Marie-Michele Larivée

Trendsletter #18 - Ethical and sustainable fashion trend forecasting 🧑‍🤝‍🧑🌏

Published about 2 years ago • 4 min read

Hello Hello,

In honor of Fashion Revolution Week, I wanted to highlight and put in words some observations about the unsustainble and unethical pratices from the fashion trend forecasting industry that I've noted over the years.

This trendsletter will not mention NFTs, nor digital fashion, nor recall the latest companie who installs a buyback program or offers a new eco-conscious line. Nor are we talking about the sustainable trend, the popular green or brown. Nor are we talking about the eco-chic aesthetic that sells so well or the inherent minimalist ideas to sell even more. Instead, this trendsletter go deeper into the methodology aspects of researching trends that doesn't make sense - revealing flaws and possible improvements.

Little history

How did the industry end up there?

The fashion trend forecasting industry has its roots in textile manufacturers in Western history. It was in Lyon, France that was created a whole universe of forecasting, mainly on the trend colors of the next seasons.

En bref, textile manufacturers jointly agreed on a color palette to offer their customers. So everyone was a winner: the manufacturer knew which tones to put forward, the buyers knew which colors to expect. The situation has since evolved and accelerated to lead to a more complex and globalized world. Historically based on F/W S/S seasons, so twice a year only, in today's world became simultaneous reports -> 1001 times a year - I'm hardly exaggerating 😉.

The tools have also evolved from color fans between textile manufacturers and buyers to a panoply of tools to support the search for trends in the current situation, enough to get lost in it.

Manufacturing flaws

Over time, I have accumulated a lot of information on how the trend forecasting industry works, how quality control of analyzes is not on the same level as quality control of a piece of clothing. Here are some noted and fairly recurrent flaws that are found as practices in several of the information relayers mentioned above.

Flaws #1 - Unconsciousness. Who is responsible for ethical and sustainable choices? Society have often put the responsibility blame on consumers and a little more on companies lately, but what about the players at the start of the information transfer chain? Designers rely on accumulated information to develop collections, consumers buy clothes from this same collection. Becoming aware of your role as a relay of information is a crucial first step in putting forward ethical and sustainable initiatives.

Flaw #2 - A closed circle. In short, the flaw is to perpetuate that a professional is not in the know by not subscribing for service A or B or C. When the merchandise sold is information, companies and even competitors are led to believe that the organisation holds the sacred information. The trend forecasting industry is very secrative too. A proof: I get ask all the time how to get into the industry because people feel like they don't belong in this exclusive circle.

Flaw #3 - Quantifying trends. F/W&S/S + 4 subtrends, quantifying the inherent influences is the basis for trend forecasting in fashion. We also see heading like top 5 of the best trends or 15 trends not to be missed, which is super hard to quantify qualitative informations! Next year, pressure is on to respect the same number or even a higher number.

Flaw #4 - Research & employees concentrated in urban areas. Trend research teams are presented as worldwide views - with offices in: Paris, Milan, New York, London. Really? As if emerging trends were only concentrated in these 4 big cities. One of the remarks that I would add is that to proclaim oneself with eyes and ears around the world having just 2 offices in urban environments is not representative of the world. What about non-urban area? What about other area of the world?

Flaw #5 - Research focused on women aged 18-25 - Have you noticed? Young women are analyzed a lot, where men...? In the history of fashion trends and even in 2022 do we need to look back to one age and gender just to do research?

Flaw #6 - Obsession with new products. There are very few forward strategies on how to recover pieces from the 'past', other seasons (back to flaw #3). Concepts and new ideas are developed without taking into account the ecological impact of this quest for innovation at all costs. New New New

Flaw #7 - Futuristic flavored iconography. When we talk about imagery of the future, in addition to having images of youth (back to flaw #5), there are always neon lights not too far away and a VR headset somewhere. This was noted in multiple periodics and not only in fashion only. The unhuman feel of the future is a bias of future thinking in general partly due to sciphi movie establishing mental models.


I will stop here, however there are many many other flaws and to help you carry out ethical and sustainable trend research projects, I am putting together a checklist intended for fashion professionals interested in get an early copy?

Initiatives intéressantes

Plus durables et/ou éthiques qui changent le moule

🪡 Greenwash - an excellent story telling about brands and their level of greenwashing, an immersive experience.

🪡 Colour Hive - With their Mixmagazine which always comes back to the latest editions to see how it has evolved.

🪡 Circular manifesto of colour which puts into perspective what we should put forward as a professional and what consumers should expect for a more sustainable world

🪡 Future Resources by Lydia Caldana - a rallying point for womxn strategists, especially underrepresented profiles.

🪡 Rewilding Future Trend Forecasting by Geraldine Wharry and Trend Atelier or even all the initiatives put forward to review industry processes under the lens of a futurist activist.

🪡 The trend forecasting paradox - a thesis to understand all the lasting misunderstandings of the industry by Kara and Pauline two students from Sweedish school of textiles that I had the chance to receive to talk about their processes last year.

📹 I allow myself to submit a video where I mention what excites me, because it alines pretty well (FR)

Want to build an ethical and sustainable methodology? Lets talk :)


Marie-Michele Larivée

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