Trends have always fascinated me. Why does something suddenly become trendy, fashionable, in? Why do style ideals change, often radically; from one extreme to the other? Are our aesthetic preferences that volatile, or are the ever-changing winds of trends to a greater extend caused by our longings and dreams?
Trend forecasting is based on predictions, and such predictions are often based on trend spotting: simply put: I spot an increase of patchwork jackets in the streetscape and hence conclude that the next trend will be patchwork garments. However, often new trends are simply reactions to the ‘mainstream’ or superficial cravings for newness in whichever shape this might come. This mechanism might leave one wondering; which came first: the chicken or the egg? Are the big trend forecasting agencies predicting or creating the future demands?
The reason for me to be focusing on anti-trends rather than trends is that trend-research tends to just scratch the surface. Trends are occupied with what, whereas anti-trend research is an understand of why. Anti-trends are an embodiment of the deeply felt longings for whatever constitutes the good life. Trends are fleeting and expressions of momentary likings, whereas anti-trends reflect underlying values.
If you spot a need for patchwork clothes and draw the direct conclusion that it would make sense for fashion clothes manufactorers to produce a manifold of patchwork apparels, you might miss the important fact that the spotted patchwork trend could be a manifestation of a deeply felt longing for the handmade and unique, for DIY and raggedness. And hence, producing stacks of identical patchwork jackets would be a failed attempt to accommodate these desires.
Trendy design products seek to accommodate current longings and fleeting desires to fit in, whereas anti-trendy design solutions meet long-lasting needs. Trend research leads to an understanding of current possibilities, whereas anti-trend research focuses on innovative future thinking – by digging deep down below the surface and by continuously asking ‘why’: why these style-ideals, why these longings, why these preferences? Why are we reacting like this to current affairs – and how will it affect our future concept of what living a good life worth sustaining might look like?
When engaging in anti-tend analysis I would under ‘normal’ circumstances (meaning pre or post pandemic times) be talking about slowness, about a growing desire for contemplation, for going off-grid and off-line, for locally grown, made and sourced foods and goods. Because the rule of thumb when working with the research of longlasting tendencies or anti-trends is that they emerge out of what we are missing in our lives. They come from deeply felt longings. Therefore, if we feel stressed out, overworked and overwhelmed and primarily use Netflix and sugar-rushes to get recharged, and if there is rarely time for slow cooking, good conversations with friends nor energy for reading and other mindful ways of revitalisation, then slowing down tends to become our image of the good life.
However, the usual themes of our time have changed over the past year. We are no longer longing for alone time, and we are no longer craving silence. We are isolated and restricted in a manifold of ways. There is still a need for off-line activities, as a matter of fact I think this need has grown, while it has also changed slightly. All the many zoom meetings and online classes add to the need for off-line gatherings and real life activities. And this need manifests in for example a growing gardening-trend; the need to yin-yang the many hours in front of a screen is being expressed as a desire to get one’s hands dirty, to grow something living, to touch, smell, and breath, to be outside. Preferably together with other people. And, the longing for being out there, in real life, with a group of likeminded, three-dimensional people is wood on a fire that was already smoldering before the pandemic, namely the off-grid tendency that is embodied in anything from home-schooling groups to off-grid retreats.
But another tendency is appearing due to the current (pandemic infested) longings as well. Cultural tendencies based on deeply felt needs tend to be manifestations of what we are running low on. And, at the moment most people are running low on a many things: off-line activities, as mentioned, but also touch/tactility, rawness (as a counter-pole to the smooth and sterile), face to face interactions, and also travels, adventures, partying and fun! I think that the pandemic-hibernation will lead to a exotic-far-far-away mega-trend that might reveal itself in a focus on traditional crafts and indigenous patterns in sustainable fashion, a need to eat food from all over the world (at home, now that travelling has become so troublesome), and hence new innovative samplings of locally sourced groceries and dishes from far-away exotic corners of the world, community dinners in the streets and the forests and parks, and many many more sharing concepts, since sharing is caring, and caring is love, and love is needed in these mask covered odd times, and for many years to come.
Slow Corona might reinforce the Slow Movement, but in a new way; it will foster a need for joy, freedom and community-experiences. As a sustainable designer, ways to check in to this tendency will be needed.