"Chaos is prevailing in the world and that means that there is chaos in fashion, because fashion reflects the time. No one knows anymore what to deliver or when. The long, warm Indian summer is a fact and I cannot understand why fashion suppliers and retailers hold onto to old delivers under the motto 'the earlier you deliver items to store, the more you sell.' The climate has changed and when it finally gets really cold, there won't be a single winter coat available anymore. The system is outdated and is desperate need of a change."
Trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort does not mince her words at her bi-annual trend presentations, where she totes her trend books. She names the pressing points in a sector that is searching for a new path and offers radical solutions. "I occasionally joke that perhaps we would be better off skipping a whole season."
The call for change is translated in the inspiration books published by Edelkoort's company Trend Union for Summer 2018, revolving around a central theme of transformation and transitions, known as Trans Union. Because, in spite of the chaos in the world and her deep dissatisfaction with the outcome of the U.S elections, the Dutch trend forecaster remains optimistic about the future. "It is a time when the nature and the form of the garment will change drastically and that is good news for the industry because then the customer will finally buy something."
Fashion is in transition
It remains the question of whether trend forecasters only show the way or if their statements end up dictating the outcome of which direction fashion goes. Lidewij Edelkoort stresses in her presentations which of her predictions have come true, but is this just a reflection of her ability as a trend forecaster or the result of her expanding influence on the fashion industry? "I finally understand why I named the upcoming season (summer 2017) 'The Emancipation of Everything' two years ago," she says. "I think that the current situation, with all its issues, underpins the shift in the relationship between men and women." And Edelkoort's predictions transcend fashion. For example, she foresaw the "it" white pantsuit worn this spring by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and she predicted Donald's Trump win, "but no one wanted to believe it."
However, fashion professionals have flocked to Edelkoort's presentations throughout her European tour not to hear her view on U.S politics, but to get a glimpse of what the trend forecaster predicts for the next summer season. Summer 2018 marks the start of a new era and a new shapes in fashion, says Edelkoort. The sleeve in particular will become very important. "You'll have to do something with the sleeve," she calls out to the audience. "Perhaps you can sell loose sleeves," she suggests.
A reappreciation of the garment will also mean that fashion companies will have to take the next step and reorganise their creative departments, according to Edelkoort. "You will need designers who can design and find inspiration from within themselves once more. Not stylists, who simply go shopping and pick up a pair of trousers, take them apart and then say 'let's do something like this.' And since you are busy anyways, make sure you find a good pattern maker who actually knows how to translate new designs ideas into a three-dimensional pattern."
Edelkoort shares 18 themes for summer 2018 which build on the key message and call for change. In a nutshell, they are about the volume at which the perfect mouldable body is cast in a new form; the cross-fertilization between the different disciplines and styles - for example with Edelkoort workwear receives a romantic overhauls with bows and ruffles; the use of new materials such as paper yarn and the reuse of waste materials and their transformation into new structures. It is richly detailed fashion with intense colour, detail, beading, embroidery and piping.
At the end of the afternoon a woman in the audience sticks up her hand with the question: "What advice do you for stylists who are currently working in the design department of a fashion company?" "Go back to school and learn," is the answer. Keep evolving and changing, keep transforming in short.
Portrait Lidewij Edelkoort: Thirza Schaap via Appletizer
Collection photo: Anne Fontaine website