Interview with Christine Boland:
How to understand (fashion) trends.
How to understand (fashion) trends –
Did the development of trends change during Corona and the “new normal” ?
by Fashion Cloud | 30.03.2021
Last week we sat together with Dutch trend analyst Christine Boland. We wanted to know how trends emerge and develop – especially in times of crisis – how we can define them and which ones we are currently experiencing. After working more than three decades as a consumer trends specialist, Christine Boland knows exactly how to translate people’s motivations and drivers into commercial openings and opportunities and shares some valuable insights with us.
Fashion Cloud: Tell us a little bit about yourself – how did you find your passion in the fashion industry?
Boland: I’ve been working in the fashion business for more than three decades now. I started to study psychology but after a year, I thought: ‘Well, I do like psychology, but I don’t like to study psychology.’ So then I switched to the Fashion Academy in the Netherlands and immediately after my studies at the Fashion Academy, I started to work at Bijenkorf, which is a huge department store in the Netherlands. There I learned to understand where trends come from and how you can translate them in a more commercial way for your customers.
This is also where my interest in psychology and my interest in trends came together, because trends are all about mass psychology and understanding what people think and being able to reflect that in whatever you create or do. In these first five or 10 years, I really learned to understand the whole ecosystem of the fashion market. So basically all the layers of this ecosystem from the first ideas, via production until the visual merchandising in the department store.
What I also learned is that you have to be able to inspire with relevancy. You have to make the people you work with, realize why a trend is good, why it is relevant and explain where this trend comes from. Only when people understand that, can they get inspired and translate this into products and services they want to offer.
Fashion Cloud: What is it that you love most about what you do?
Boland: What drives me most personally is identifying, clarifying and creating a deeper understanding of the spirit of the time and then translate that into what trend implications. In my way of working, I always start with analysing what is happening in the world. How is this defining the time frame and how is this affecting consumer and human behaviour? What do we need and what do we want? Then I analyse the runway shows and see what the designers come up with. Observing from that perspective I am able to identify underlying patterns and underpinning ideas. This makes me really happy.
Fashion Cloud: How do you personally define a trend and which are the main aspects that make up a trend for you?
Boland: In my opinion, a trend is an answer to a question, which evolves from the sign of the time. So if there is a need, a trend is the answer to this need. If you analyse the current runway shows, you can see that everyone is creating either very roaring expressing looks or soft introvert outfits. You will notice that fashion is suddenly all about tactility and that it uses fabrics and shapes, that make you feel embraced, in a time where we as humans cannot touch each other like we used to.
Fashion Cloud: A lot has changed in 2020 due to the pandemic and sustainability has become a really big topic for the fashion industry. Would you say that this is also a trend?
Boland: I don’t think sustainability is a trend but rather a given. A trend passes by and sustainability will stay. It’s long term, so you could probably say a ‘mega trend’. The movement towards a more sustainable lifestyle and the understanding of the need, were already emerging for quite some time now, but COVID accelerated the sense of urgency. I believe people become more and more aware of our interdependency and of how vulnerable the climate is. So COVID turbo charged the already existing trends of sustainability and the movement of sustainability, but it is a way of life, a way of producing and a way of doing things rather than a trend.
“YOU HAVE TO MAKE THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH, REALIZE WHY A TREND IS GOOD, WHY IT IS RELEVANT AND EXPLAIN WHERE THIS TREND COMES FROM.” – Christine Boland
Fashion Cloud: Could you break down your process of finding trends into key working steps? How do you go about it?
Boland: If we specifically talk about fashion my main starting points are the ‘runway shows’ as well as inspiring people I follow on social media, who are a diverse bunch. Meaning not only people from my ‘own bubble’ but for instance also Grammy Award winning musicians or artists or small brands.
I study the catwalk and really take time with my team to sit down and just dive into what we see on the catwalk. We ask ourselves: What are they doing? What are they communicating? Is it about details? Is it about fabrics? Is it about patterns? What do they tell us? So we literally interpret what we see. And with my background I start to analyse what is happening and I create a bigger picture analysis, that is on a more strategic level. Suddenly you see: ‘Okay, it’s about fantasy or it’s about re-inventing historic items, or it’s about rural nature’ etc. And these are the ties in my bigger picture story that lead me to the point where I know it makes sense.
Fashion Cloud: Is there anything else you do in order to get inspired?
Boland: Apart from studying the runway I nowadays ‘travel’ the internet and check out digital events and design blogs. But I also like leaving my desk and exploring nature for at least twice a day with no phone or music. Being in nature, detached from everything that is loud and fast, really helps me to arrange my thoughts.
Fashion Cloud: Compared to previous years – have you seen any differences to how trends develop during the pandemic (during lockdowns) and new consumer behaviors?
Boland: Yes, I think so. The pandemic is almost an X-ray image of our system. It showed us how everything was too fast, too distant, too much – simply ‘too’ everything. There was already a trend going on at the big fashion houses with the majority of brands leaning towards not doing so many collections per year but rather focusing on less pieces, with better quality and more attention to detail.
During COVID and because of the fact that people could not go shopping in the beginning, people turned around and started re-evaluating the clothes they already had and re-making became a thing. So on the one hand we see people re-using the things they have and on the other hand we see them investing more (money-wise) into less (number-wise). This is a trend you see not only in fashion but also in other fields: Designers create smaller collections with more attention and better quality in a increasingly sustainable way.
Fashion Cloud: What are the top 3 trends at the moment and how do they translate in this season?
Boland: First we have the ‘re-trend’, as in re-invent, re-think, re-compose, re-use, re-craft etc. Currently, the world is very confusing and everything seems uncertain. That is why we tend to look back to what we know and have, like or. But we give it a twist by re-interpreting what we know. This way yesterday’s stories translate into tomorrow’s design language. What you see for instance, is a recognisable heritage pattern like brocade, but then the colour used in this pattern is from modernised now and makes this look very trendy.
Another big trend is wanting to reconnect with nature. There we see the indigenous influences and also the influence of archaic patterns and wisdom. We also observe lots of green, growth and irregularity. It’s about the more archaic, raw and pure nature. Nature has to offer us so many inspirations.
Finally, the third big trend we are experiencing right now, is rather surrealistic and leans towards fantasy. This is what we see, due to the fact that we are all digitally creators now. You see designers creating completely new worlds online. A whole new world of digital fashion and skins which are not even produced (Carlings, the Fabricant), and you can ‘wear’ it on your Instagram account via photoshop. You pay for it, you wear it, but you will never own it physically.
That is really where we are nowadays: From fast fashion and limited editions to bespoke smaller collections as well as digital one-off’s. –
ℹ ABOUT CHRISTINE BOLAND
Christine Boland is a leading international trend watcher and analyst. Using Amsterdam, The Netherlands, as her home base, she has been identifying and translating trends in the consumer market for more than 25 years. She works closely with companies as a creative compass, providing insight and helping with strategic decision-making and innovation. Staying in tune with what is going on in the world today can help us see what the marketplace will look like tomorrow.
Christine Boland works for a wide range of client groups, from small and medium-sized businesses to multinationals and government organisations. The type of markets she is used to operate in, include fashion/apparel, beauty, consumer goods & services , retail and technology. Want to read more?