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Theory, TRENDS

The 5 Basics of Trend Prediction

So to start the journey of learning how to predict trends, we should always start with the basics. Trend prediction really relies on 5 things that combine together to produce an overall trend per season:

  • Colour
  • Themes
  • Shapes
  • Key Events or Social Movements
  • Social Customs or Target Market.

Each of them can be predicted in their own right for their own level of ‘trend’ and do require some research. They will also be effected by the output you intend the trend to be used for. So for example colours will vary between denim and knitwear due to the process of dying the source fabric or yarn.  Or with the product itself from fashion to home interiors and into furniture and product design.

With many of them, they also intermingle or are determined by one or many of the other factors. So let’s cover each one briefly.

Douglas HannantCOLOUR:

Colours are dependant somewhat on the trend theme it is accompanying. It’s very unlikely for example, to have a luminous pink if the theme is based around neutrals and tranquillity. There are of course exceptions where designers will take an extremely contrasting colour and use it as a highlight, but this is usually a choice made by a designer for their market and not part of the trend itself.

Colours are generally determined by what’s called a ‘move on’ from a previous season. Themes and colours will show up in a few shows in one season and moves on to become a key colour the following season and then move on again to fit the season after maybe deepening or being used as a strong highlight colour only

Marie Claire Italia March 2011 bTHEMES:

Themes are the key element of design and predicting trends. Like colour they have a ‘move on’ system generally moving through 3-4 seasons worth of design. They start as a small idea with one designer then again move on like colours fading in, becoming popular and then fading out again.

Colours are usually closely tied with the theme, but this is reserved for the ‘popular’ season and once that is over as the themes fade out, the colours change and become completely different or the theme moves on and is mixed with other elements to become a new theme.

A theme can cover all types of areas. It can be a particular fabric like lace, use a cultural reference like Spanish influences. It can be a feeling or mood, a person’s character,  a type of clothing like sport, a reference to a particular time like the 50’s or school girl. The possibilities are endless and can quite often start as a pure idea and then move on into the next season with further influences or adding another theme to it to produce something new.


These generally respond to the themes themselves. For example if a 50’s theme was coming through you could bet that a 50’s full skirt and twinset would be in there somewhere too. However the key shapes of a season can have such an influence that they become a trend in their own right and will be used across all types of colours and visual themes.

The shape can also refer to the cut of a garment. For example if the idea of a’boyfriend shirt’ was popular, you could determine depending on the overall theme that it fit into, if it was going to be a boxy shape or feminine shape. Quite literally how the garment is ‘cut’. Often though, shape can refer to just a sleeve type or skirt shape. Some larger component of the overall garment. Sometimes even particular details like a pocket, neckline or cuff can also be included here as an even smaller component of the garment.


A smaller part of trend prediction although an important one is the idea of key events or social movements. In the way that many trends can ‘trickle down’ there is also the possibility for it to ‘trickle up’ too. A large sporting event can influence themes, shapes or colours for a particular season.

If you looked at the Royal Wedding for Kate Middleton and Prince William, over the following year, the increase of high necked lace wedding dresses increased by over 80% and even into people asking boutiques for that precise Alexander McQuren dress or their version of it.

Similarly when the economy started to push everyone’s pocket and there was a social moment to ‘make do and mend’ designers started taking an interest in a more handmade look, with some like Chanel even going s far as to patchwork an entire collection.

The events area of trends can be anything from a key film for the year to a political event. This part will require some research into future events. It can influence themes, colours and even shapes or particular garment types. When The Lord of the Rings film wa released, the same year saw a shift into lightweight fabrics in long flowing dresses similar to that of Galadriel. Black Swan influenced a full season of ballet inspired clothes and soft sportswear trends.


Now probably the most specific and smallest contributing factor to trend prediction itself is that of the social customs and target market, however in terms of producing your own trends or delivering your ideas to a group of people, this area is all about tweaking the themes you have to the people you are presenting or selling to and it should never be underestimated.

For example if social customs dictate that a particular skirt length is not appropriate, you wouldn’t promote the mini skirts of the 60’s, but you would adapt the theme to fit and use maybe a more baby doll shape or maxi which would both include the trend and cover your market and social customs.

If you look at the catwalks each season you’ll notice the recurring themes across each of the individual cities. for example, London is definitely the most individual city, with various collections of colours and prints. Milan is the most brightly coloured and defiantly the most provocative.

This also works across colours too. If you know that particular colours are not very popular with your group, then these can be tweaked to be more favourable.

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5 thoughts on “The 5 Basics of Trend Prediction

  1. Thank you! It’s so difficult to find info about trend forecasting, unless you actually work in the industry.

    Posted by anaopp | April 27, 2013, 9:16 pm
    • You are more than welcome. I work in design so I have the experience in prediction but like you I found it hard to find any help when I started out. I’m so glad you’re finding the information useful. X

      Posted by vickytrends | April 28, 2013, 2:32 am


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