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Historical overview of fashion forecasting

There are few sources that clearly explain the history of fashion forecasting—when, where, and how it was started. The Color Association of the United States (CAUS), originally called the Textile Color Card Association of America (TCCA), founded in 1915, appears to be the first to try to forecast fashion. TCCA issued its first forecast in 1917, focusing on women’s fashion. The purpose of fashion forecasting was to suggest colors, organized in groups, to designers and stylists.

Since the United States led the world in mass production of clothing after World War II, more specialized fashion forecasting firms emerged in the various industries, including firms that focused on synthetic textiles in the 1950s, menswear in the 1960s, home furnishings in the 1970s, and interior and active wear in the 1980s (Brannon, 2010; McKelvey & Munslow, 2008). Before the 1960s, fashion moved at a slower pace and was dominated by single trends set by the upper class.

Thus, fashion change was adequately explained by the trickle-down theory, and it was easier for forecasters to predict future directions. However, as mass production expanded, various fashion trends from different subcultures developed simultaneously. Advances in information and communication technology have increased the speed of fashion change. As a result of changes in the fashion environment, the role of fashion forecasters has also significantly changed.

In the 1960s and 1970s, fashion forecasters were simply fashion spotters, who took pictures and reported what people wore. However, today, this is just one component of their responsibilities. Fashion forecasters focus more on scientific, systematic market analyses, using information collected around the world (McKelvey & Munslow, 2008).

Another significant phenomenon in the field of fashion forecasting today is the boom in online forecasting companies. These companies have revolutionized the industry, offering clients forecasting materials in faster and distinctive ways. For example, many online forecasting companies include a comprehensive online photo archive, containing numerous, up-to-date visual sources from all around the world.

Using online forecasting companies, fashion professionals have access to the latest trade fairs and runway shows almost immediately, which saves a significant amount 20 Fashion Trends of time and effort for the professionals, who need not travel to fashion cities to look for inspiration every season. Between 1,000 and 1,500 people work as fashion trend forecasters in the industry (Brannon, 2010), and the number is likely to grow with the increased demand for trend information due to growing competition in the fashion industry (Zimmerman, 2008).

Fashion professionals realize that “knowing where the market might be heading is obviously a necessary component of staying relevant and on top of the game” (Demasi, 2004, p. 12).

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