Work in fashion: What does a trend analyst do?
4 Dec 2019
How glamorous is a job in fashion really? Jobs in the fashion industry can be fascinating, but what hard work goes into them? That's why FashionUnited takes a look behind the scenes - sometimes literally - at interesting jobs in the industry. FashionUnited spoke to Christine Boland, who has been a trend analyst for 30 years.
How did you get into this line of work?
"After high school, I went to study psychology and in the end, that wasn't quite what I wanted. Then I went to fashion school. That was a three-year course in Amsterdam and then I gave myself a fourth one in which I did an internship at the styling department of de Bijenkorf. I then noticed that my fashion education and psychology came together: You have to be able to look ahead as a buyer and we had to advise buyers what to have in stores in a year's time. Then of course, you have to have a good story. The woman who was in charge of the department helped me and taught me how to zoom out. ‘What happens in the world and how does that affect what we want and what we like?’ My whole way of working is still based on the fact that design or fashion is the language of the time. So if you want to say something meaningful about that, you should first understand the times and only then will you learn to speak the language."
"In that sense, I taught myself. At school, I was already working on the 'why' behind the trends. The longer you do that, the further you can look ahead because you understand what people's emotions are and how design responds to them. Actually, predicting trends is mass psychology."
Can you turn off this thinking and go shopping like a normal person?
"I can do that, yes, but I have to say, it's second nature now. I just notice when an interesting word comes up and if I see something in the newspaper, I 'switch myself on'."
How would you describe your work?
"With my story and my analysis, I want to inspire people, but also give them insights and empowerment. I want to interpret and understand in a meaningful way what is happening and show it to people. My work has always been successful when the group or the individual I work with is inspired by what's to come. Which means that they know for themselves what they will do with it. Trends are everywhere, but you have to have an image of what you want to do with them and why."
What do you think are the most important skills a trend analyst should have?
"One has to be curious. One has to be able to look far and yet also be able to see connections. One has to be able to zoom out, but also be able to cultivate why something is like that down to the smallest details. Somewhere in between, a good story emerges."
What does a typical day look like for you?
"I always start by running with my dog. That's always a good beginning to the day. There is usually a presentation or an analysis on which I work. Sometimes I'm reading pieces and I get inspired, then I dive in there and a new slide emerges for my presentation. Other times, I go through my image database and it'll all go a little faster. I do a lot of research and visualize that. When I focus on fashion then I also have days where I work with Marijn Obertop. That's someone who has been doing analyses for specific fashion customers for years, for example for fabrics and colours. Then we look at colours the entire day, what difference is there compared to the last season and why."
"I have extremely different days. Sometimes, I just go to an exhibition to get some inspiration and of course, I travel a lot for my work. I also do a lot of consulting, so I'm also at company sites frequently. There you can hear and see things that you learn from and that make you think."
"I give lectures to inspire, but I also do consulting for companies, behind the scenes. We call it the consultancy card. It is good for four visits, and then you can slot me in wherever you want. Usually, it's about policy and strategy, but it's also about whether a company will publish an annual calendar. Or what colours should dominate in a store concept. That's something that gives me a lot of satisfaction. The company does its own thing, but I am a kind of inspirator once in a while. When giving a talk, one sends a certain message, but when you're working with someone, I have a lot of experience I can use."
On average, how long does it take you to prepare for a trend presentation?
"A long time really; you don't want to know how long. It takes 20, maybe even more, full working days. And that's work from two or three people. Once the big egg has been hatched and the presentation has been premiered, which is usually organised by Appletizer, then the preparation is only half a day away. I will then also present it at companies and see what to highlight at a particular firm or if there's anything else I need to find out."
"My working days range somewhere from nine in the morning and six o'clock in the evening, but sometimes I work half a day on a presentation and not a whole day. The 20 working days are spread over a period of six weeks. I also often walk the dog outside, without a telephone, and then I walk through the meadows and suddenly the penny drops. ‘That image has to be in that theme and this has to go there.’ Then you literally take a step back and it always gets better."
How has the job of a trend analyst changed since you started? I can imagine that in a world that is changing so fast, your job has been changing as well.
"That's right. Literally 30 years ago, twice a year you had a prognosis with a few themes. And then everyone went on to do their own thing with it. Now, there are so many forms of expression and various speed levels at which people deal with news. It's no longer about what the trend is but about which part of the trend will be relevant at which moment. Because the catwalks are happening and five minutes later, it's on Instagram and in six weeks, it'll be at Zara. But that doesn't mean that for some entrepreneurs, it’s not a very good design language even a year later."
"In addition, consumers can obtain information and things in so many different ways that the role of the store now revolves much more around the identity of the entrepreneur. As a curator. How does he or she make a selection from everything there is in a way that suits the customer. That's very different from: ‘What's the latest news? Oh, Breton stripes. Then we're all going to do Breton stripes.’ No, it's important to do it they way it matches what you do."
What was your best and worst experience as a trend analyst?
"I think the best thing is to see every time, for 30 years and for 60 forecasts, that I myself still get excited about it, that a development is taking place and that each time, a different language of form emerges from it."
"I'm most discouraged by people who say, ‘Yes, but I've already seen that.’ People who are tired and negative and say in one breath that there is nothing new. Then I don't think they’re looking very closely. What I consider do-gooders is if you look really closely, there is so much information in it. It's about what you do with it. You have to want to see it too."
How do people react when you tell them that you are a trend analyst?
"People often say, ‘Yeah, what's it gonna be?’ Do you have an hour? I can't just say that, you need so much more information for that. Trend watcher and trend analyst is also becoming a hollow concept, because it's everyone these days. So I have to explain what it is. I also find the word trend difficult; I find the language of form much more interesting. What is the language of the times and what can we do with it?"
"Many people think I go to a lot of shows. That's not necessary at all because everything can be viewed online. I do analyse all shows though. People also think that I'm always travelling, which isn't true. Many days, I spent researching and working to make that research relevant. Many people think it's glamorous, but that's because of social media. Because then I am in Cape Town, then in New York, London and Milan. But that's only four snapshots taken in six months or one year. It's also just hard work, but it is a lot of fun and I can never really stop."
"My kids are always proud to say, ‘My mom likes to get back to work on Mondays. They hope that they will have that later too."
What trend that you have spotted are you enthusiastic about?
"Hacking the classics. I really like it. Familiar things are hacked, which makes it a nice little innovation in the whole of classic fashion. I also liked the theme new romanticism. The train of thought behind it is that all work is done by robots and artificial intelligence but we have a basic income, so that we have time to start dreaming, to make beautiful things and to read poetry. It's a bit elaborate, but handwritten letters and slow travelling also fit in. This is not a reflection of society, which is often the case with fashion, but a rejection, an aversion to what is happening in the world. The same goes for the trend of bizarre maximalism. I also like that unbridled pleasure."
What do you think is important for people to know about this job?
"Well, if you do this work really well, you can be meaningful for the people you work for. By giving them orientation, clarity, inspiration, a sense of the future and hope. I often get feedback from retailers that they are looking forward to the future again and I think that is an important aspect. It's not just joyful and beautiful; it gives meaning to what one does. If you do it really well, you can inspire others so that the listeners can do their work well again. "
Do you have any tips for people who want to become trend analysts?
"I would get the required qualification. That could be an education in art, but nowadays there are also plenty of courses where you can become a trend watcher. I would read a lot, be curious, sort things out and try to read between the lines. You really have to dig a lot and put together the puzzle. What does something really mean, what does it really say?"
This article was originally published on FashionUnited NL. Edited and translated by Simone Preuss.
Photo: Via Christine Boland