This Company Secretly Decides What You Wear Every Day

by : Francesca Donovan on : 21 Sep 2016 13:30
fashion mannequinVimeo

You may have noticed that every twenty-something on the street now looks like a carbon copy of one another.

Between 90s throwback fashion and double denim you’d be forgiven for thinking there is no such thing as individual style anymore.

attack of the clonesGIPHY

You might be right. But it turns out it’s not really our fault.

If you’ve been shopping on the high street lately you’d have seen there’s a whole lot of choice – but not a lot of divergence – in what we can buy to put on our backs.

It’s all thanks to the elephant in the fashion world’s VIP room: Trend-forecasting. You may have heard whispers of trend-forecasters in hip bars in Soho – and likely assumed they guess what our ever-changing weather will be like in three weeks.


In reality, trend-forecasting is a multi-million dollar arm of the fashion industry which supplies designers with data on what is going to be fashionable in the future – it’s basically a mood board most people could’ve drummed up for their Year 6 summer holiday homework project.

Apparently their predictions are so accurate they can reach forward up to ten years in time.

In other words, there’s someone browsing Pinterest right now in a swanky office, probably wearing a hat of some description, deciding what you’re going to wear in 2027.

Alan Hangover
Alan Hangover

And the shocking thing? Everyone’s doing it. All over the world, from high end fashion houses like Armani, Hugo Boss and Chanel to high street staples like Topshop and M&S.

One of the main forecasting companies, the World Global Style Network (or WGSN), serves thousands of brands in hundreds of countries.

WGSN’s ‘quantitative research and qualitative analysis’ create consumer behaviour insights and marketing strategies, but all the same 53% of their users are coming to them for design advice, according to an investigation run by podcast pros, 99% invisible.

Devil Wears PradaGIPHY

Okay, the company seems to have a thinly-veiled legitimacy about it thus far… Until it becomes apparent that WGSN even have a database of clothing patterns available to their clients, which designers can pilfer, mock up and sell on as their own.

Thus, the company have managed to create a self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby they tell fashion houses what will be fashionable, give them patterns to use, and low and behold: those things become fashionable.

Evil geniusGIPHY

Admittedly fashion is becoming more accessible to all of us. The influx of fast fashion brands like Zara and Topshop means we can replicate expensive styles seen on fashion icons when they’re bang on trend.

The questionable ethical values held by outlets like Primark mean we can have all this at affordable prices, too. Joy.

Throw in fashion bloggers, like Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine whose fashion credentials and influence can actually impact what their Insta-lemmings wear every day, and you’ve got yourself a fashion industry that’s heavily representative of what us ‘normal’ people really want to wear… Apparently.

A photo posted by Man Repeller (@manrepeller) on

Most agree this newfound accessibility is an improvement on the traditional fashion model: a top-down schema in which the fashion elite create couture runway collections and then six months down the line some fashionista type prances into the pub wearing some funny headdress.

Kanye GeniusGIPHY

But actually does it not just mean the death of style and creativity?

Yes, this may all seem a little melodramatic… It’s only clothes after all – but whether you agree or not, I now live in fear of the day a WGSN minion sees parachute pants (circa the nineties) on Pinterest and puts us through that trauma all over again.

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Francesca Donovan

A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you've never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.

Topics: Fashion


99 Percent Invisible
  1. 99 Percent Invisible

    The Trend Forecast