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How do you predict fashion?

By Esmee Blaazer


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This image was created using artificial intelligence (an AI tool) to illustrate this background article. Credits: FashionUnited

Who predicts what will be trending in fashion? How does such a process work? To gain insight into this elusive area of the industry, FashionUnited questioned trend watcher Edwin van den Hoek.

Edwin van den Hoek (1968) has been working in the fashion industry for almost 30 years. He graduated from the fashion academy in Amsterdam (then Montaigne, now AMFI) in trend forecast styling. He gained experience at the Amsterdam styling agency Kees van der Valk and the Paris trend agency Peclers, before setting up his own trend agency in 2001, dubbed Studio Edwin van den Hoek.

As a trend watcher specialising in menswear, Van den Hoek formulates trend forecasts, which he regularly speaks about. His studio also provides tailor-made advice to companies and brands.

Van den Hoek additionally teaches the subject of trendwatching at the NIA, a training course for Interior Design.

Trend forecasting in fashion: how does it work?


  1. What exactly does the profession of trend watcher entail?
  2. How do you predict trends?
  3. How far in advance are trends forecasts made? When are they then consulted?
  4. Do all fashion companies follow trend forecasts? What do they do with them?
  5. Tips for those aspiring to become a trend watcher

1. What exactly does the profession of trend watcher entail?

"A trend watcher charts the state of society," Edwin van den Hoek told FashionUnited.

"I capture a picture of the times by looking at social and economic developments. I also look at new materials and fashion. You have to look beyond fashion alone," he stressed. "Because everything influences each other." Trends flow from what is going on, which is why fashion, "like other industries", is always a reflection of society. "What is going on in the fashion industry regularly overlaps with other industries, such as the home and supermarket sector."

Background: By the way, did you know that trendwatching is a relatively new profession?

Traditionally, trends have been dictated by the catwalk. Clothing companies look at catwalk collections by major fashion houses and designers, and create similar styles and trends from cheaper materials and at lower prices.

That is not the only way trends emerge, however. In the last century, there has been a reversal; trends also emerge 'from below'. "New fashion trends, especially between 1970 and 1980, are increasingly influenced by youth culture, the street and emerging boutiques," fashion expert José Teunissen explained in the introduction to her book 'Mode in Nederland' [Fashion in the Netherlands]. For the fashion industry, it is then no longer enough to just look at the catwalk. "A need arises for people who observe new trends in the streets and boutiques and translate them for the ready-to-wear industry," she said. “This emerging field is becoming known as forecast styling," Teunissen added.

Lidewij Edelkoort was the first practitioner of the profession (she founded her company Trend Union in Paris in 1985) and is still one of the best-known trend watchers. Other renowned trend watchers and trend forecasting agencies, in no particular order, include Christine Boland, Hilde Francq, Jan Agelink, David Shah, WGSN, Fashion Snoops and Trendstop.

2. How do you predict trends?

“How to predict trends is a common question, especially among students," Van den Hoek said cheerfully. "I then make it clear to them that developments ("trends") are already underway and at a certain point they will start trend watching. I always make a comparison to a moving train that they are boarding.”

"Trend forecasting starts with really looking carefully and identifying [themes]. You collect a lot of information, such as newspaper articles, blogs, street imagery. You start shuffling that and then analyse what is going on, and see whether this is also visible in other segments (see paragraph 1). You then start clustering to visualise the trends of the moment," Van den Hoek explained.

"With some trends, you see things intertwine and other times you are early in identifying and a trend needs more time to grow. If you have been in the business longer, you also see that there are wave movements." Trends rise and often disappear again.

Van den Hoek gave an example: "Currently, a group of men are experimenting with jewellery, nail polish and the use of fashion materials that we normally attribute to women, for example transparent fabrics, silk and lace. This is something I saw on the streets a few seasons back. Now this is becoming more socially visible: the movement is growing."

"Being a trendwatcher is not a 9-to-5 job," he added. "The signalling continues 24/7."

3. How far in advance are trend forecasts made? When are they then consulted?

"I am used to thinking ahead," Van den Hoek explained.

"The fabric manufacturers

Fabric manufacturers develop and create new fabrics. Designers and fashion brands buy these fabrics to create their new collections.

need trend information about two years in advance", akin to yarn manufacturers, the party before fabric manufacturers in the supply chain. "It is very inspiring to be at the forefront of developments with these parties."

"The trend information is then still quite abstract," he continued. "Fabric and yarn manufacturers usually have to make do with less concrete images and sometimes a hunch."

"Designers ask for information a year in advance." That is when ideas for new fashion collections are put on paper .

Designers at clothing brands determine what the collections will look like. You can read more about this process here: 'This is how a fashion brand's collection is created'

"They then want to know what is current when it comes to colours, materials and clothing design." The trend information will have been crystallised further by then.

"A year ahead is the core business

At his trend seminars attended mainly by brands, chain stores and buying groups, Van den Hoek looks about 12 months ahead. Last June, he presented his vision for the AW24 fashion season, and later in November hosted his seminar for the SS25 period.

, but I also play quicker on the ball," Van den Hoek continued.

"Retailers, for example, are often looking for practical information." Usually at the start of a new buying season , about six months in advance. "A stylist of a magazine also wants to know specifically from me, a few months before the magazine comes out, whether the new fashion colour is green or yellow, and which items are 'in'."

Retailers buy their clothes from fashion brands. Each season, they choose which garments from the new collections to sell to consumers in their store(s). Purchasing takes place months before the clothes hang in the shops.

For example, January marks the start of the new winter buying season. The first deliveries of new autumn/winter collections arrive in shops in July.

In August, the buying arrangements for summer start. The first deliveries of new spring/summer collections arrive in shops in January.

You can read more about the purchasing and sales season in the background article ‘Inside independent retail: What it takes to run a fashion store’.

4. Do all fashion companies follow trend forecasts? What do they do with them?

Fashion companies always make choices that suit their customers and target audience and thus often opt to reinterpret trend forecasts. They adapt trends to their own style and their customers' preferences.

Trend watchers also usually act as consultants. "As a consultant, you analyse and translate trends specifically for the client," Van den Hoek explained. "That could be a high-end fashion company, a jeans label or a classic menswear brand. It's about putting yourself in your client's shoes. You have to know what the signature is and in which segment the company operates. The tailor-made advice is therefore different for each company. "Moreover, not all trends are for all customers," he noted.

In the fashion industry, we distinguish between five price segments:

  • Mass market or budget segment: Primark and New Look
  • Low-middle segment: H&M and Marks & Spencer
  • Mid-range segment: Black and White Denim in Cheshire, Cos, &Other Stories
  • Mid-high segment: Flannels, Reiss, Joseph and Diesel
  • Premium or high-end: The Place in London, Matches, Liberty’s, Browns and Selfridges. This also includes luxury brands such as Gucci, Prada and Bottega Veneta. The designer labels are also referred to as high-end fashion, indicating their higher price level.
  • Source: ‘Inside independent retail: What it takes to run a fashion store’

    NB: Consulting is not only done for product development. Fashion companies can also be guided or advised on the development of their brand identity.

    5. Tips for those aspiring to become a trend watcher

    Asked whether his job as a trendwatcher has changed with the times, Van den Hoek said: "One essential difference is that now everything comes to you via the internet. There is much more at your fingertips to work with. It used to be that styling, designers and buying teams from brands and chain stores would travel every season to visit the major fashion fairs. Print has been replaced by online marketing and advertising. Magazines and brands are on social media channels and there are even online trend agencies. The downside of digitalisation is that everything has become more unified or sometimes even flat, because everyone has the same information."

    "The advice I always give students is, be curious! Go out, go discover things, go investigate, go network," he explained. "When physically visiting trade fairs and events such as a Première Vision, Ispo, Pitti Uomo, Dutch Design Week, Material District or Denim Days, you can see, feel and experience. You are in touch with a designer's product and story. Also consider industry events. In Pakhuis de Zwijger [a cultural meeting place in Amsterdam where various trade shows are held], for example, you hear and speak to people from other disciplines about current themes. That is all much more inspiring than the two-dimensional stuff you get online."

    Van den Hoek himself likes to go out on the streets with his camera. When he started doing so in 1995, street photography did not yet exist. "People on the street are reality to me. Looks that are not conceived by marketing from a clothing brand or stylist from a magazine. Moreover, with this own image, I have material in my hands that is unique because I have collected it myself." His motto: "Countless people graduate every year. Make sure you have something that gets you noticed. Develop your own handwriting or specialism."

    Streetstyle photography by Edwin van den Hoek in Florence (left) and Amsterdam (right). “These men are very decorative with jewellery,” said the trend watcher. Credits: property of Edwin van den Hoek

    Finally, Van den Hoek thinks it is important for students to realise that they are not tied to one industry such as clothing. "If you can trend watch in fashion, you can basically do so in other sectors. Fashion design graduates with a good sense of colours, fabrics and materials can also work in the interior design industry," he illustrated. "I always try to impart that to students." Fashion designer Raf Simons thinks Van den Hoek is a good example to follow. "Simons has been able to work for Jil Sander, Adidas, Dior, Calvin Klein and now Prada. He also develops fabrics for Kvadrat and makes ceramics. He is so multidisciplinary."

    Streetstyle photography by Edwin van den Hoek in Amsterdam (left) and New York (right). "The men are wearing classic Hermès scarves. Here they are playing with tradition and gender," said Van den Hoek. Credits: property of Edwin van den Hoek

    Bonus FAQ

    Which came first: the chicken or the egg? And in the case of trend forecasting; which came first, the forecast or the trend?

    Trend forecasting and trends are intertwined and influence each other. Trend watchers recognise patterns and provide insight into emerging developments. Through trend forecasts, they communicate trends before they become widespread. At the same time, trend forecasters are naturally influenced by developments ("trends") that are already underway, and base their predictions on them (see paragraph 2). So it works both ways.

    Do forecasts always come true?

    Trend forecasting is not an exact science; predictions always involve some uncertainty. Trends are complex and dynamic and can be affected by unexpected events or societal changes that are difficult to predict – think, for example, of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Trend forecasts are complex and dynamic and can be affected by unexpected events or societal changes that are difficult to predict.

    But because trend predictions are based on what is going on in the world AND because most fashion companies and professionals follow the forecasts (see paragraph 4), it is true that the predictions often come true.

    Streetstyle photography by Edwin van den Hoek in Florence (left) and London (right). “Here we play with graphics. In general, men's fashion is very uni. These men wear clothing with a graphic, all over designs.” The man on the right is Nigel Cabourn, a well-known British fashion designer (of the Cabourn brand). Credits: property of Edwin van den Hoek


  • Interview with Dutch trend watcher Edwin van den Hoek of Studio Edwin van den Hoek on 1 November 2023
  • The book 'Fashion in the Netherlands' by Dr José Teunissen, 2006
  • The FashionUnited archive
  • Parts of this article text were generated using an artificial intelligence (AI) tool, and then edited
  • Read more background stories here: