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Design & Style

Fashion Trend Forecasting: How Brands Predict New Styles

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Sep 21, 2020 • 2 min read

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Tan France Teaches Style for Everyone

Where do new trends come from? Learn about the branch of the fashion industry that predicts trends of the future.

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Tan France Teaches Style for EveryoneTan France Teaches Style for Everyone

Queer Eye cohost Tan France breaks down the principles of great style, from building a capsule wardrobe to looking pulled together every day.

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What Are Fashion Trends?

Fashion trends are the popular styles of clothing and accessories at a particular moment in time. Microtrends such as tiny sunglasses and high-waisted denim cycle in and out of fashion within a matter of months up to a few years. Macro trends change over a longer period of time and have more to do with lifestyle and demographic changes than the latest fashion designs.

What Is Trend Forecasting in Fashion?

Trend forecasting is a field that revolves around predicting the future of a market. Trend forecasters work in every industry, using data from past sales to anticipate future opportunities. Fashion forecasting is thus the field within the fashion industry concerned with predicting upcoming fashion trends—colors, styling techniques, fabric textures, and more—that will spark consumer demand. Fashion forecasters produce trend reports that product developers use to create new clothes and accessories for brands.

What Is Long-Term Trend Forecasting?

Long-term forecasting has to do with macro trends—major shifts in fashion that will be relevant for more than two years. These are the big-picture trends that define the fashion business, such as changes in demographics, lifestyle, and the way that clothes are made and sold.

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What Is Short-Term Trend Forecasting?

Short-term forecasting has to do with micro trends. Short-term forecasts change from season to season and typically have to do with color, style, and the influence of current events and pop culture.

5 Ways Fashion Brands Forecast Trends

The trend forecasting process is different for every brand. Womenswear brands, for example, are typically more invested in micro trend analysis than menswear brands because they usually put out more collections per year. Forecasting also depends on the size of the company and its target market, but there are several reliable ways brands forecast trends.

  1. With in-house trend forecasters: Large fast-fashion brands are often vertically integrated, meaning their trend forecasting is done in-house. This allows the fashion forecasters to work directly with product development teams to create new products.
  2. With a trend forecasting agency: Larger brands that aren't vertically integrated often turn to the expertise of trend forecasting agencies, which produce trend research reports for a fee.
  3. By going to fashion shows: Before the rise of the Internet, trend forecasters did most of their research at fashion shows, where they noted the most promising looks, and then brought that information from the catwalk to chain-store product developers and fashion magazines like Vogue. This is called "top-down" forecasting, and it has to do with the way fashion trends trickle down from haute couture runways to high street shops.
  4. By looking to influencers: Today, trend forecasters are more likely to look at influencers, street style, and blogs for information on the latest trends. This is called “bottom-up” forecasting, and it involves closely monitoring a target market to predict demand for future trends.
  5. By looking at other industries: Small independent fashion designers might stay away from trend forecasting altogether, instead creating mood boards based on art, film, and nature to inspire their unique collections.

Most trend forecasters rely on a combination of “top-down” and “bottom-up” forecasting, plus an intimate knowledge of the fashion scene and personal intuition to make predictions about the future of fashion.

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Want to Learn More About Unleashing Your Inner Fashionista?

Get a MasterClass All-Access Pass and let Tan France be your very own style spirit guide. Queer Eye’s fashion guru spills everything he knows about building a capsule collection, finding a signature look, understanding proportions, and more (including why it’s important to wear underwear to bed)—all in a soothing British accent, no less.

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