Shoe designing has always been my first passion. However, if I decided to change careers, I would love to be a trend forecaster. Researching, gathering, traveling the world, and participating in creative events from fashion shows, art shows, and even social or political talks, is not a bad way to spend your days. Can I be a shoe and accessory trend forecaster, please?
Let me introduce to you, Geraldine Wharry, a trend forecaster based in London. I met Gerladine in 2005, during my in-house days at Rip Curl. She is a very cool, culturally rich, woman who goes after her dreams. We’ve kept in touch over the years, and her career path is amazingly interesting. From fashion designer to creative director, and now building her own creative services firm called Trend Atelier, you definitely want to follow her social media platforms. Her life, work, and the images she posts are extremely inspiring.
Since the launch of her trend webinar series, I’ve done my best to participate in as many as I can. I’m very impressed by the presentations, and her point of view. I’ve found that most trend service companies offer the usual catwalk analysis, key items, and street style. Trend Atelier’s trend forecasting services are conceptual and thought provoking. The images and videos are inspiring, and the content take away allows you to develop and translate your own trend ideas. I like having the combination of creating my own analysis, in addition to the runway shows, key items, etc.
I’ve been very inspired by Gerladine that I wanted to interview her for my blog, and share her amazing gift to inspire other creatives and companies. It’s also fun to hear about other creative jobs, and what inspires them everyday.
How did you get into trend forecasting?
GW: I evolved into trend forecasting when I moved to London after being in Los Angeles for six years and New York for five years. I knew I wanted a change- staying in fashion, but approaching it from a different angle. And I’ve always been drawn to creative research and putting together the conceptual direction of collections. Whilst managing the womenswear collections at Seven for All Mankind and Ripcurl, I was interfacing with trend services and doing my own trend research. So when I joined Wgsn after a few months in London I was thrilled and it felt like a natural progression, one of those right time/ right place life events.
Why did you start Trend Atelier?
GW: I started the company because I’ve always wanted to have my own business. So I just had to bite the bullet and founded it in 2011. It grew organically from then on. At first more as a consultancy working with private clients, and now I still do that, but I also create trend reports. So the company is both service and product driven.
I wanted the company to be a cesspool of ideas. Atelier in French, my native tongue, means workshop or artist studio. What I love about Trend Atelier is providing future trends insight as well as creative mentoring to clients. I think I was meant to have a business like this. My mother is a teacher and I love working with people to unlock their full potential. And my father is a filmmaker, so the trend forecasting taps into the fact I grew up around images and story telling.
Tell us about your trend forecasting service?
GW: We specialize in Macro trend reports for the style industries so the reports are created to inspire designers and we feed into them insights and new developments in fashion, design, arts and culture, color, consumer behavior, architecture, materials, as well as the latest in socio-economics, popular culture, business, science and technology. On the one hand, we have the seminars, webinars and targeted trend research/ reports. But we also collaborate one-to-one with fashion labels on bespoke creative strategies which lead to best-selling products. Sometimes companies have a great product but need help editing or clarifying their image, so that’s where we step in.
What is different about your service vs. other trend forecasting services out there?
GW: What is unique about our service is it’s very conceptual and creative. Instead of a catwalk analysis or street style report, we’re giving an overall view of what’s going on in the world or fashion. So any true creative or designer, artist or someone who is curious in life will be able to take our findings, get inspired and adapt them to their needs. As a result, our audience ranges from fashion, textile and interior designers to bloggers, fellow forecasters, web designers, filmmakers, make up artists, jewelers. It’s really interesting to see how companies interpret our forecasts.
How do you gather your information? Is it something that inspires you? What starts that process?
GW: I call it “Hunting & Gathering”. This is the name of the methodology I have created as well as Fashion course. And I will have an online course about this soon because it’s been a big success.
There is an element of inspiration when my antennas pick up on a certain bit of news or an image. But there is also the fact I have been in the industry for 16 years now so have this built-in trend tracker which helps me see immediately if something is relevant, new or not. So there is a balance of instinct, intuition and data. It’s key is to have a broad viewpoint and not let your personal preferences cloud your judgment. Sometimes what starts the process is a single image – sometimes it’s a cluster of items found in research, discussions with experts or seen at industry events.
I love your images? How do you search for those images?
GW: It’s quite varied. I have a large library of references saved over years of being a forecaster and fashion designer, and it keeps growing. I’m constantly scanning for visual impetus online and offline. I always take photos, document what I see at events or traveling and can’t live without Pinterest! It’s true that at Trend Atelier and this is reflected on our blog , we have a certain standard in image quality. We strive to show really unique and thought-provoking visuals. We look at fashion editorials, but if it’s too close-to-season or has already gotten a lot of media exposure, we generally stay away from it (even if we love the image), our stand point is to feature innovative, sometimes unusual content that thinks outside of the box.
You have a webinar coming up in a few weeks? Can you tell us a little bit more?
GW: It will be the last installment of our Autumn Winter 2016/17 macro trend forecasts and this particular concept is called PRESS PLAY. It’s a really dynamic vision of design embedded in offbeat juxtapositions with a very strong sense of humour and oddity, celebrating the need for play with references ranging from current emerging product designers to Oskar Schlemmer’s 1920s ballets and Sonia Delaunay. Our online presentation will be on the 23rd at 12pm EST/ 9am PST and will last about 45 minutes with a Q & A session at the end. You can find the registration link here.
For those who missed the first two parts of the series, can one have access to the other two webinars? Does it matter if you listen out of order?
GW: There is no particular order within one season because each concept is quite different. In fact, our goal is that the forecasts have a timeless quality, and can be referred to season after season. For those who want a copy of the seminars and reports, on our site we offer either Mp4 recordings or expanded pdfs. Here are the links for WONDER WONDER and MODESTY SOLUTIONS.
What is one trend you see in the horizon or happening right now that you’re fascinated by?
GW: The shift in Gender roles is a fascinating social and design trend. You’re no longer either a boy or a girl. Attitudes to gender are becoming more open, fluid and non-judgmental. Obviously there is still a lot of room for progress, but still, in the past few years, there has been huge media attention to the subject and it has opened people’s eyes. There is a growing normalization of the transgender community and gay youth coming out on YouTube. Let alone the growing number of androgynous fashion collections and with unisex departments on online stores becoming common. Today globally women’s enrolment rates at university are surpassing those of men whilst Men are increasingly fighting for feminism or becoming stay-at-home fathers. We are re-inventing gender roles.
What do you see happening in fashion that’s different from 10 years ago?
GW: Social Media has changed the face of fashion and this has redefined the idea of originality. Street style has gone viral, so expressing your individuality has been redefined. I see this as a great opportunity to rethink fashion and the idea of self-expression. I would say 10 years ago the landscape of fashion was less crowded and more diverse. Unfortunately there is currently a lot of sameness. But it’s an opportunity to redefine the business model. There needs to be more room for smaller designers and emerging talent and corporations need to collaborate more with smaller labels. I think there is going to be a back lash and customers are going to want a more personalized/ original offering. Finally it’s very exciting to see other fashion destinations coming through such as Poland, Russia, China, Sweden, Brazil and Africa. These are the next big places to look for talent and innovation.
Do you see a correlation with social media and trend forecasting? Does it make it easier? or harder to research when things and the world are changing so quickly?
GW: With trends going viral immediately, it’s harder to define the shelf life of a trend. It makes it harder to find original content that is purely fashion. As such trends have a shorter lifespan and where the long-term innovation and forecasting is coming through is in technology, materials and science, all catered to lifestyle. It’s now all about quality of life and seeking betterment.
As a designer myself, I’m expected to know about trends. I do my own forecasting from both a current standpoint, and future. What advice can you give a person who does their own research?
GW: Number one, I would say search and document trends as they surface using a mixture of intuition and fact analysis. Number two, the research needs to be edited into themes and what is key is to identify whether they are a Macro Trends or Micro trend. Timing is everything when it comes to forecasting. I have been on trend and on time, but I have also forecasted trends too early, which can be a problem too! So make sure to identify this and above all that your trend research is right for your client/ consumer. Sometimes they may not know it’s right- in which case you have to be confident it’s the direction they need and be able to show this through triangular research and other expert’s findings. Ultimately, I believe trend forecasting is about risk taking.
On a shoe note, what brands do you like for footwear?
GW: I recently fell in love with Brother Vellies. It was founded by Aurora James and is based on traditional African footwear. It’s also a sustainable business and fosters artisanal jobs within Africa, handmade in South Africa, Kenya and Namibia. The brand represents exactly where I think all design brands should be going: it’s beautifully designed and acts responsibly.