Success in fashion, as in many other businesses, involves the uncanny ability to psyche out trends and translate them into products that will win favor with the customer. Throughout history, successful entrepreneurs have turned unarticulated longings into saleable merchandise. The hard-driving Steve Jobs sensed the desire for touch-screen connectivity before the average teenager, and the couturier Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel recognized that modern women wanted practical suits that fit their natural shape rather than the wasp-waisted New Look. Both entrepreneurs, it can be said, harnessed their creative genius to launch disruptive innovations.
Creative genius is inspiring, but it camouflages the nuts-and-bolts activities that undergird most businesses. Fashion is no exception. Beneath the glamour, the global fashion system depends on well oiled mechanisms for gathering and sharing intelligence about colors, fabrics, and silhouettes. By no accident do similar styles find their way onto the Paris runways and onto the fast-fashion racks of Primark and Zara almost simultaneously. Neither fashion dictatorship nor serendipity is responsible. This high level of coordination is made possible by trend reports from the fashion industry’s shadow information system, a hidden reconnaissance operation that gathers and analyzes data and recirculates it as style forecasts. This book focuses on the hidden history of those activities, known as color forecasting and trend prediction.