Coolhunters, editors and magazines were the gatekeepers of taste in a pre-Internet era. What is the new playbook around trends, fashion knowledge and technology?

The old fashion rules do not apply now, playing it safe with PR and advertising does not guarantee a successful product launching, at least not anymore. For decades fashion designers and insiders had played the role as translators of culture, social zeitgeist detectors to imagine and determine what people want.

Forecasting agencies, coolhunters, fashion media and buyers were a key element for shaping a collection or a product development. Furthermore, a key to push certain brands into a wider audience or even mainstream a certain trend or style.

Now the Internet is king, a connective experience of globalization and keywords. Generating a tremendously amount of data every day, fashion’s digitalization is leading the way in order to boost e-commerce sales, social media conversations and actually decoding what people- really- want.

Trends and Forecasting

Fashion forecasters or ‘trend forecasting agencies’ offer a guidance about changes in colour, fabric, shapes and relevant cultural changes- in the long term- in society, influencing fashion industry. Some retailers hire them to define their further evolution around design and others, prefer to work with freelance agents to do the proper research and then adapt it their brand essence.

Some of the better-known combine products (trend books) and services (consulting) as Sacha Pacha, Peclers, Line, Promostyl and WGSN. Among with important trade fairs like Premiere Vision, a ‘must’ starting point for colour and fabric trends.

However, the ‘trending’ concept has now developed a new language and is more related with searches, clicks, shared media and a powerhouse algorithm to find answers.

The intersection of Big Data and the Fashion World

Fashion knowledge combined with technology and user search are the new standards for the market. The analysis of this enormous amount of data translated into information is the key to make valuable conclusions about what is going on worldwide and a first step to understand -in a better way- a client shopping behaviour.

Fashion data is increasingly being used in supply chain management, analyzing preferences and emotions of customers, controlling stock and of course, forecasting trends.

All the data associated to a fashion garment as brand, print, colour, texture, material, volume, fit and length, even wearable occasion is at reach in every e-commerce platform. Multiply this at thousand or million times each season, each product development and every fashion week (plus keywords and runway photos). If you connect the dots that means something could not be exposed using less data or even traditional methods.

Big data across industries is ruled by the 4V’s: volume (is estimated at least 463 exabytes of data will be generated by humans each day by 2025), velocity (the speed of creation with 5G), variety (social media, sensors, mobile devices, internet shopping), and latterly veracity (battling with fake news or biased analytics).

However, according to McAfee and Brynjolfsson in ‘Big Data: The management revolution’ from Harvard Business Review, ‘Big data’s power does not erase the need for vision or human insight’.

Fashion Aggregators: Searches and Insights Report

Aggregator sites technology is based into consumer discovery process navigating between recommendations from retailers and other consumers in their quest to find an item.

In this sense, aggregators like The Urge, Stylite or Shopstyle to name a few, simplify the shopping experience and obtain a disruptive competitive position as they get the power sourced by all the retailers.

Mainly because they can compare all items in real time so the client can choose smartly and more informed than before.

They use a combination of AI and human stylists to deliver recommendations and, in some cases, machine learning technology. These tech-fashion giants also generate key information and insights from the searches and cross platforms.

Lyst, founded by Chris Morton and Seb Trepca in Shoreditch London, has become the largest global fashion search platform with more than 5 million products from 12,000 brands. A customer centric business with a clear and sound brand purpose: ‘Help you find your one in a million’.

They have positioned themselves as a fashion intelligence source for tracking data trends, with over 80 million shoppers from 120 countries. With ‘A Year in Fashion report’ and quarterly ‘Lyst Index’ they are mastering the clues analyzing online shopping patterns and provide in real-time the shifts in consumer attitudes with ‘Lyst Insights’.

Tagwalk, founded by former stylist Alexandra Van Houtte in Paris, is using more than 2,800 keywords where users can search for tags inside fashion shows and presentations by brand, city, look, trend or style. Although is not an aggregator, ‘the google of fashion’ has established as a fashion source for industry professionals (like stylist and buyers). Now Tagwalk is managing data insights, trends and creative content services for brands.

Other aggregator platforms are using as well fashion searches as a driver to develop their own insights strategy, like Etsy who is community focused and delivering insights to vendors. Or Farfetch, who is offering data-driven marketing solutions for fashion brands and major global advertisers.