Industry Expert: Stylus
How do you think data, trends and industry insights bolster the power of creativity?
They give you the context to understand where new opportunities lie and how best to respond to an evolving market. Creativity works best with constraints, as they challenge the mind to find innovative or unlikely solutions.
Whatever your sector, you can no longer ignore our dramatically shifting world—considering everything from fast-changing consumer dynamics to climate change and other critical environmental factors. We provide a holistic view of all these elements and how they will influence the fashion industry—whether that’s the broader impact of an aging or emerging demographic, to sustainable solutions or capitalizing on niche trends.
Creativity’s role today—a designer’s role today—is to respond strategically to these new factors with appropriate human and planet-friendly solutions.
How do you work to give designers a balanced outlook in terms of data and creative vision?
It’s really about leaving space for designers to bring their own ideas. We aim to provide the right balance of inspiration and information while enabling designers, strategists and marketeers to complete the picture with their vision or brand values. We need to strike a fine balance between providing substantial visual stimulus and validated analytical data, while also identifying where key opportunities for product (or service) development lie.
Part of our role is also about helping our clients to cut through the noise and focus on their creative brief or strategic needs. There’s just so much [trend] information out there, and often conflicting viewpoints. We support our clients by offering curated insights, created by our team of expert analysts.
Our experts observe influencers, read prolifically, speak to thought leaders and industry specialists, collate information from a database of trusted sources, find the latest case studies to illustrate ideas, and incorporate stats from external quantitative research and studies.
We digest information together as a team to open up discussion and debate, and invite in external experts. The team attend a curated selection of 150+ leading edge and global cross-industry events per year—a mix of trade shows, design weeks, seminars and conferences. Over time, this allows us to see the evolution of products and ideas, which provides a strong source of trend knowledge.
Demonstrating the rigor behind our analysis is important. Our reports contain future insights and we provide key statistics and trend evolutions that plot the trajectory of a trend and rationalize its impact on particular industries.
And I can’t ignore the fact that producing beautiful visual work is our lifeblood—we present our Design Directions through captivating proprietary mood boards, and also use infographics to bring our data-rich research to life. For example, our 2019 Consumer Zodiac visualizes the year’s most influential target groups, moving our trend analysis beyond demographics into a stimulating psychographic segmentation.
The range of our trend reporting is wide—from snackable fast-moving blog posts to longer-term cross-industry consumer Macro Trends. To meet the timelines for manufacture and supply in design, we create Design Directions, color and material trends and Fashion Directions that look up to 18 months ahead. These visual reports are an inspirational product development tool to stimulate initial design concept work, composed of broad-ranging mood boards that look at everything from color, finish and material through to graphic and spatial design, all trended by theme.
What do global trends and data-based insights enable designers to do in terms of growth and industry opportunities?
By identifying opportunities in the market, global trends and data-based insights enable designers to be forewarned, forearmed, and able to make the right strategic and commercial decisions to steer and grow their businesses.
Trend analysis needs also differ by audience. We identify consumer trends ranging from those triggered by social, economic or political drivers, to others rooted in and catalyzed by new technologies. Demographic or psychographic trends can provide context for a business when considering its future audience and what motivates them. Aesthetically driven design trends can provide strong creative direction for all types of creative professionals—from buyers and designers to visual merchandisers—hoping to gain new visual inspiration brought together with a strong narrative.
Regardless of the size or type of business, everyone can benefit from gaining a broader perspective and understanding of trends and their movement. And for businesses to innovate or disrupt convention, they should look to cross-industry trends, benchmarks and best practice in complementary and neighboring worlds to consider how these could translate to their own. This is the core of Stylus’ approach to cross-sector innovation.
In what ways does Stylus empower emerging designers to bring their brands to the global stage?
We highlight the work of emerging designers in our visual Design Directions and throughout our long-form reporting, providing overviews of how their work relates to broader macro and consumer trends, linked to each designer’s own portal.
On our site, we host a Start-Up Index that is curated monthly, providing key information about the world’s most innovative start-ups and early-stage businesses across multiple industries and territories/regions. This is a valuable tool for brands and investors in need of intelligence about emerging brands and designers.
How do you envision the future of fashion, particularly when it comes to the use of and access to data?
Like all industries, the trend industry has moved from analogue to digital—gone are the days of heavyweight trend books and omnipotent gurus. It’s reaching more people—and equally, more people are getting involved in the creation of content, with video a key enabler. Small circles have become really big circles, bringing in more diversity and a greater understanding of global influences on local behaviors. This in turn has altered our approach: we follow social influencers and bloggers, and look at user-generated content and social media sentiment.
Today, there’s more emphasis on substantiating trend forecasts. Whilst our reporting is largely qualitative, we support it through quantitative research and expert validation. In future, we will be able to access more real-time feedback for immediate validation, with access to wider social media trends and sentiment through digital data sources.
But fashion has perhaps changed more than any other area, and clients are acknowledging how different forecasting has become. The industry is now quite practical, appreciating that you can’t look at fashion in isolation. The whole business is reassessing itself, and we have responded with a new approach to fashion trends reporting: aligning fashion lifestyle with our forecast, and relating this back to the business landscape. Our relationship with fashion clients has changed with our increasingly consumer-focused approach, and the conversations we have can inform clients’ wider business goals beyond design.
By defining the key external influences shaping fashion today, linking to wider social and cultural trends, we help our clients build new business strategies for an industry in flux. This kind of approach culminated in a previous but iconic piece of work: our New Fashion Landscape Industry Trend and Infographic, which considers climate chaos, fast-fashion fatigue, our depleting natural resources and underserved demographics as some of the critical drivers of industry change.
Reporting from the catwalk remains a crucial part of our fashion delivery. Our clients like this analysis as it’s fast response and delivers confirmation of our forecast. But with today’s catwalks accessible to all and see-now-buy-now collections moving further into the middle ground, they will become less relevant than they have been in the last 20 years.
In Youth Style Tribes – our series of fashion lifestyle features—we look at shifts in consumer behavior, and the drivers behind them. Our Tribes work is a USP for Stylus—it’s in-depth research that’s constantly updated.
When looking at what comes next for fashion, the complementary sectors have tended to be beauty, color and materials and interior design. But now we also see influence from technology, media and transportation, to name a few. One key issue to note here is the vast differences in the speed and duration of trend life cycles between these categories, as operations vary significantly by industry—from months in apparel, to years in automotive.
Trends research will remain a critical commercial tool in understanding change in an increasingly volatile and fragmented world.