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The secret behind the next big thing

Source: John and Pearl

Author: Julie Macauley

From slouch socks to biker jackets, the things we wear create vivid memories of a place and a time.

Trends give every generation a shared culture. Trends can define an era. But how organic is trend development in the internet age? We take a look at where trends come from and the risks designers face in being different.

Forecasters and trend agencies gather data on everything: social patterns, musical taste, even political mood. They produce packs of information to help companies predict the desires of tomorrow’s consumer.The last few years have seen the return of minimalism, simplicity and functionality in design for fashion. As we pointed out here, it is no suprise that this has coincided with recession and austerity.

Trend forecasters work on trends years in advance of the seasons we shop in. They suggest everything from macro ‘themes’ right down to specific items that will be worth investing design time in.Where do you see the results?

Well, when you are in H+M and you see similar themes and items on their rails re-told in variations in other high street stores, you know that those trend directions are likely to have come from the same source.

ALL THE SAME THINGSTrend forecasting has always been a secretive subject (oops). Many designers and brands using these services prefer not to disclose that they have subscriptions to avoid being accused of being un-creative and lazy about research.

WGSN, one of the global leaders in trend forecasting, offer free service access for students, but for independent designers and small brands it is mostly unaffordable, with packages starting from around £9.5k per year.

It means that the services are only affordable for brands with more resources to spend on research and, maybe, less desire to experiment. It means that as a whole the industry takes fewer risks. 

TO FOLLOW, OR LEAD?Relying too heavily on trends to direct design can lead to a collection of fairly boring things that you can’t really get behind and believe in as a designer. You end up with interpretations of the same thing reimagined by everyone else around you.

But it is also impossible to completely ignore significant trends. Inspiration comes from being submerged in culture and influenced even by things we can’t immediately recognise as inspirations. Even truly ‘original’ ideas are born via a complex and unknowable set of impressions on the designer.I don’t feel compelled to follow the forecasts. I find that they can inhibit creativity and experiments that can push designs forward. Better to produce something interesting and unusual than boring jewellery.

I do, however, like to know roughly what to expect from the year ahead. Not to be guided by trends, but to use them as a tool to negotiate the market better. For instance, designing layered pendants when 70s bohemia is an emerging trend makes sense. Fad trends will drift in and out and are fun, but are best left to the high street to deal with (metallic tattoo jewellery anyone?).Stay tuned to see our design work in progress from the work bench on Instagram and say hi at @johnandpearl

Don’t forget to visit: johnandpearl.co.uk