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An Insight into Trend Forecasting

Trend research and trend forecasting play a significant role in the fashion and beauty industries but are rarely discussed in an open and candid manner. What does it really mean to forecast and research trends and how do brands get a head start on consumer demand and what do they do to identify what will be popular in the future? How do fashion designers, startups, and retailers stay ahead of the curve…

On this week’s episode we discuss all of this and more.

You can listen to the whole interview podcast over on our podcast page or by clicking here at An Insight into Trend Forecasting.

Muaz

On this week’s episode of Blazon, I’m talking to Camila Straschnoy, who’s a brand strategist, trends researcher, editor, creative storyteller, and educator located in Miami Beach, Florida. As an independent consultant in the fashion, beauty and media industries Camila’s clients list include L’Oreal, In style, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, as well as developing sustainable brands and startups.

Camila

So my name is Camila Straschnoy. I’m born and raised Argentinian, living in the U.S. for seven years via London. I know you guys are based out there. I have a background in fashion and textile design. That was my bachelor’s. That was what I started doing. And as I was graduating, I realized that even I was working as a fashion designer and I loved it. It was not my calling. It was not my purpose.

And I had to start this road trip to discover what was next for me. And what was in the plans. So I pursue an MFA in Visual Arts and a Master course in Trend Forecasting. And then that is when everything started taking form. I started working as an Editor because I thought that’s what I really wanted.

So I started working for different, um, fashion magazines, such as InStyle, Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar. And I was known for writing all these very lengthy and more analytical articles more than… I did start writing the five dresses you need to wear this week, but, then it evolved into more in-depth analysis and serious… I don’t want to call the other work, not serious. I would just call it more analytical, more analytical and those sorts of things. And in that journey, is that aside of the, you know, New York, London, Milan, Paris fashion weeks… I started traveling the world, especially Latin America, because I was writing for a lot of the Latin American versions of these publications.

camilastraschnoy trend forecasting

Then, in that journey, I came across with a lot of new talent and I was working in the magazines. I was working as a trend forecaster for L’Oreal, a trend forecaster for some other agencies, but I was not a consultant of any sorts. And I had the first brand approach me, uh, please consult for us. And I had no idea what I was doing.

It was not in my books. It was not in my plans. So I, I said, no, they convinced me. Because of this multi-layered skillset I had. And I’m like, okay, let’s try it. That was my first client since then I never stopped. Um, I started on consulting for fashion brands, a hundred percent. Now it’s evolving, we’re growing. I have tech startups. I have lifestyle brands, beauty brands. And what I do is I have a trend driven approach to innovation and disruption and strategies. So trends inform everything I do. I’m a trend forecaster by trade, but I use it to create strategies to stand out in these very saturated market. So that’s my daytime full-time job.

And I’m also a professor at Istituto Marangoni here in Miami. I teach the future of fashion, design, creativity, communication strategies, and all those sorts of things. 

Muaz

Amazing. Amazing. So do you think that being that well-traveled and working with so many different brands working in various parts of the industry, working with many different types of publications and magazines, did that help you on your journey as a trend researcher?

Camila

A hundred percent. I had a professor in university in fashion school that always used to say, you only can see what, you know, if you don’t know something, even if you come across that one thing you cannot see. And I love that, it’s a translation. He used to say that in Spanish, but I don’t know if the translation, it translates as well.

But it’s that I feel being exposed to different cultures, to different people. I did grow up in a very open-minded house. Like my house was religion wise, sexuality, it was, ideology was very open-minded and I grew up kind of as a sponge. And then yes, of course, uh, living in London, spending a lot of time studying in Barcelona, Miami, Argentina, and traveling so much informs everything I do because as a trend forecaster, all what we do is read, watch, listen 24/7, connect with people, talk to everyone, read everything about anything that it’s not–people for example, I believe your audience is very fashion oriented and a lot of fashion designers think that to come up with fashion trends, you need to look at fashion or just fashion art and design.

And that’s not the case because trends are informed by how we live, how we relate to one another, how we play, how we are educated, everything and anything informs trends. 

Muaz

Right. So at a high level, how would you actually describe trend forecasting? If you were to explain it to someone at just a high level, the actual process of trend forecasting.

Camila

A trend forecaster or a trend researcher. I call myself a trend researcher. I feel there’s a few forecasters in this world. I like that a bit more humble approach. And if anyone wants to call me that, but I, I call myself a trend researcher and we’re in the constant lookout for all types of changes. And it’s the only way that you stay in the pulse of the world.

Right? We, as I was saying, we read, we listen, we watch everything and anything. In what we do as a forecaster is we see patterns of change. That’s a trend. I always say a trend is that change in its direction. And we see these patterns of change as a new direction that people are beginning to follow that created opportunities, right?

Because trends are patterns, patterns that can reflect that’s something that is popular at a given time and can slowly or swiftly create an impact on business or culture from every angle, not just design, but think politics, religion, science, sports, tech, right? Trends can’t just skim the surface, for example, a change in color texture, materials and patterns, silhouettes, or they can be more macro, right; And, and change something that is at a deeper level in society. There are these trends that reflect something that’s more profound and can detect those meaningful changes in how we produce or consume value. What value means to a society at a given time, but both types of trends, the more superfluous, CMF trends, color material finishes, or consumer trends that I work with those a lot.

They all affect the world. And how these trends are forecasted depends on the type of agency and client and forecaster you’re working with because at a high level, you have different agencies that focus on fashion trends, CMF trends, interior design trends, consumer trends, economic trends.

So the word trend is just a direction and it’s change. And then how do you apply this in which area and in, which how deep you go depends on the need. 

Muaz

Absolutely. So it’s almost like you need to find the perfect wave for yourself to surf. 

Camila

Yeah. Well, there’s no such thing. The process of trend forecasting is very messy.

That’s a challenge with my students because here in the U.S. we say lost in the sauce. We are lost in the midst of, uh,  innovations, because that’s, I collect what I’d say their innovations, with signals. That they’re the ones that when you recognize the pattern, these innovations or weak signals create or manifestations of change, and then you can pinpoint these to a macro trend and a human need and a human sentiment, and the zeitgeists. Then you produce something that’s meaningful. 

Muaz

Right. So how would trend researching and trend forecasting fit into the design process? So say you have a designer and they want to integrate this into an upcoming collection. What would that process be? 

Camila

Well, as I was saying, that really, really depends on your client, their brief, the time they allotted you for the research.

But trends are implemented in design at the research stage before you even start, like, that’s when you should start working with trends, when you were researching for the development of a new product or a new collection or a new drop. Okay. So. We in my agency and most forecasters have the practice of constantly gathering possible signals, signals of change, scanning and capturing.

This is an ongoing practice, with or without a client, with or without a brief.  The calendar, the time frame, these are all the factors that are going to impact how we’re going to work with a trend. If it’s a seasonal trend, if it’s a CMF trend, if it’s a consumer trend, it all depends on what the client wants.

Typically, if it’s a CMF trend, it will take longer, CMF color material finishes. Why? Because testing for materials and finishes before applying them to an end product in fashion, for example, it takes longer. Uh, if it’s packaging made it’s less. So those trends are a bit more time consuming because you need to really test the product, the finish, the new material, or even create a color to put that in an end product.

It all depends on the how and the, when, uh, the design development phase though. Uh, I want to really say this for all of your designers… This is not the only phase or stage that can benefit from the guidance of a forecaster, right? Because the delivery of the end product should also be infused with a trend’s expert guidance. Because a good forecaster will know when is the right time to place or incorporate a specific trend in a product delivery or messaging.

And you must really, really know if your clients are ready for a trend at a given time. So you need to understand that if you need to convey a macro trend, a consumer trend and how you also always have to give your clients very clear examples. So they understand that this even is part of the post production experience, asking what trends will affect their reception and sales of the brand’s collection.

What is on the mind of the zeitgeist and how can that change our brands communicating strategy. So trends can be applied in the research process, in the product development, in the packaging creation, in the delivery of messaging, marketing, all of the above. 

Muaz

Wow. Do you have an example of how that would work?

Say you’ve got a hypothetical brand that makes coats, you know, they’re specifically coats and say they’re primarily targeted to autumn, winter kind of outdoor kind of wear. So for that kind of brand, they’ve got that specific focus; They just make coats for relatively heavy use. So, you know, it could be an office worker, it could be someone going out for the night when people are allowed to go out for the night again. So how would that work? 

Camila

Ok, let’s say they want to start from the research process. So first of all, I would help them understand which are the colors, the silhouette, the textiles that are interesting for the season and help them kind of guide them with shapes, silhouettes, but then I go a step further and I started understanding… Okay some underlying trends, let’s say, for example, the mend and repair trend that because of the financial anxiety the whole world is experiencing, mending and repair is becoming a trend right now and people want that. So maybe I would be like, is your product something that is very durable?

Would you add more value to your product by adding a repair kit or adding tutorials on your website of how you do this? Or, you know, 2020 left a lot of designers and the world with a lot of dead stock, dead fabric, overstock, like could you partner with another designer and tap on the patchwork aesthetic that is also trending because of the same financial anxiety and do it yourself trend.

And could you do that and apply to your aesthetic and also use overstock and tap into the macro trend of sustainability? Could you, uh, work with artisans? Because now it’s all about slow fashion. I hate [the term] slow fashion, but going back to their roots, working with artisans, empowering people in different communities.

So what I started doing is I started understanding my menu of trends. And then what I do is I read and I also go very deep in understanding my client’s DNA, my client’s purpose. Because maybe he’s not into all of that because that’s not his aesthetic, but he’s super tech and techie. So I’m like, Oh, could we create some COVID fashions being anti-microbial textiles or your coat comes with a matching mask.

That’s a silly example. But just so you understand it for the exercise of the creative thinking, and maybe we could do in-game avatars, maybe we can promote your brand and we can also create the virtual version of your coat. And that’s where I completely different DNA and client than the do it yourself, mend and repair sustainability client.

So it’s the trend needs to match my client’s needs. And that’s how I play it. It’s storytelling also. So it’s like storytelling, DNA, product and which trends aligned with this because not every trend is for every client. And that’s also the forecasters job to analyze that. 

Muaz

Absolutely, it’s really interesting that you mentioned mend and repair, and you mentioned things like slow, but more on the sustainability side. 

And the fact that you mentioned digitization, because you’ve no idea that the number of times I’ve heard that over the last month, you’re absolutely right. There does seem to be a lot of people considering these things right now. 

Camila

Those are those trends gaining attraction. It’s not that I hate slow fashion per se.

I just hate the term. These all are things that I call dirty words like sustainability, like luxury. I don’t know if they’re broad. I just think they’re heavily overused and they lost substance, meaning. Still for me, language is very important. Um, you hear my accent. So sometimes English and, and very choice of words can sound weird, but it’s very important to understand that, that language also is very important when communicating a brand and leveraging them.

You’ve heard all these because this is what’s is in everyone’s minds because there’s triggers that are, for example, the gaming, it’s about being playful again. It’s about reconnecting again. It’s about emotional isolation and people needing to connect in new and meaningful ways. It’s another way of being sustainable and dressing your avatar in your animal crossing, new horizons, without causing any more damage to the planet.

So there’s always that, that’s why I say sometimes people think fashion trends are superfluous or, you know, but it’s fascinating when you dive deep in that rabbit hole and start pulling the strings then understand that it’s a never ending stream of that starts in maybe a political action or a climate change, or it’s very very… 

Muaz

You’re right.

It is a reflection of the zeitgeist. So you look into all of these aspects. But when it comes to the actual interaction you have with the brand, how does that work? So say I’m the brand and it’s my range of coats that are, that are coming out. I don’t know why I’m coming back to this example of coats. But there we go.

Camila

Is it very cold in London right now?

Muaz

For some reason, it actually is. It’s a lot darker than it usually is around here. So, for example, how would we work together? If it was my brand, what would you need from me in order to run through these steps? So like you mentioned that you look into what my brand DNA is, what my messaging is, what language I’m using. You’d look into all of these factors, but when it comes to the communication between you and me, how does that interaction actually work? What does it mean that you would want to have a better idea of my DNA? If you understand. 

Camila

I understand. I get what you’re going to. So a lot of my clients call me the brand psychologist or therapist, because what I really like is talking to people. And the best ideas come out of conversations because people, when they write, especially more emerging designers or smaller brands.

Because if you work, one of my clients, uh, I work in a different capacity because it’s more a range planning. I work for Bottega Veneta. And Bottega Veneta has all their guidelines and structure and all things written in its place at it’s a corporation, but I love working with startups and smaller designers or tech apps that, I’m working for one now, and, I like the idea of having a conversation, a very honest conversation with my clients, because sometimes when they need to write their DNA, their purpose, their mission, they get stuck.

I believe that the future of the world, I won’t say fashion, the future of brands and services… Will be a future where people will want to buy, engage and connect with brands that have a meaningful purpose and that add value to people’s lives. Beyond a product that’s great. Beyond the service that’s great.

What else are you doing for me or for the world or for my community? And I feel we all have that sometimes we just don’t know how to find it or where to tap. And that’s what I like doing first. I like to have a very honest conversation with a brand, a designer, a creative team, a marketing team.

And I’m like, why are you here? What’s your purpose? What greater good are you trying to achieve? How are you helping the world? What do you want to achieve with your brand? What is, why is this important for you? What are the, what’s your language? For me it’s like language, understanding really what they want.

What’s your mission. What’s your vision, where they come from. What’s your story? And it’s all about storytelling. It’s about language. It’s about defining a very clear purpose, defining a very clear mission and vision. So that gives me kind of an x-ray of the brand. And then I also look at the product. I also look at the product range.

I also look at their experience. I also look at their design language. I also look at where they’re selling, how they’re communicating, which platforms, which retailers?

Are they at Moda Operandi and Net-a-Porter, are they emerging designers? So that I do have a very tailor made bespoke process because it’s client per client, but in my opinion, that’s where I start.

Then I go back and it’s all internal. So I have a team of creatives that I really respect. I believe in the power of people thinking together, I believe in the thought of our community more than any individual, because they say we create relevant ideas for a multicultural, multi everything world. Yeah. I don’t believe in online, offline anymore for me it’s just one conversation.

So I gather a team of experts in the online, offline, different categories, different expertise, and we see them, we brew these ideas as a team, and then we start understanding what are the strings we’re going to pull from? What’s the storytelling we want to really explode. What are the trends that are relevant?

And then we have a conversation with the designer again, because if that doesn’t really resonate with my designer or my client or the design team or that marketer, I will go back and redo it. I don’t decide where my client goes, because I feel like I helped them decide, but if it’s not aligned with them, then it starts getting lost in translation because it doesn’t look or feel genuine.

And the market doesn’t trust a brand that’s not genuine, honest and they’re rerouted in their own beliefs. 

Muaz

Absolutely. And that’s why I went back to your first step with regards to the DNA, because that is such an interesting step. So especially when you’re working with an emerging designer or someone early on their journey.

Making them think about that, you know, and making them understand why they’re doing what they’re doing is such an important step, because if they aren’t completely clear about that, how are they going to communicate that with the world? You know? So, so the fact that you do that as part of your early stage of your process, I think is valuable.

I think even if you’re not an emerging designer, It’s important to keep on getting reminded and not having to think about that. And going back to that again and again and again, 

Camila

Because you know, our brand, I’m sorry to interrupt, but think about our brand. I always say a brand is an idea. You can drink a Coca-Cola, but you cannot touch Coca-Cola. You cannot touch a Coke. Okay. 

So a brand is an idea and those ideas are built every day and it’s an organism that’s alive. So what you said is very relevant, you always have to go back. It’s not set in stone. And what also, you’re saying to your point of a new designer, you know why a DNA is so important in my opinion, is the market is so saturated.

So what, we don’t need a new brand of anything, but we are willing to accept a new brand that is going to offer something that’s meaningful, special, and unique. And that’s when the, one of the key factors comes into play. And I call it your special sauce, you know, like you go to a restaurant and they sell the same salad everywhere else.

But they have that sauce that they don’t disclose what’s in it. And you go just, you drive or you commute there just for that, you know? That’s what a designer needs. What’s your point of view? Why will I buy your coat? Going back to coats. What makes your coat so specia?l From storytelling to your values? Why would I want to vote with my money to your brand. I’ll give you my vote. 

Muaz

Absolutely. I mean, it’s the most human thing you can think about, right? It’s the reason why you make friends. Yeah. 

Camila

Yeah. Because it’s meaning, you know, and as a society, I feel COVID-19 really accelerated the journey towards meaning and meaningful connections and that, that we were going through. And all in life, you can give to one another is value, add value.

Add, you know, add a point of view, add something interesting. And that’s how you create genuine relations, as you said, between people or between a human and a brand. 

Muaz

Absolutely. That’s amazing. That’s, that’s something that is so important for people to understand, especially if they’re starting a company, whether it’s a brand, you know, a tech startup, it doesn’t matter what it is.

That is a core part of just making sure that you have some hope of succeeding, you know, and in effect, what’s the point of starting something, if you don’t have a clear idea of what it is. So I completely agree with that. So what would you say are for someone to be a good trend forecaster? What are key skills that they need to have.

Camila

Is insomnia considered a skill?

Okay, jokes aside, I believe, you know, there’s something, no one says, but I think it’s having the mindset of a lifelong learner is really a top skill. Because you’re learning with all your senses, all of the time as a forecaster. And being very open, together with this comes one of my favorites, is being very curious.

You need to be very curious. You must learn ways to not burn out from information overload. My technique, uh, I like sports. So I go to the gym, I go running, that’s people will think I’m crazy. That’s my happy place. That’s my zone that I like. I live at the beach in Miami beach. So going for a run, going for a walk at the beach, taking those breaks, which are very hard when you’re in the zone, to move away.

But that is very important. And all skills that trend forecaster has, can be learned or honed by having exceptional curiosity is what will drive a forecaster to maintain that stamina needed to be in the trends industry. And, yep. Yeah, those are the ones I think. And it’s a lot of insomnia.

Muaz

You need time to learn all these things 

Camila

For me, it’s passion. So it’s sometimes I find myself, you know, at 5:00 AM sending an article to my team, or it’s just for me, it’s passion because it’s very purpose driven. I love what I do with all my heart and I do it from that passion of like, I’m curious, I love learning, learning from everything. Of course there’s topics that I like more, and, and that’s what I focus the most, like fashion, like tech, like consumer, consumer mindset, retail.

It’s fascinating to me and, and you have to tap into that curiosity.

You can find Camila online at:

  • Website: www.camilastraschnoy.com
  • Instagram: @camistraschnoy

You can listen to the whole interview podcast over on our podcast page or by clicking here at An Insight into Trend Forecasting.

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