has shaken the forecasting scene up and now everyone can take a peek into the future. Read on for our top tips on how to trend forecast and what to look out for!
The most important thing to keep in mind for trend forecasting is it’s all about the patterns. Our favourite way to trend forecast is incidentally, where we slowly notice patterns and trends through our morning Instagram stalk or lunchtime Pinning spree. Keep your eyes out for colours and shapes that keep appearing, variants of current styles and aesthetics that are sure to catch on. If you’re not sure where to start your search, here are our favourite places for trend forecasting made easy:
Flaunter: One of the easiest places to start your trend forecasting journey is on our very own site! Keep an eye on the newest products in our image library and stay up to date with new styles and trends with moodboards. You can also take a look at what the media are looking for to make sure you’re across the latest products that are getting the media talking!
The Forecasters: (WGSN, Promostyl, Pantone, Pattern People, Australian Trend Forecast, Trendstop) These are the people who know trend forecasting inside and out. They’ve got the knowledge, the resources and the people to deliver comprehensive forecasting and brand-specific forecasts. Unfortunately, they are as exclusive as they are knowledgeable, with most operating behind massive paywalls. But fear not, many offer free newsletters and unpaid content that deliver up and coming trends straight to your inbox!
Industry News: Look to magazines and websites for trend reports and featured designs, for fashion and interior forecasts from the experts. Expect runway recaps and the best of street style, with featured products and new releases providing insight in what’s to come. Our favourites include Who What Wear, The Coveteur and My Domaine.
Influencers: The number one source for “bottom up” forecasting, Influencers have the power to set new trends and influence new styles and it pays to keep an eye on your favourites. Whether mega, macro or micro, influencers can be a great way to forecast up and coming trends and keep your finger on the pulse. Make sure you’re following your favourites on social media and stay updated with the newest names, faces and trends with street style galleries from the likes of Tommy Ton, The Sartorialist and Street Peeper.
Social Media: The perfect place to track influencers and brands, social media is like your very own lookbook in the palm of your hand. Collate images on Pinterest and find inspiration on Instagram, look to Twitter for viral posts and hit Facebook to find out what your customers are thinking. One of our favourite #lifehacks is to look back at our previously liked Instagram posts (find this in the settings option on your profile) and see if you can identify patterns of new styles, shades and aesthetics!
Google Trends: If you’re keen to dabble in forecasting macro trends, why not start with Google Trends. One of our favourite places for getting a gauge on broad interests and top search terms, you can use features like the Google Trends top charts to understand market interests and global movements that may dictate the trends of the future. Look for patterns in search terms and find out what people want, need and even fear.
Yourself: One of the most underrated trends of the moment is individuality. With the rise of trend forecasting and the relative monopoly enjoyed by WGSN, an increasing number of brands and retailers are subscribing to the same services and receiving the same predictions. There’s a reason why so many stores seem to sell the same products! Why not buck the trend and use your own discretion with what people want and what you can provide for them. After all – no one knows your customers better than you do!
Keen to find out even more about trend forecasting? Why not read our blog post on three ways to forecast the next fashion trend, or begin your forecasting journey by signing up to Flaunter today!
Images: Eclectic Trends Moodboard, The Devil Wears Prada, Promostyl via OlirosesPattern People,