How companies predict fashion trends and kill individuality | Mahir Can Işik | TED Institute


okay let's talk about clothes your

clothes the ones you are wearing right

now and ones you will be wearing in the

future do you know if you'll be looking

for an oversized padded jacket over the

next 12 months how about your desperate

search for the perfect yellow dress in

the next two years or your need for an

all black sneaker 5 years from now who

knows right well they know trend

forecasters by doing vigorous research

and examine mountains of curated data

and with a whole lot of pixie dust

trance forecasters understand what we

want even before we know we want it so

what is transfer gassing really I was

actually fascinated to find out that the

concept of camp forecasting was

originally born in the 1930s in a

farming area in Iowa a group of

researchers were studying how innovation

spread across two separate agricultural

communities the first farmers to use the

new methods were the smallest group but

compared to others they were highly

educated and they owned the bigger lens

their methods eventually spread across

the area to the early adopters and then

to the rest of the community these

researchers were in fact the first ones

to successfully trace the link between

finding the best possible future

practice in a particular field and

offering it to the rest of the world now

well at first glance this does sound

like a very effective tool to use on all

kinds of contexts from agriculture to

construction to food and of course to

fashion well I am a fashion buyer by

profession and I have to tell you trend

forecasting in fashion is absolutely


bear with me you know what that's not

even call it trend forecasting because

trend creation is what it really is

look data is awesome research love it

information is a great friend to hell by

your side in any business I mean who

would want a warehouse full of the

latest thing that no one bought right

well we've had a lot of huge hits in

fashion before it got this much infused

with data-driven forecasts and quite

frankly those hits carried a whole lot

of misses as well and eventually

businesses craved predictability and the

byproduct of that predictability in

fashion is now sadly the death of

individuality and the birth of a parody

now check this out in 2014 this whole

trend creation business was put to test

by an art firms parody report the parody

was based on a deliberately playing

trend and the loop was focused on a lack

of characteristics the paradis were so

ingenious that they even built it into

the name norm core the core of normal

which is quite the opposite of what you

would expect from fashion right well the

norm core look was established by

unbranded sweat pants jeans simple tees


whites for socks in a sneaker and style

items were picked up deliberately as non

fashionable people as well I'm talking

the likes of Steve Jobs Jerry Seinfeld

even everyone's favorite that figure

Homer Simpson

while soon after the release of this

parody report displaying normcore look

was picked up by almost every major

agency and was introduced as the fresh

new thing and it worked

norm core became an actual thing on top

of that the term normcore was rewarded

the second place in Oxford's word of the


look this parody solidifies the proof

behind the argument that these agencies

they're not forecasting anything they're

not pretending to see the future they

are the ones creating the future well

today one trend creation agency can

cause fashion brands upwards of tens of

thousands of dollars in annual

subscription fees in return

they claim to be able to tell textiles

materials and colors of the trans up to

two years in advance it means that what

all of us are wearing today was

forecasted years before we decided to

buy fashion today is so reliant on these

predictions that the true creativity

newness and imagination that is supposed

to be implemented by the designers

themselves are becoming absolutely

relevant now do me a favor and think

about your favorite dress from Armani

that you bought last spring that bluish

black Levi's denim jacket you love

because it goes well with your suede

Chelsea boots they were not borne by the

creativity that the fashion industry was

built upon they came out of a calculated

prediction that was engineered by an

agency and was put on a piece of paper

our favorite designers they just

followed suit better yet what if I told

you that more than 12,000 brands are

getting their forecasts from the same

agency well as the marketing guru faith

popcorn once said there are no such

things as predictions that are wrong

there are only predictions that haven't

been right yet so as long as the fashion

industry accepts these predictions as

facts wouldn't be obvious that what is

written on that piece of paper is going

to become the norm

while these trans creation agencies have

now become for fashion what Bloomberg is

essentially for Investment Banking I

mean it's that much cackling well when

you talk pure numbers this strategy

should work but fashion is an art form

it is about excitement human interaction

touching our hearts and desires it's

about self-expression a physical

embodiment of what we portray ourselves

as when you think about the fashion

world of the 50s 60s what do you see

you'd imagine a balcony in Paris maybe

la exciting Italy an apartment in London

overlooking the Royal Opera House well

today these trend Watchers spend their

day sifting through your Instagram posts

they're going over your blogs they're

following you around in the streets in

events and concerts and venues exactly

like doin right now just to find the

next big thing and if an agency tells

all those brands that a certain trend is

going to be big the brands will use all

their efforts towards making it big all

right it's time for a little confession

I get why we're doing this and I am a

part of it as well fashion buyers like

me use these prediction reports to

bulletproof our selection pitches to the

upper management's if the paper says

orange pekoe we pitch orange pickles the

industry is now swinging on the spiral

of self-assurance and no one is asking

if this is the right environment that

will give birth to new ideas new designs

new works of art which will elevate the

business bring back the excitement and

eventually protect the future of

individuality but do not lose hope the

solution actually lives within the

problem slowly but surely we are

experiencing the inevitable change the

brands that are solely reliant on these

prediction reports are becoming dull and

highly predictable the young reinvented

unpredictable creative innovative minds

who conquer all others and deconstruct

what is considered to be the norm so we

all of us as individuals must stand

behind the new the bold and the brave

the child too young to understand the

desirability of Keeping Up pretense will

cry out that the Emperor isn't wearing

an orange peacoat this season or the

next the Emperor is actually wearing

nothing at all and the cry will

hopefully be taken up by all of us thank