The Trendmakers: Behind the Scenes of the Global Fashion Industry

Author Jenny Lantz considers trends from an economic and cultural perspective to add to our knowledge of the complexities of the business of fashion. 

Since the 1940s, trends have helped fashion companies to plan their production and make sure that they will not be left without consumers, while fashion consumers have been informed of the direction in which to look for new fashion. All key players in the industry have benefited from this coordination, and the trend forecasters have capitalized on this very wish to coordinate, to reduce uncertainty.

With the advent of the internet, the trend service sector exploded. The trend forecasters are now able to offer their subscribers constant updates, which go hand in hand with the fast-paced production and distribution chains of today. The industry giant is a global company called WGSN.

The Wall Street Journal once named WGSN “Fashion’s secret weapon”. Many people are still unfamiliar with the trend forecasting industry and its scale. Trend forecasters tend to operate backstage, out of the public eye. They describe themselves as inspirational rather than directive. Yet, they offer downloadable patterns for everything from tops to trousers. The trend services present long-term trends, e.g., three years into the future, but also ‘close-to-season’, e.g., a few months into the future.

It is common practice among the trend forecasters to stress that they don’t influence trends, but only disseminate trends at a very early stage (and much earlier than fashion blogs, they say).

Naturally, the trend services do influence the fashion industry; their whole existence rests on the notion of being an “insurance company”. They point the industry in a certain direction. The trend-forecasting agencies’ consideration of the client’s designers and their unwillingness to challenge the client as the ‘true’ designer by signing confidential agreements reflect the relationships within the fashion field.

Today, the biggest companies have tens of thousands of users. In the 2010s, trend forecasting companies have expanded heavily into emerging markets. In China, a large amount of the clients are manufacturing companies that have or would like to start their own brands. Trend services provide them with instant fashion legitimacy, while they also constitute the basis of an escalating trend imperialism.

This is all happening at a time when others are speaking of the end of trends – and fashion. The Trendmakers: Behind the Scenes of the Global Fashion Industry captures other groups of professionals’ relationship with trends in the fashion industry.

Why do so many designers dislike the idea of trends? How can the proliferation of ‘the individual style’ discourse be understood? What influence does the financial markets have on the role of trends in the fashion industry? How are trends gendered?

Jenny Lantz attempts to get to the bottom of these questions in The Trendmakers: Behind the Scenes of the Global Fashion Industry, which is out now.