The future of trend prediction
Beyond this amusing tautology, the forecasting experts are triggering a fundamental reflection on their role and their future in post COVID society.
These particular moments that we all experience question us on many subjects, from the most trivial to the most metaphysical. What do we do with our job, will our daily life change a little or a lot, can we go on vacation this summer? But also, what role do we hold in society, what is our social utility, and what project for tomorrow ... or just now? Everything is sifted through, shattered to the point of obsession, as when a word is repeated over and over until it becomes meaningless. Thoughts go around in circles and come up against a new reality: the absence of a predictable future.
The question is particularly tapping for those who have spent their professional life studying trends, breathing the air of time to detect signals transformable into product decisions, anticipating the needs of the market by intuition. These prediction trades had recently been rationalized thanks to the machines which make it possible to devour Terabit in the blink of an eye and to anticipate the needs of the market.
The methodology developed by the trend forecasting companies was born almost at the same time as the ready-to-wear and even if they are no longer the only source of trends, the fashion system is based on this predictive model: open your eyes and ears, anticipate, plan, convince. What was before inspired from gurus' intuitions and flashes is now post-rationalized. The increasingly minimal risk-taking is relying to quantitative studies, marketing methodologies and this famous artificial intelligence that was going to - it was sure - lead us by the nose thanks to the mass surveillance to which we submit daily, in largely consenting victims.
This artificial intelligence, what object are we going to assign to it now? Continue to increase sales? Fill product vacancy boxes at any cost? Continue to force-feed a not hungry person? How do you tell a machine, as intelligent as it is, that the world has changed in a month? Not only the data, the figures, but the human psychology that governs our desires and our aspirations, these most elusive data that make us do and think the opposite of what we were doing and thinking a few weeks ago. To understand the human spirit in its most tortuous and subtle dimension, and moreover, a terra incognita in the face of a new situation.
Is the future still readable? Should we get back on track and make our method of “divination” work imperturbably by trusting ourselves and saying that the predictions will come true in the more or less long term. After all, this is our business and what we plan for, is what makes it real.
And yet, this future seems vain. Should we change the paradigm in our styling and trendy professions, another profession that we need to invent?
Creativity can be repositioned in processes as well as in aesthetics.
Of course, no one can believe that an ugly-but-good-for-the-planet product can win the battle. Design must not only be at the root of the product but it must broaden its scope of influence. Tomorrow the process, the production chain, the "how" will be the creative part of design. Creativity has no skill borders.
Of course we are conditioned to consider creative people as "useful" artist, a being a little above ground, a dreamer who brings the extra soul to the product, who decides on its color - we let it do, it is not that important! But creativity is universal, it is a more or less exercised and flexible human capacity - like a muscle - and we need it to think not only the color and all the sensory data of the product that we know essential, but also to think the making. We need it now.
Not in 2 years.
Yes, our responsibility as design consultant, trend forecaster or teacher is to humbly put ourselves at the service of the concrete side and to bring our capacity for abstraction to it.
The concrete thing is the production chain, not to control it but to include it in the creative process as well as the choice of color or shape. It means thinking about proximity, both in time and in geography, and freeing ourselves from the multilayered calendars that we have helped drive crazy. It is knowing how to give up with good grace and with a smile to ideas that are important to us, if they are not feasible or are the cause of environmental damage. It is to get rid of Pavlovian reflexes rejecting the factory and its workers on the side of the hidden side of production, a bit dirty, not interesting or contemptuous of the dematerialized design technologies on the side of the geeks-who-will-stole-us-our-creative-work.
The future of design is collective, the product of a team more than an individual as talented as he is. Fashion must find its reason for being and fully assume its political and social dimension to reinvent itself and regain its pride, its reason for being in the world.
No, sustainable and de-seasonal are not anti-fashion! Constantly creating something new, reinventing each season, carefully avoiding repeating or repeating: we are all aware of nonsense. What matters is what we create now, for whom and why.
It is up to us to prove it and break the dead ends of frenzied renewal and overproduction and to campaign for long desirable products, which are loaded with endless history (s).