Q & As on Trend Forecasting and the Trend Process

A book like Anatomy of a Trend is not the final and definitive answer to all questions about the trend process. We have to look at it as a work still in progress. In this section I will answer questions about the content of the book and the trend process posted by readers if the question and answer are relevant to all readers. Press here to email a question or a comment.

The first three questions are some of the most frequently asked questions I get when talking about trends. These three questions are also answered in the book. but here I have made a point of making the answers as brief as possible..

Q: What is a trend?
Q: Who create new trends?
Q: Where will a new trend begin?
Q: How will a trend spread?
Q: How long times does a trend last?
Q: Can you predict what will become a new trend?
Q: What is trend sociology?
Q: What is the difference between a trend and a fad?
Q: Where do you look for trends?
Q: At what point can a change in style and taste be called a trend?
Q: What distinguishes someone who is just being different from someone who is
setting a trend?


Q: What is a trend?
A: A trend is a social process in which style or taste changes. This can be about changes in how we dress or what we eat or what we like to watch in television. There are different kinds of changes in style and taste. Some changes are short-lived and they are normally called fads. A lot of fashion changes are fads because they are only about one season or two. Some changes are long-lived and will end up being adopted by many people. And these changes are what I call trends. There is nothing “mysterious” about it and it never just happens “out of the blue”, though it may sometimes appear to be so. That it is a social process means it’s created by human beings.

Q: Who create new trends?
A: We call them trendsetters, and they are a distinct group because of their personality. There is such a thing as a trendsetter personality and it makes trendsetters crave changes from time to time. Because of this they are very open to new innovative styles and will be the first to take on what is new. There are many trendsetters in groups such as, for instance, designers, artists, and gay men.

Q: Where will a new trend begin?
A: Most trends start in large cities that have many trendsetters. In the United States there is an overrepresentation of trendsetters in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco. From there the trend will spread to the rest of the country. On a global scale there are seven cities that again and again influence style and taste all over the world because of the number of trendsetters living there. Besides the three American cities, the cities are London, Paris, Milan, and Tokyo.

Q: How will a trend spread?
A: The first step is that the new style or taste is accepted by many different trendsetters in groups such as designers, artists, young people, celebrities, wealthy people, and gay men. They go and mingle with other people who will observe the trendsetters and some of these people will copy the trendsetters. The trend process is a process of mingling, observing and copying that happen again and again between different groups of people, with the help of all kinds of different media, from magazines to Hollywood movies.

Q: How long times does a trend last?
A.: It takes years when many people's style or taste change. How long time will vary with how visible the object of change is. Hair styles change faster than underwear styles.

Q: Can you predict what will become a new trend?
A: Yes. All trends follow a certain pattern in their evolvement. When you know this pattern you can look for the pattern in connection with new changes in style and taste. If there are early signs that it is the trend process you will know how the rest of the process will evolve because the pattern is always the same. What is important to be aware of is the behaviour of a certain group of individuals – the ones that we normally call trendsetters. Trendsetters are the most open and curious individuals. They are much more innovative then the average person. It is their behaviour that we want to analyse in order to understand trends. We can get some help in that from the fact that there are many trendsetters in certain groups of people:

• Artists, like painters and composers
• Designers
• Gay men
• Performing artists, like actors
• Young people, under the age of 30
• Wealthy people

Of course, not all of these groups are trendsetters. But what we can look for are the ones who live in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Paris, Milan, and Tokyo. They are especially influential because trendsetters from around the country and in other parts of the world look to what goes on in these cities. With what I have said here we can already see some kind of pattern in who and where trends happen. And the more of this pattern that we can understand the better we can predict trends.

Q: What is trend sociology?
A: It is the study of the trend process. This study involves mostly sociology, but also psychology and communication and media science. Trend sociology is a hybrid discipline based on sociology because the understanding of how groups affect each other is the key to understanding the trend process.

Q: What is the difference between a trend and a fad?
A: A fad will affect few people in a short time. A trend will affect many people over a longer period of time.

Q: Where do you look for trends?
A: When you know the pattern behind trends, the best way to get to know actual trends is to go to places where you can observe the trendsetters. And if you do not have the chance to go and observe them, you observe the media that appeals to the trendsetters, which is something that we all can do – we can read magazines about design, we can read magazines about what goes on in New York or Los Angeles, and we can read magazines that are targeted at some of the groups that have an overrepresentation of trendsetters.

Q: At what point can a change in style and taste be called a trend?
A: When we can observe that the following takes place:

• The new trend has started as a reaction to what is mainstream
• Different kinds of trendsetters adopt the trend
• A high number of trendsetters adopt the trend
• The trend first emerges in a major city that is know to have many trendsetters
• The trend quickly spread to other cities that are known to have many trendsetters
• There is ongoing product and/or design development early in the trend process
• The products or style can be imitated or copied
• Many of the trendsetters’ media feature the trend in articles
• There is a connection between Hollywood movies and the trend.

Q: What distinguishes someone who is just being different from someone who is
setting a trend?

A: It is about personality. A trendsetter is someone who is constantly very curious about what is new and innovative. A trendsetter craves changes, so to speak. Someone who is different may not change his or her style at all, and then you are not a trendsetter. But you can be someone who inspires the trendsetters.