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Hunting for trends

4 November, 2010

Martin Lamothe's fashion show at Cibeles Madrid Fashion Week.

Their task: to observe and predict future market trends in order to anticipate and adapt brands and products. This is but one of the many definitions of coolhunting, also known as trendspotting. Although we have always been more or less aware of the concept, this activity is now gaining new importance in professions which study trends. “If you ask someone studying advertising what career he wants to pursue, nowadays he’ll tell you that he wants to be a coolhunter. Until recently, he would have told you he wanted to be a strategic planner, ” says’s Francesca Tur, who has many years of experience in the field—in direct contact with creators, new talent, and brands. She recently took place in a #capsula, a monthly meeting organized by Luna Disseny and Comuniza to strike up a dialogue about media topics.

According to Francesca, coolhunting goes beyond predicting future changes and trends in fashion or the culture of consumption to knowing how to communicate them and believing in them. But what makes something a trend? “The key is to starting moving on it a year in advance,” says Francesca. Although intuition plays a big role, the idea needs to be shaped, contextualized, and justified in order to attract attention. This behind-the-scenes work differentiates coolhunted ideas from hipster culture, where members often try to stand out with a cool accessory, but without a coherent underlying reason.

Every trend follows the innovation adoption curve, which Francesca explained via the example of Converse sneakers. “It all started when these mythical shoes showed up in the movie Marie Antoinette, written and directed by Sofia Coppola. The trendsetters—those people who are a step ahead of everyone else and who are willing to risk non-standard fashions—began to wear the shoes in their day-to-day life. They start the trend. Then, early adopters take on this trend as their own before it is embraced by the majority and becomes mainstream. This is all part of the natural process, continuing until a customized version of the product ends up in every shop in town.”

Current macro-trends

It all boils down to A, E, I, O, U. These five vowels explain current trends: authenticity, experience, information, off-time, and uniqueness. To these vowels, add N for nostalgia, which brings us back to the past. We see these in every business—whether a boutique, bookstore, or fast food restaurant—and they affect our daily lives. “Until recently, everyone bought their furniture at IKEA and their houses all looked the same, but now, we can reuse old furniture which belonged to our parents or grandparents and personalize our homes with our own styles, giving them a retro look which is both pleasant and welcoming,” explains Francesca.

The sociology of trends

The Gustavo Gili Publishing House recently released Guillaume Erner’s Sociología de las tendencias (The Sociology of Trends) as part of its GGmoda collection. The volume explains the recent history of this phenomenon, presenting the main theoretical approaches used to study trends. It also explains trend spreading mecanisms, key aspects for making predictions and how to use them, and the role played by style agencies.

This book could help us answer the question many of us have been asking: do businesses pick a direction for their future production and then steer consumers toward it, or do consumers determine what businesses should produce?

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