The New Fashion Society reports the convention 'History and Future in Fashion Prediction'.
On the 17th of October, fashion scholars, industry professionals, students and fashion lovers gathered in the Erasmus University to explore different forms and the evolution of Fashion Prediction worldwide since the interwar period. Fashion Prediction was and is exercised in different ways and by different institutions: consulting companies, trade fairs, department stores, dedicated divisions in major companies, and more recently, bloggers and internet trendsetting companies.
The conference , organized by Ben Wubs and Thierry Maillet, was introduced with emerging issues of this trillion dollar industry that employs millions of people and has impact on billions of people around the world on a daily basis. What is the business model behind fashion industry? How is fashion organized and who are the actors? Already in 1924, the world understood that the success lies in the ability to predict the trends and predict them accurately.
Prof. Dr. Regina Blaszczyk from University of Leeds and HERA introduced the history of fashion prediction and current research on the topic. The importance lies into looking beyond the fashion icons and the heroes of the 20th century, how fashion business was working, who was working behind the scenes and to rethink the fashion system around the supply chain. As Prof. Blaszczyk explores in her book, The Color Revolution, the history began with the chemical revolution and ability to create fabrics that don’t fade. The French recognized the potential and created the so called color cards to manage the boom of the new colors. However, during and after World War I the cards were unobtainable and the American fashion industry was hopeless, until the arrival of Margaret Hayden Roke. She was America’s first professional color forecaster. She was responsible for monthly newsletters, color bulletins and publishing forecasts to help her male colleagues in manufacturing and retailing understand what women expected of fashion. Subsequently, other forecasting pioneers were born, such as Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, and Miss Tobé, the founder of trend forecasting Tobé reports.
The trend forecasting became even more important after World War II. Nelly Rodi, founder of NR Agency in Paris, was kind enough to share her story and experiences as a trend forecaster and the beginning of such a profession. She believes that the key of fashion is color and fabric. With that in mind, the importance of two prominent tradeshows were presented. Tradeshows were and still are one of the most important market places, where professionals and fashion lovers come to be inspired in future trends of diverse colors and materials. It is worth mentioning that the two most important tradeshows in the history are: Première Vision and Interstoff. Prof. Dr. Francesca Golfetto and Dr. Diego Rinallo talked about the beginnings and the reasons for success of Première Vision. Ornella Bignami from Elementi Moda, Milano gave the audience more insights into the history of the former most prominent tradeshow Interstoff and its changing role from 1990 to today.
The creativity of designers is endless, and as mentioned before the tradeshows provide countless of inspirations year after year. But what if it’s not enough? Should designers look back and let the history inspire them? The answer is yes. The Fashion Curator Ninke Bloemberg stated that in order to predict, we need to look into the past. Museums are hidden treasures with huge amounts of inspirational materials. One of such a treasures is FIT Library’s Special Collections and Archives. Head of this Specials Collections and Archives Karen Trivette Cannell MLS shared some of the unique collections including examples of past Tobí reports.
New York, Paris, London and Milan are the fashion capitals and synonyms of the latest and future trends. Would you think of Amsterdam as the future of fashion prediction? Maybe your answer is no, but the Director HTNK Mariette Hoitink proved us wrong. As a result of Amsterdam being the hub-cluster for the worldwide denim industry, the project ‘The House of Denim’ started. The House of Denim is a platform for craftsmanship & innovation in the Denim Industry. Through the development of education, innovation, enterprise and networking projects, their mission is to make the world of jeans more sustainable and to inspire the denim professionals. You can find more information about The House of Denim project in the coming blog post.
Speaking of a different approach, Creative Director at Vlisco, Roger Gerards, presented how his idea “beyond prediction” succeeded in Africa. Appreciating the past and craftsmanship, focusing on quality materials and connecting with customers are key methods in how to predict and how to succeed in the future. Tets Kimura Ma. explained to us Uniglo’s alternative approach to global fast fashion. The trend is to focus on quality rather than endless searching for new trends.
So where is the future of fashion prediction heading? Trend forecasting is a political process, as a group of people decides on the trends that should be followed. The globalization of fashion industry is changing the tactics. Low cost Eastern countries are used for manufacturing and production and the Western world creates the influence. But the economy is not the only element of change. Digitalization and the online world play an important role as well. WGSN, an online trend forecasting organization, is revolutionizing the way how designers work. Their extensive database holds tons of visual inspiration and workspace for designers to create and transfer the ideas to manufacturers. As Cher Potter from V&A, London indicated “we didn’t predict the future, we created the future”.
“Fashion is a change, without a change there would be no fashion” Elizabeth Wilson
By Andrea Houbova,
The New Fashion Society.
Photo credits to Dennis Wisse.