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From the catwalk to the high street: the role of the fashion forecaster

If you enjoy keeping on top of the latest fashion trends, then forecasting might just be the career for you. Fashion forecasters are the backbone of the industry, ensuring designers and retailers are creating clothes that are on trend as well as on brand. Clothing lines simply wouldn’t be successful without them – you can’t just guess at what’s going to be popular, there’s a vast amount of research and knowledge involved.

In this article, we’ll examine what fashion forecasting is, why it’s important and what skills are required to go into this job role.

The role of a fashion forecaster

Fashion forecasters predict which silhouettes colours, textures, fabrics, graphics, prints, footwear, accessories, etc. will be the forthcoming trends on the runway and in retail stores from season to season. They do this by examining new and emerging trends across all industries, to see how they may influence future fashion trends. This includes new developments across the creative industries. Of course, they’ll also take into consideration what’s happening in the world and any cultural shifts.

There are two types of fashion forecasting: short- and long-term. Short-term forecasting, known as fad forecasting, focuses on what trends will emerge across the next 1-2 years, while long-term forecasting looks much further into the future (typically 5-10 years). The latter also contributes to development of the fashion businesses’ strategies, brand image, extending products lines and securing new business.

The internet plays a big role in fashion forecasting. Forecasters will research upcoming designer and celebrity collections and new looks popular on sites like Instagram. Ultimately, a fashion forecasters’ responsibility lies in assisting designers and retailers to attract more customers and sell their brands.

Why is fashion forecasting important?

There aren’t many areas of business that don’t use forecasting, as it plays a huge role in dictating brand direction and the creation of new products or services. Fashion is one of the most crowded, and therefore competitive, industries there is – there are thousands of brands and retailers all battling to have consumers wear their products. Staying on top of what’s hot, and what’s not, is vital to retaining attention and custom.

The modern consumer goes through clothes quickly and wants to be able to copy the trends they see. Subsequently, trends come and go much quicker than ever before. Forecasting needs to provide designers and retailers with fresh ideas constantly, otherwise they fall behind the competition.

The impact of ‘fast fashion’

In recent years, fashion has become more under the spotlight than ever before. The catwalk at Fashion Week is now live-streamed, and consumers can get their hand on the latest trends straight away – no longer having to wait for weeks for retailers to ‘catch up’. 
This is called fast fashion and it puts a lot of pressure on retailers to deliver, but there are a handful of brands that manage this impressively well. One such brand is Zara, which produces around 450 million items a year. How does it manage to deliver so much? The key is its manufacturing and supply chain, which it has more control over than any other competitor.

Zara keeps most production in-house, rather than outsourcing to cut costs. This allows for its factories to reserve 85% of production capacity for mid-season adjustments, so that the brand can react quickly to any trends that emerge from spring and autumn Fashion Week. In fact, half of all its clothing items are designed and manufactured mid-season.

What skills do you need to become a fashion forecaster?

First and foremost, you must have an interest in a wide range of subjects, industries and cultures, as all these things influence and impact the latest trends. You also need to be prepared to embrace your personal intuition and put trust in your eye for trends. If an image stands out to you – there must be a reason why!

Spotting similarities is a big part of identifying trends – you should be able to look at a group of several images and spot what links them. However, forecasting requires you to do a lot of research, too. You’ll need to conduct statistical market research and observe any socio-economic shifts.

Why fashion forecasting is a useful skill

Of course, fashion forecasting skills aren’t just applicable to those who want to become forecasters. If you want to work in fashion management, it’s vital to understand the role forecasting plays in the industry today and how to use the information it provides in strategic planning.

Fashion Forecasting is just one of the modules in our Online Masters of Business Administration in Fashion Management. The module will inform you of the risks associated with adopting forecast trends, how to foster social responsibility and sustainability within and enable you to understand fashion trend research strategies. If you want to evolve your career in fashion, having an in-depth knowledge of the individual processes and how they link together is imperative.

If you’re interested in fashion forecasting or management and want to know how our online course could help, get in touch with NTU today.