Challenging Common Taste and Fashion’s Aspirations

An interview with our alumna Bernina Chan


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Bernina Chan graduated with a master’s degree in Fashion Trend Forecasting in 2013 at Polimoda, and has since launched her own forecasting agency with fellow alumnae, called TRENDtank. Bernina currently works at Zalando where she joins the dots to define the future of fashion for the ecommerce giant, and asks the tough questions to make sure this future is anything but predictable.

Who are you?

I grew up moving a lot, living in different multicultural backgrounds from New Zealand to Hong Kong and more. This translated into my mixed education in Sociology, Classical Music, Law and eventually Fashion Trend Forecasting, which I believe ties my eclectic interests nicely together. I have a passion for the way people think and work; what makes us tick and influence the decisions we make socially and creatively? How do we come to identify ourselves? It is interesting for me to breakdown and conceptualise the journey between what is created, how and why it is consumed and what the next journey will be.

What is your professional history?

My career started heavily in trend research for different trend forecasting institutes before moving into a retail and consumer insight focus for the Copenhagen Institute of Future Studies. I also had a few stints working on branding and buying for Thomas Tait and Dover Street Market, before transitioning from smaller-scaled luxury fashion businesses into my current role at Zalando as Fashion Direction Trendscout. It’s fairly different working in an ever-changing corporate landscape. Here I’m tasked with identifying the prospects and fashion forward capabilities they can develop and offer while executing processes to be implemented. This can mean anything from presenting seasonal trend presentations and workshops, to concept design for marketing campaigns and offline events, to buying assortment alignments and styling and content production guidelines.

My other project on the side is TRENDtank, a trend think tank and consulting agency with fellow Polimoda alumni for which we work digitally around the world.

What was your moment of realisation when you knew you wanted to work in this field?

A trip to New York for the “Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada: Impossible Conversations” Met Exhibition confirmed my desire to work in fashion, while an unplanned encounter with a Lidewij Edelkoort workshop in Auckland around the same time sparked my interest and awareness of trend forecasting and how fashion is interpreted. My discovery of the MA course in Fashion Trend Forecasting at Polimoda simply made the decision easier.

Bernina Chan

Describe your typical day.

My daily work always entails a continuous effort of compiling observations and identifying behaviour and trends through tradeshows, online, travelling or simply going out. The rest of the day is then dictated by the cycle of the season. No day is the same. It can involve a full day of research, alignments with buying teams on next season’s assortment and direction, styling workshops or simply the logistics of gathering relevant looks and samples for upcoming TV campaigns and fashion shows. I also work to increase fashion and trend awareness internally and externally, to ensure the right creative decisions are made to inspire our consumers and help them navigate accurately in an extremely competitive and fast changing fashion environment. An effort is also made personally to include something new in my day or week; an activity, event or dining out to find new inspiration.

Where do you see the future of fashion?

The future of fashion will have to take more responsibility to innovate and to embrace the time it takes for talent and craft to grow. Fashion is of course also invented to sell and is always eager to catch the moment, but if we continue to rush and opt for hype we risk flattening creativity and becoming engulfed by the multiplication of outputs we have today. The future of fashion should modernise knowledge and craft manuals to stimulate thinking; to question how we can combine quality and immediacy. How can we recycle the fashionable wasteland before us with yet continue to challenge common taste and fashion’s aspirations? The future of fashion relies on solving the conundrum between constant reinvention and immediacy with stability and sustainability.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently in the eye of the storm of a new initiative for my company that challenges the medium and future of online and offline retail. It’s an exciting time filled with ideas flying around, lots of investigation across industries, trends (not necessarily limited to fashion) and the semiotics of marketing and branding. It’s reminding me to take a moment, reflect, be playful and curious in order to stimulate inspiration that’s beneficial to my work.