Being A Trend Forecaster

victoria polaroidAfter I’ve presented a trend seminar it’s usual for several audience members to come and speak to me about some piece of information or another that particularly interested them,  and without fail each and every one of them will comment on how brilliant it must be to be a Trend Forecaster (which of course it is!) … and they will also normally ask me exactly what my day-to-day job entails.  It seems no matter where in the world I present seminars, and no matter what market sector the audience members are from, Trend Forecasting is a job that fascinates people.  So I thought it would be interesting to give you an insight into what it is I do all day:desk

final pic for blog

Basically I lead the trend forecasting and creative projects at Scarlet Opus and spend my days thinking about, discussing and writing about the future! 

Outside of the design industry few people seem to know about the work of Trend Forecasters or how our predictions help to guide the designing, manufacturing and buying activities of the world’s best known product brands and retailers.  In fact few end consumers have any idea that the vast majority of the products they buy have been created in line with the predictions of international trend forecasting agencies like ours, and that this process of forecasting all started a couple of years before the product ever became available for them to buy in a shop:  

MONTAGE workAs you read this post we’re completing our Autumn/Winter 2015/16 forecasts for some of our clients and beginning to think about Spring/Summer 2016.  I know – it’s kinda crazy!  Many of our clients want to know about trend predictions just 1 year or 18 months in advance, so whilst we work on reports looking ahead 2 years, we’re also translating trends into product ideas for our clients who want to stay focussed on Spring/Summer 2015 at the moment … and that’s fine too because we want to work at the pace that is right for our clients:

COVERABOVE cover image: New hand-embroidered fabric collection from Fameed Khalique

First and foremost being a Trend Forecaster is about research and information gathering.  Then analysis and translation of that information.  Then drinking cocktails & attending lovely events.  That’s the order of the work tasks for a Trend Forecaster.  Just to be clear – let me show you that as a diagram:



Essentially what I’m saying is that a lot of my time as a Trend Forecaster is spent online finding information on the global events planned-in over the next few years, as well as sifting through the reams of information the team gathers, reading lots of thought-provoking online articles and reports from specialists and experts in diverse fields of study, and reading-up on everything from future film releases to underwater architecture:

waterAs a team we discuss these architectural projects, hotel openings, film productions, museum shows … and a myriad of other planned events, whilst also assessing social change, examining popular culture, and the economic climate in a broader sense.  And of course we keep a keen eye on new works being created by Designers and Artists around the world.  We analyse all of this information, also taking into account current global events, in order to translate it all into a prediction of future design trends.  We need to anticipate what end consumers will want to buy way ahead of them ever developing the desire.  From our research we know what will be on people’s radars at a given point in the future and what they’ll be looking to buy into.  Our job is to help ensure that at that point, the products they want, in the colours, patterns, styles and materials they want them, will be available in stores to answer this demand.  All of the pieces of information we gather together and discuss are like pieces of a jigsaw that fit together to give a bigger and more complete picture of future design trends.  We can then begin to build colour palettes and establish the ‘look’ and key design characteristics of each of the season’s trends:

montage 1

Once we’ve established our 5 trend predictions for a season we can begin to build trend boards and create the seasonal reports for our clients.  The first step is to start image gathering – finding wonderful images of fantastic products by great Designers to feature on the trend boards that will come together to provide a clear visual of the trends.  We contact each of them directly to ask their permission to use an image of their work, and slowly but surely the trend boards begin to be built using InDesign software.  Alongside the creation of the trend boards we begin to build our seasonal Trend Report and Presentations, and record the audio commentary that our clients find so useful: 

trend board work

ABOVE: ‘The Vision’ trend board & color palette; Dress by Eri Matsui; ‘Ruined Polaroid’ by William Miller ; ‘Adrift’ (floating crystals photo) by Kirk Johnson

Then it’s time to get out and present our latest forecasts to clients - Manufacturers (Like Kimberly-Clark, Le Creuset, Quick-Step, Interface, Steelcase and sappi), Retailers (like Lakeland), Service Providers, Product Designers and Interior Designers (like Show Business Interiors), or Trade Associations (like BHETA).   Sometimes our trend presentations are held at their offices for just their in-house teams to attend; sometimes our clients invite some of their suppliers along (and that’s fine with us – the more the merrier!); sometimes we give trend presentations on behalf of our cleints to groups of their clients or potential clients!  Whatever works for them works for us, and we LOVE talking about future design trends, and sharing our expertise - informing and inspiring groups large and small:

trend presentation montage

When I’m back in the studio I write posts for our blog (I especially like our ’Today I Love …‘, ‘Hot Spot‘ and ‘Exhibitions‘  posts), and I write articles and quotes for magazines and newspapers, as well as doing interviews for trade magazines and exhibitions.  Recently a trend forecast feature was published in the 2014 Interior Design Yearbook (pages 170-175) and it’s also going to be featured in the consumer edition out in December.  I’ve also given a telephone interview about ‘Wellbeing & Design’ to the team behind 360° magazine which will feature in their January issue (67).  And earlier this week I did an interview for a feature entitled ‘Gearing Up For SURFACES‘ for the December issue of Floor Focusmag montageAnd that rather neatly reminds me to mention our involvement with both the SURFACES show in Las Vegas and The Flooring Show in the UK.  For both of these trade exhibitions we design and curate the Trends Hub (an open space for show visitors to learn about the trends for the year ahead and see inspiring products from their industry … as well as being a space to relax, work or hold a meeting).  We also present Trend Forecasting seminars, and at the moment I’m working on our events for Designer Day at SURFACES on Jan 29th 2014 (full details HERE) which includes: a 90min seminar on Design Trends for 2014/15; leading 2 ‘Speed Trend Tours’ out on the show floor of exhibitors booths (ably assisted by Phil as our navigator); PLUS daily Live in the Hub talks from the team across the durarion of the show (28th – 30th Jan 2014).  Phil & I have selected the exhibitors who will be on the Speed Trend Tours and now I need to start writing the tour script and building the seminar slides.  Meanwhile Catherine (our Intern) & I are devising, purchasing & making props for the Trends Hub.  It’s a really creative and exciting time in our studio.

Last year (as you can see below) we went with a Lab styling for the Trends Hub that was bright and industrial-looking with a scientific twist.  The 2014 Trends Hub theme is VERY different and I can’t wait to get to Vegas in the New Year and start working with the fantastic builders to put it all together and make our design a reality!

hub montage

So that’s essentially what it’s like Being A Trend Forecaster i.e. completely fascinating and completely all-consuming!  But I feel completely privileged to have spent the last 10 years helping people around the world to have a clearer view of the future!

You can read more about all the stuff we do, and can do for you, HERE.

miss v jpg

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University Design Degree Show Highlights

js1024_zak2On Wednesday 19th June,  I visited the University of Huddersfield Graduate design show. It was my chance to gain an insight into how to prepare and display design work at the graduate show - because this time next year it will be my turn!

Each year the ratio of students studying each creative course and specialism changes.  This year I came across lots of Surface Pattern designers, Crafters, Weavers and Knitters showcasing their work, compared to last year when there were quite a lot of Textile Printers.

The studios were filled with amazing new talent waiting to break through into industry:

First up is a collection from Laura Dobson studying BA (Hons) Surface Design.  She created ‘Tainted Essence’ which consisted of both hard & raw materials (such as metals), and soft fabric elements. It was an inspiring collaboration mixing techniques of digital print and laser cut wall pieces. Her concept was concerned with “Imperfection within Fast Fashion”. Personally I love the clever use of rust shades blended with muted subtle tones of grey and silver, which are emphasized via a dominant deep blue palette. The way in which Laura experimented and mixed medias together created an amazing look for her designs which had hidden depth and originality. This concept – that the designer has no control of the exact outcome - is very risky, but with every ‘mistake’ there is the oppurtunity for further creativity, and Laura uses this method to her advantage:


Student 1 Close upLaura Dobson - Surface Design

Morta Kazenaite is studying BA (Hons) Surface Design and had a devised wallpaper prints which were built layer upon layer. I found the designs fascinating as they contained a combination of words, inked backgrounds and incredible hand drawn bird images, giving a sense of mystery and storytelling. I feel the monochrome colour theme added to the drama and leads the viewer into the unknown. The layering is beautifully balanced – blending together it flows and creates a complete, coherent pattern. Morta has also created a sense of pleasing dynamism by introducing storytelling elements via the use of text:js1600_Student_2

Student 2 Close upMorta Kazenaite - Surface Design

Deborah Scott studying BA (Hons) Surface Design created ’Emotional Sanctuary’ - a collection inspired by nature and light reflections. The fabric had been laminated and ceramic printed onto glass. She uses patterns from nature, light reflections and concepts of natural growth as a background, blended within an everyday city environment, and combines them on frosted effect glass and print. Deborah’s style is very effective as it feels like the outside world has come inside, which would give any interior space her work is used in a calm, relaxed atmosphere:

Student 3a

Student 3 Close upDeborah Scott - Surface Design

Justyna Kmiecik is a Print designer who created a collection entitled ’Hidden Beauty’.  The style she used is familiar and currently trending in the Fashion, but the originality of her work was in striving to make her design technique and products sustainable. Her inspiration comes about from her close up photography combined with simple line drawings.  The basis of her collection idea was to adapt her images many times to reduce waste during the priting process and to print on different types of fabric to create a new look organic design:


Student 4 Close upJustyna Kmiecik – Print Designer

Mark Choi is a BA (Hons) Surface Design student who focused on creating bespoke works.  He used a glass effect combined with ink imprint. The ceiling simulation (below) was futuristic and unique, and really caught my attention.  Mark uses linear and geometric shapes in blocks or mirror repeats to create his images. The use of colour is kept simple and limited in order to draw attention to the intricate detail within his patterns.


Student 5 close upMark Choi – Surface Design

Overall the University of Huddersfield had exceptional students whose work I look forward to seeing more of in the coming years.

This time next year I will have completed my degree and qualified … and then the world’s my oyster!  So watch this space as maybe you will use my degree show designs for inspiration!!!


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Interior 360 Dubai

large-logoOn Tuesday I headed over to Dubai’s Art district, Al Quoz, to pay a visit to the much talked about interiors boutique, interior360.  They were busy preparing for their August opening at Galeries Lafayette in Dubai Mall so I was able to hunt through the eclectic mix of furniture, art, and design at my leisure.

Set in an old warehouse, the space provides a simple yet perfect backdrop to the rich mix of creative styles on offer.  Tini Meyer is a founding partner and speaks with incredible passion about her creation, telling me that she started “because I wanted to find a way to promote Art from the Philippines.  My business partner, Jurgen Herre, is very passionate about design and furniture, so we combined these interests and created interior360.”

Travelling the world to source the finest furniture to fill her customers’ eyes with aesthetic pleasures, every piece is handcrafted and has a story to tell, taking your imagination on a fabulous adventure.  Tini has a penchant for picking up hidden gems such as antique books and curiosity objects and, with a love for all things unique and fascinating, she uses the space as a platform for emerging Artists, featuring photography, paintings, sculptures, multi-media installations and more from Creatives including Allan Murillo, Clayton Tugonon, Luisa Robinson, Vito Selma, Carlo Cordaro, and Kuwaiti label Al Hamad Design.

Personally, I loved that super contemporary furniture sits next to vintage Chinese design which sits next to Iranian inspired mixed media pieces: a true cultural mix that filled me with excitement.  Favourite pieces included work by Nepalese Artist, Chirag Bangdel, particularly his Contemporary Collection of cushions (one of which I really must own soon); the gorgeous Acropolis Sofa by Nanu Al-Hamad whose form offers a feeling of comforting intimacy; and the vintage Chinese pieces which Tini found in an antiques shop in Manila.  Clayton Tugonon’s long bench is just exquisitely made and I went back to look at it several times, Tini agreed saying he is one of interior360′s favourite Designers, “his pieces use natural materials that are hand inlaid in geometric patterns.  He does so many wonderful things.”

Wall 360The footstools by Iranian Artist Nazzy Beglari, are limited edition pieces from the art furniture collection, ARTNITURE.  The legs of the Indian stools are hand painted whilst the seats are covered with a Chinese floral fabric purchased in New York’s China Town and printed images of Iranian singer, Mahvash, on organic cotton!  Beglari says she is “fond of utilising images of iconic personalities from the past, or paintings and poetry on furniture.  In ancient civilisations people created art for daily use not decoration, like Persian carpets which cover the floors not the walls”.

I’m a huge fan of clusters of beautiful copper and brass Moroccan pendant lights and so I was thrilled by the huge “chandelier” piece hanging above the entrance to the warehouse ( I later found out this piece was purchased by Jurgen whilst on holiday in Marrakesh and “taken” by Tini!).

Finally, other favourite pieces included the hand carved wall panels by Kohar Kevorkian from Addis Ababa and the wonderfully retro rattan Tobago armchair by Phillipino Designer, Allan Murillo.

A massive thank you to Tini for taking the time to tell me about her treasures!  If you’re in Dubai do make time to pass by the warehouse located in Al Quoz and look out for the new collection in Galeries Lafayette from August.  You can follow interior360 on Twitter @interior360dxb


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Deb Bowness – Local:Heroine by Becs Gardner

BGI’m not a cool cat. Never have been. If I like something (or someone for that matter) I find it really hard to not be a total geek about it and wear my heart on my sleeve. This trait showed itself in all its glory when I made a certain discovery only last week.

No doubt you will be familiar with Deborah Bowness’ “Genuine fake bookshelf” wall coverings (if not, you can see the full range of products on her website here). It’s been in myriad interiors magazines, graced the walls of high-profile Designer Abigail Ahern’s London home, and has been imitated numerous times over. It (amongst the rest of Deb’s collection) is one of my most favourite and aspirational interior products. So, I hear you ask, what was my discovery? Just this: all Deb’s wallpapers are handmade in a small factory workshop just 8 miles from my home. My design heroine, Deb, is now officially a Local Treasure too. Gasp.


Original Genuine Fake Bookshelf

Naturally, being a blogger and design enthusiast I couldn’t just leave it there. I had to see if they were open to visitors. You can imagine my excitement when I got the all clear to pay a visit and write it up. Deep breaths. Here it is:


Bowness & Bowness’ workshop is tucked away down a quiet country lane just outside of York. Housed in an unassuming tin warehouse, the only thing letting me know I was heading in the right direction was a bunch of silk screens propped against the outside wall, and one of Deb’s “Utility Lamps” hung just inside the door. No sign, no fanfare. This is business.


Utility Lamp | Kim’s Lamp

I was greeted by Leigh. Leigh is the “other” Bowness; Deb’s sister. With a background in PR & Marketing, Leigh is just the balance the business needs to get the product “out there” and put meals on the table: “Deb would happily create all day long, but she knows we all need to earn a living” says Leigh. For seven years Deb ran the show on her own; designing, producing, marketing (exhibiting, travelling, accounting… sounds exhausting to me). Five years ago Leigh came on board and moved the production back to Yorkshire where the sisters grew up. “We’ve grown the business totally organically, never taking more people on board than we could afford, and never borrowing any money.” As I toured the workshop (read: snooped about) it became clear that this model has worked for them – evidenced by the number of samples and rolls about to head out the door to eager clients.


booksBut more than that; this place is littered with personal touches. Second hand furniture picked up along the years, a series of canvasses produced for a friend’s wedding adorns the walls; the obligatory staff shed (every creative studio needs a shed). This place could only ever have grown organically, out of a passion and love for design. It’s about as far from corporate as you could get; it’s a real cottage industry, a craft.


personalAs I got the low down on the production process, I realised these papers are more like mini works of art than your standard wall covering. It all became very clear why they don’t come at your standard high street price; each trompe l’oeil design is personally photographed by Deborah, then digitally printed in monochrome tones. After that, blocks of colour are added through screen printing, and the final touches are painstakingly added by hand with watercolours.


Wallpaper collections

Even the equipment used throughout the process right down to the lightbox used to expose the silk screens has been purpose-built in situ. “We used to have certain parts of the process done externally”, says Leigh “then realised that we could get a better result bringing it in-house. We get to experiment more without worrying too much about the cost, and of course, we get to control the whole process more closely. Deb is a stickler for quality and detail!” I’m becoming more and more of a fan with every step.

With all the personal touches along the way, this is not something that is easily copied. Put it this way; you can spot an imitation a mile off. But what does it feel like to have your work ripped-off? “It is frustrating, but it’s not something that we can control. On the other hand, if nobody was copying it, that kinda sends a few signals. At least we know we’re doing something right!” Touché.


Shop the Deborah Bowness collection here

Even with Leigh’s input in the business, it can’t be easy balancing the creative side with selling the stuff. I wondered, had they ever been tempted to go down the high street route and get their products sold by a big brand? “Well”, says Leigh “I can’t say too much right now. We know that we have a vast following of people who really love the product, but who aren’t buying it because of the price.” [*ahem, that’s me she’s talking about.] “Let’s just say that we’re keen to make something more accessible and affordable. There are a few irons in the fire.” This is music to my ears. All I can say now is “watch this space”.

Huge thanks to Becs for today’s inspiring posting.  Do check out her fabulous interiors blog for real women, An English Girl’s Home, and follow her on Twiiter @becsgardner   

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