Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What's a trend anyway?

It was a few weeks back in time and it was just another morning on the tube. I was on the way to work, somewhat bored when I came across Metro. Browsing through the pages I spotted this article about the very cool fashion designer Mathew Williamsson. Unfortunately I'm not the proud owner of any of his garments but despite my relative ‘untrendyness’ I've still somehow grasped that he is übercool by the more eloquent fashionistas out there (the ones that somehow squeeze in thoughts about fashion into their lives = not me). Now, the thing that grabbed me with the article was not so much Mathew's sayings regarding fashion as such, but rather the things he said about trends. In his übercool way Mathew proclaimed that "trends are out" and he said something around 'modern women not buying into the idea of trends any longer since they rather focus on individuality and identifying their own style'. I don’t know how well these perspectives go down in the fashion industry, but his views somehow stayed with me over the last few weeks while I’ve had the opportunity to attend some trends seminars and read a few trend papers. Being updated on trends is part of the job of picking up 'new', fresh thoughts to guide and inspire innovation. And trends are also an important perspective to future-proof directions I already work on. But following Mathew W’s perspective and being fed all these 'trends' I'm trying to get my head around what I actually think about trends. So far I've come to the following conclusion: What we call trends are reflections of big shifts in human emotions linked to reality. And those emotions are in turn linked to shifts and changes in the world around us. In the higher steps of the hierarchy of needs our needs shifts little by little based on external stimulus. As needs shifts and people or companies witness this shift, we start to witness reactions. Some reactions are pure withdrawal ‘no it’s not happening’ or ‘no, it won’t affect my business’ or simply ‘it’s too frustrating to even think about it’. Others reactions are future focused and proactive. It’s those reactions that result in innovation – both breakthrough and incremental. So, to my view the so called trends that we so often refer to, are simply clusters of reflections of the innovations that are already occurring. And we are only able to create these clusters when the stream of innovation is so wide so it can actually be seen and synthesized. Which is actually when the trend and the change in people is already happening. Thus, my belief is that to fully understand trends and to understand how to capitalise on trends, one needs to start with mega shifts in the world and to start to extrapolate on those shifts to try to understand the impact they will have on human needs and human emotions both in the longer- and the shorter-term. Of course, it still makes a lot of sense to follow the ‘trend’ reflections synthesized in presenentations and power points, but be aware that they are ‘here and now’, already happening and soon in a store near you. So to be able to capitalize on them you need to act fast.