Fashion 101: Fashion Forecasting

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by Paige Schultz, Fashion Writer

Juicy Track Suit 01

What do shoulder pads, harem pants, Juicy Couture tracksuits and Uggs have in common? All are fashion scars of the past: trends that existed, but really shouldn’t have in the first place.

So how on earth did they become so damn popular?

“Beats me.”

To begin solving this trend riddle, allow me to channel Michael Kors. The well-known and successful designer once said that “fashion used to come from one source at a time, be it the street, the runways or the entertainment business. The interesting thing about today is that influences come from high and low – everything from couture to Target.”

Through “Fashion 101,” we have already discussed the significance of the runway; by referencing “Street Smart,” we can understand the influence of street style; and through tabloids, as well as shows like Fashion Police, we can understand the impact of those in the entertainment industry. However, the process through which something becomes a trend is much more complex than the mere inspirational sum of a few outlets. In fact, the process begins long before trends are even represented by these sources.

Shoulder Pads
“Everything begins with me.”

Thus, let me to introduce you to the profession of fashion forecasting. Like weather forecasters, these fashion mavens are responsible for predicting trends. They are the individuals who detect the original epicenter of trends, noting emerging concepts in fashion before they hit the runways. Upon identifying these concepts, they forward this information to other forecasters, product developers, marketers, the press, and eventually, us.

Yet fashion forecasting consists of much more than simply taking a guess as to what will be “in” and “out.” With an ultimate goal to predict the colors, fabrics and styles that will be presented on both the runways and in stores for upcoming seasons, these trend chasers are responsible for analyzing all levels of the fashion industry, including haute couture, ready-to-wear, mass market and street style. By identifying sources, underlying patterns, directions and tempos, forecasters attempt to project past trends into the future and anticipate imminent fashion developments.

Harem Pants 01

However, fashion forecasters are most crucially present in the industry for the purpose of attracting consumers and helping retail businesses and designers market their brands.

In order to do this, fashion forecasters use strategic techniques to determine target markets, methods known as fashion and consumer scanning. Fashion scanning focuses mainly on color, textiles and style predictions, and involves following the latest news in fashion in order to spot emerging fashion and lifestyle trends. In executing a consumer scan, forecasters attempt to identify clusters of people who share similar characteristics. These characteristics are then usually combined with demographics, lifestyle and attitudes, and are used to better understand consumer behavior.

People watching is also a crucial science.

From this research, forecasters present their conclusions to product developers, who then create seasonal collections specifically targeted for their respective markets. These collections are typically based on a specific theme, usually linked to a color, fabric or story, and are taken on by designers who determine the styles, silhouettes, colors, garments and overall moods for their lines. These collections are then presented on the runway and, well, you know what happens from there.

Thus, fashion trends don’t just happen – they are strategically planned. But even with all this work, fashion forecasting can go awry; after all, like weather forecasters, they can make predictions that aren’t always the best. Unfortunately, blunders are bound to occur every once in a while, but for my sake and yours I’ll be crossing my fingers that Juicy Couture tracksuits don’t attempt a comeback any time soon. Just saying.

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