When you hear the word “trend,” what pops into your mind? For many people, it’s probably something like a slice of avocado toast, says Andrea Bell, the director of consumer insights and executive editor, Americas at WGSN. But for WGSN, trends are serious business. The company identifies the next big thing before it’s obvious, thereby helping clients in industries such as fashion, beauty, and retail to understand what their customers want right now, and might want tomorrow.
At a Fast Company Innovation Festival session on Tuesday morning, Bell and other WGSN staffers gave attendees a behind-the-scenes look at the trendspotting game.
Bell described trends as a combination of “math and magic,” and said that they’re explained by factors that are a lot deeper than mere trendiness. One of the examples she gave was the rise of athleisure wear–which you might assume became popular in the last few years because people who are into fitness like wearing clothes that are casual and comfortable. Even if all you’re doing is wearing yoga pants to work.
But the real origins of the athleisure trend, Bell said, date to the body-image ideals of the fashion world earlier this century. By 2007, WGSN saw athletic wear as a possible trend in the making. Then came the financial crisis of 2008, which led to a new preference for “stealth wealth.” Rather than indulging in flashy luxury items, Bell said, “people…wanted it to be seen they were going to the gym and juicing.”
By 2010, stealth wealth had morphed into a general “anti-hedonism” sentiment among millennials. And in 2011, the fashion business embraced athletic wear, fulfilling the vision that WGSN had anticipated a few years earlier. Since then, it’s not only grown even more mainstream but also spun off sub-trends such as doggy athleisure.
Trends, Bell emphasized, have life cycles–starting with “early adopters” and ending in “death or hibernation.” Athleisure is neither dead nor hibernating. But “there’s already an anti-wellness trend happening,” she said—including such kinda-healthy, kinda-unhealthy pursuits as drunk yoga and New York City’s pizza run.
Does that mean that the next big trend clothing trend is frumpy, sloppy wear? If so, WGSN’s paying clients may be among the first to know.