Trend forecasting is dusty

The industry is broken, as brands and institutions alike battle to keep up with TikTok’s fast culture. Does this mean the death of trends?

The year 2023 was marked by the zenith of ‘cores’ and ‘eras’, ranging from Coquette to Blokette, and Corporate Core to Whimsigoth. Niche-ified aesthetics have surpassed streetwear and Instagram baddies, prompting us to question: are subcultures still alive, or have we transitioned to something new?

The era of the macro trend waned, with TikTok emerging as the catalyst for its decline, giving way to a universe of meso and micro aesthetic-led trends. As legacy publishers increasingly focus their reporting on cores and eras, complemented by a surge of online TikTok trend forecasters and hundreds of trend reports, it’s no surprise that forecasting is climbing to the top of people’s ‘OUT’ lists. If trends have evolved, then surely our methods of defining them must also evolve.

Let’s start by sticking to a key forecasting principle: to look forward, we have to look back. When I joined the Future Laboratory in 2013, the roles of forecasters and futurists were shrouded in mystique. The title was held by few, it felt niche and exclusive. When people asked about my job, I joked that it was to “divine the future”. I didn’t want to make the job seem cooler than it was – there are a lot of things wrong with forecasting, and it’s ultimately rooted in spotting what’s on the edge of culture and then packaging it up for brands to pillage. When I look back, some of it gives me the ick.

Top image: © Wlad74 / Shutterstock; Above: The Diffusion of Innovation Curve