As in any industry, having the ability to predict trends and seize on them in a commercially effective way is a huge component of success in any given season in the fashion industry. Part art, part science, fashion forecasting takes what is known and combines it with what could be in the hopes of painting a picture of the near-term industry.
Whole lines don’t develop themselves, and they certainly don’t come out of anywhere. Each fashion season is unique and yet somehow builds upon those that have come before. Critical to the viability of the seasonal look but also for the validity of a brand as a whole, fashion forecasters make sure that the company is both on the cutting-edge of the industry’s trends while also staying in step with current tastes and movements.
How does one build up their resume to become a fashion forecaster?
It not only takes years of experience, but also some very specific education as well. You see, fashion forecasters don’t just focus on the industry itself. They have to look abroad to other segments for inspiration as well. This also helps with forecasting general trends and incorporating them into the fashion line. Other industries include automotive design, home interior and exterior trends, as well as currently popular products in film, music, and television. But fashion forecasters also have a solid foundation and knowledge of what has already happened. This means previous trends and older pieces could come back into vogue if it fits the time or you could even get some elegant and inspired fusions of multiple inspirations.
Fashion forecasters determine what colors will be hot, what fabrics should be used, what prints and graphics will be relevant, and even what kind of hairstyles and grooming standards models should convey. And this fashion forecasting isn’t just something that mass-market companies do in the fashion industry. Haute couture and runway collections also use these same inferences in dreaming up their often wild and extravagant designs. As you can probably already tell, being a fashion forecaster is about an abundance of data – both historical and current – that has to be assimilated in a logical manner in order to inform the company’s designers.
Long-term and Short-term Fashion Forecasts
The primary difference that separates these two levels of forecasting is that the prior is more about shaping a general company vision for years to come whereas the secondary is about responding to current consumer needs and trends. The first one might sound like it is more complex than the latter but it is actually planning for the short fashion seasons that takes the most skill and foresight into the future of the industry.
Why? Because the long-term view can be adjusted and tweaked in mild ways that are relatively imperceptible to the consumer. You don’t really have this luxury with short-term fashion forecasting. After all, how do you think one designer stands out from another when there are so many collections on offer each season? They definitely try to answer the same questions posed by the current trends, but they’ve also got to stand out in compelling ways. In short, one form of forecasting is about creating and crafting a narrative whereas the other is the equivalent of a short action flick that needs to get as much attention as possible at the box office.
How do forecasters acquire their information?
Naturally, there is the historical aspect of the process which means that a fashion forecaster incorporates the past into the present as well as projecting it on into the future. Yet there is also a ton of data involved and this is seen as the future of the profession. In fact, there is so much data involved that fashion forecasting, in the short term, is as much an analytical exercise as anything else. This data could include purchases of previous items, competitors’ items, or even things like mentions on social media or “seen on the street” Instagram information.
For example, ZARA’s team uses cameras outside of their stores to monitor pedestrians as they go by during the day. In the company’s most prominent outlets in major cities like Paris and New York City, they use this to inform their choices about what to iterate on in their future fast-fashion collections. They can spot trends before they even emerge as a “big deal” or even create a trend based upon an idiosyncratic approach someone has taken on camera. In short, fashion forecasting in the modern era is about more than just gut sensation and is increasingly moving into the realms of hard science and data.
This makes the profession both dynamic and challenging. As one of those pressure points in the fashion industry that is under a lot of strain due to the changes of the market, fashion forecasting is also a lucrative and critically needed job. For you to succeed in it, you need to have business knowledge and key insights, which only a business degree in fashion and luxury can provide. All serious fashion lines employee teams of forecasters to help them navigate the future of the industry, and all serious fashion forecasters know how to use each and every single tool available to them out there. Requiring more than a keen eye for clothes and fashion, forecasting is something that can help determine the success of failure of a current line and even helps inform that marketing department about what directions to take in the future.
As fashion becomes more specialized and niche, fashion forecasting will also become granular to match the consumer’s needs for something more unique and tailored just to their needs. That’s a long way of saying that the prospects for fashion forecasting as a job are bright and we see companies enlisting more and more of their number in the future as the Internet allows smaller and more nimble houses to compete.