Forecasting Fashion Trends – A Step-by-Step Guide

We hear a lot about trend forecasting in fashion, and the term can be quite perplexing for newcomers to the field and seasoned professionals alike who haven’t cultivated the skill. We’re not talking about your morning weather projection, “cloudy with a chance of crop tops” forecast! Trend forecasting is all about using a balance of information from the past and information about the future to predict what is to come.

Trend prediction is the first step in a number of retail roles, such as fashion buyers and merchandisers who frequently refer to sales analyses from the past to project and budget for the future. They often work on several seasons at a time, and trend forecasting is how they stay ahead of the curve. For fashion designers, forecasting trends is required to pull inspiration and ensure they produce collections that speak to their consumers at the right time, maximizing their potential of profitability. Fashion students can equally use this method in their research and to learn the history behind today’s industry.

There is a science behind trend forecasting. With these three simple steps and a little practice, you, too, can incorporate this useful technique into your professional or academic toolbox!

  1. Study Past Trends

The fashion sector operates in cycles, the most evident form being the seasonal cycle between fall, winter, spring and summer. With each cycle comes a different set of styles. The same is true when we think about fashion across different eras! What was worn during the ‘80s came and passed, then came back again! Think high-waisted jeans, high-cut swimwear, bold-coloured monochromatic ensembles. When we compare the past to the present, we’re able to really see how a trend develops over time.

To put this into practice, you have to know exactly what trend you are looking at. Take today’s average t-shirt for example. The now wardrobe basic was first sported by the lower-class labourers after World War 2, and the style was later adopted by the upper-class, mimicked across genders and age groups.

  1. Fad, Fashion or Staple?

Today, the t-shirt comes in a variety of fits, crops, necklines, sleeve lengths, etc. As you conduct your forecast research, it’s important to cross examine past trends with current patterns in consumer behaviour. Examine in which contexts there was a trend resurgence. Try to determine if the trend stood the test of time, if it has ascended into the ranks of high-fashion, or if it’s more of a fad.

There are a number of ways to approach trend research. Social media is an excellent way to see how consumers and brands are incorporating and responding to fashion tendencies. With competitive shopping, also known as comp shopping, you can visit various retailers to identify how they comparatively market and sell the trend in question. If you are really dedicated, you could even travel to the place where the trend originated in order to get a true sense of its origins and how it has been integrated cross-culturally. However, many opt for a more simplified approach by subscribing to trend agencies like WGSN, Stylus, and Fashion Snoops who deliver reports directly to their inbox.

  1. Predict Future Trends

By now, you are equipped to formulate a well-informed hypothesis as to what is catching on and what is falling off to allow you to strategize accordingly. Whether you are using data from trend reports supplied by agencies or your own research, there are some things to note when it comes to trend analysis.

Tracking macro trends is extremely important in order to have a big picture view of where the market is at right now and where it’s headed. Keep in mind these mainstream trends are also quite predictable and often do not offer much innovation! Micro trends – those that are unknown or specific to the sub-cultures of society – are equally important to monitor because sooner or later, they may become the it thing. If you’ve done the homework, these new tendencies will be an opportunity for you to execute on them, giving you a competitive edge when it comes to landing a fashion job or moving up the ladder into a new position in the industry.


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Anita Hosanna is a freelance fashion stylist and creative consultant with a love for community, fashion journalism and fashion tech.

Feature Image: Adobe