To Predict the Newest Fashion Trends, Look to the Past

Male Model Throwback Style Jeans T-Shirt Suspenders
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Pop culture is continuously reinventing itself. Ever since the advent of mass media, the way that people have expressed themselves artistically has been continually evolving – from Andy Warhol’s famous pop art creations to the explosion of online video sharing sites like YouTube and the short-form content that they have popularized. Many people and businesses working in these spaces are content to react to market trends, with traditional “old” media outlets usually opting to ride out the initial popularity of a new internet trend before deciding to incorporate it into their business model.

In the fine art sector, fashion tends to be the most forward-looking. The key to success in fashion is to ride the crest of the newest wave in consumers’ tastes, if not to create a new trend entirely. This might seem like a daunting task; indeed, the aspiring fashionisto may come to believe that they need a mastery of data science and unlimited access to the most up-to-date market research in addition to creative or artistic talent to capture the eyes of the public. However, there is one apparent key to predicting modern fashion trends: Nostalgia.

According to Google’s data for the most-searched terms related to fashion in 2018, the top four most-searched terms were all for throwback trends from the past three decades (followed by Meghan Markle, of course). Even the most cursory look at search trends can show how powerful the force of nostalgia can be as a predictor of future fashion trends. Even as brands reinvent themselves and their images, their designs remain firmly rooted in their connection to their history.

Male Model Retro Style Old TV
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Even without access to online customer behavior or internet search trends, a boots-on-the-ground approach to sniffing out what’s coming next for the industry can turn up similar conclusions. Take the Magic tradeshow, for instance: the takeaway from last year’s show was that the business is reshaping itself, grappling with the insurgence of online retailers and finding new ways to incorporate new methods of connecting to consumers and raising capital. Amidst all this enthusiasm, 90s fashion appears to be dictating the looks and styles of today’s market.

Even monolithic fashion icons, trendsetters who found success by following their inner vision and sensibility rather than following and reacting to the trends of their time, are driven by the culture around them, and although today’s culture has a nostalgic bent, so did yesterday’s culture as well. Legendary designer Kate Spade, whose recent passing has brought a wave of renewed interest in her work, was all of these things – visionary, self-reliant, trendsetting, and, of course, nostalgic.

The reliability of nostalgia as a consistent point of reference for current and future fashion trends is, on further inspection, entirely reasonable. The past is comfortable, familiar, and unchallenging. The world is always changing, and right now faster than ever, but bringing old and recognizable elements of a more innocent-seeming past – especially from one’s childhood or teenage years – not only gives them a new identity in a different context, reinvigorating them, but also brings the comfort of apparent stability. Fashion, and art as a whole, obviously won’t stay the same, but it will always be safe to bet that even its newest incarnations will be firmly rooted in its history.