Forecasting Future Fashions; Joanna Feeley Is Founder and Creative Director at Trend Bible, the Only Trend Forecasting Agency in the North of England. Feeley Set Up the Company in 2007 and Has Established a Global Client Base. Here She Explains the Mysteries of Trend Forecasting

Article excerpt

CALL it what you will - trend forecasting, insight, futurology - looking to the future has never been more important. And with the trend forecasting industry worth an estimated PS36bn and growing fast, it is strategists, designers and marketers that turn to forecasting specialists for guidance on how to generate products and messages that connect with future audiences.

During times of economic hardship, brands, manufacturers and retailers are increasingly anxious about getting their product ranges and marketing messages exactly right. Having shelves full of products that don't sell is simply not an option in today's precarious financial climate.

And it's not just the pressure of getting the right products, in the right colours - timing is everything in trend forecasting. These decisions, which quite often equate to millions of pounds worth of stock, weigh heavy on the shoulders of head office teams in some of the world's biggest and best brands.

Making these decisions alone is risky, the tendency to rely on personal taste or what worked well previously, more so. And so these design professionals underpin their decisions with advice and guidance from trend analysts who bring a broad range of research and inspiration, steering companies to make sound commercial decisions.

So it's easy to understand the "why" of forecasting, but less obvious is the question we get asked the most: "how?" Today, there are around 2,000 trend forecasting agencies worldwide.

And while there are some disciplines that unite them, there are numerous approaches. Different industries have different requirements; the fashion industry for the most part still takes influence from the twice-yearly catwalk collections and works just 12 months ahead, whilst architects look at how citizens use and interact with space and materials.

With a lead time of 18 months to two years, home and interior trends are forecast further out than the fashion industry, due to the development and sampling of hard goods like furniture and the increased complexity of co-ordinating cross-substrate ranges that can include plastic, metal, wood and fabric.

At Trend Bible, we have our own tried and tested process and methodology.

Despite having a strong gut instinct about what we think will influence design and colour trends, it's vital we begin with sound reasoning.

Multi-national brands cannot make decisions based purely on our instinct, so rigorous research is the foundation of our forecasts.

From big-picture "macro" trend drivers, such as social change, government policy and demographic shifts through to cultural events, art and literature, we build a picture of the future so that our clients can understand the context within which their products will exist in two, three or even five years time. We invite a panel of thought-leaders - from anthropologists and scientists to colourists and designers - to share their ideas for the future with us.

Our instincts, while valuable in themselves, undergo a scrutiny, a cross-examination, where we put ourselves in our customers' shoes and sense check the commercial viability of every single theme, print and colour. …

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