Introducing the course for the next generation of fashion leaders

This article first appeared on WGSN Insider and is written by Ilaria Pasquinelli. To view the original version visit There are no doubts that trends are all around us, as described in one of our latest whitepapers. We see them in what we eat, where we live and how we connect with each other. …

This article first appeared on WGSN Insider and is written by Ilaria Pasquinelli. To view the original version visit

There are no doubts that trends are all around us, as described in one of our latest whitepapers. We see them in what we eat, where we live and how we connect with each other. In other words, they influence the products consumers want and the expectations that they have on brands.

Understanding future trends (not fads) and embedding them in brands’ strategic planning is what companies need to future-proof. Mega trends last for years, or decades, and as a consequence, they can identify important avenues for growth for businesses. As fashion businesses become increasingly more insight-led to grow in this uncertain time, having talent that understands trends, knows how to filter them to adapt them for a specific business is of vital importance. This is why we partnered with Polimoda, the Internationally renowned fashion school in Florence, to create a Masters course in International Fashion Business that includes trend forecasting in its curriculum.

Today, we are meeting with WGSN’s Head of Catwalks, Lizzy Bowring, who is teaching at the Masters, to shed some light on this project.

How has trend forecasting changed in the last two decades and what’s its role today in the fashion industry?

Just as the world around us has changed with more than a modicum of alacrity, trend forecasting has had to move even more quickly. Trend forecasting is no longer just about ‘fashion’ trends, it is about the factors that affect every aspect of our lifestyles. We tend to think of Fashion as ephemeral trends with styles, silhouettes and colour remaining for a fleeting moment, The Forecasting role is firmly grounded in constant research aided by the relevant technology, enabling us to connect the dots whether it be from culture global inspirations, social media, data, product innovation, future influences through to the design, product development, merchandising, marketing and buying. The informative creative process of forecasting enables us to work smarter not harder and ready to embrace the immediacy of the future.

The Polimoda’s International Fashion Business Master has analysis (data and trend forecasting) at the heart of the curriculum. Why is it so important for the fashion talent of the future to learn how to embed insight, especially trends, into their work?

Without data and trend forecasting , students would not be able to make informed decisions that will affect the future of business. They need to be both adept and adapt and cannot do so without the knowledge of every aspect of forecasting. In many respects, these influences are cyclical, a natural response to the reflection of our social and cultural changes and with that, comes the combination of stories, history, art, travel, colour and above all, creativity. We need to look back to the past to create the future – this is fundamental to the trend and design process and informs all aspects of business, so whatever area students may aspire to, they can approach the future with a modern, inventive and informed sensibility. We need to communicate how to set them up for success after all, they are our future.

What are the other key competences, you believe, that the fashion professionals of the future should have and why?

Our world is constantly evolving with immediate changes, disruptions, diversity, and with that, the fashion professionals of the future need to possess a constant and considered approach. They need to be thinking ahead all the time; to be inquisitive, to be the eyes, the ears, the watchers and reporters and more than that, have a passion for knowledge of both past and present and LOVE what they do. As forecasters, we need to be one step ahead of or at least pre-empt global changes, we need to track the progression of these trends and to be ready to be reactive to situations which can be deemed as the most integral ingredient of imparting relevant information. Fashion forecasters will be an even more important ‘lifeline’ to retailers, buyers, designers etc. in order to assist them in making the best and most informed decisions relevant to their businesses.

Why are you so excited about this collaboration with Polimoda?

A number of reasons. First and foremost, I absolutely love my profession, thriving on every single piece of fashion history, how the past influences the future and how I can connect the dots to inspire those around me. Over the last 3 years at WGSN, I have been given the opportunity to present both Catwalks and Forecast to our clients and the response has been extremely gratifying. I love to communicate with people. So it just seemed to be a given that when I met the Dean of Polimoda (Danilo Venturi) earlier this year, we shared a profound and common passion that we should partner in order to pass our knowledge on to a future generation. Polimoda is exemplary, founded on heritage, thorough research and above all, creativity. I cannot wait!

How did you end up working in fashion trend forecasting?

By fortune, luck and a lot of hard work! I actually started as a designer but was always passionate about history of fashion, how subsequent trends evolved and colour. My mind never stops! A role became open at a leading Department chain for a Colour forecaster – they had been looking for someone for over 6 months, I sat a colour aptitude test and that was it. The door was open – I was given carte blanche to communicate and inspire the fabulous team around me. Within 6 months, I was given the role of Director for Trend Forecasting.

Looking ahead, what’s your wish for the fashion industry?

I am lucky enough to have experienced two worlds – the traditional and the now – the present/future. I say that because the traditional provides an informative starting block, something by which to gage living in a world that is full of constant change – where the future is gaining on us rapidly. My hope is that we (fashion) can influence the world around us in a truly considered and positive way by anticipating – to be more than one step ahead – being constantly aware of global trends, and cultural shifts. And consequently innovate and satisfy. Finally, develop the respect required in order to leave a footprint that will only make for a better world.