Elisabeth Prat has been working as a forecaster at trend consulting agency Peclers Paris for the last 37 years. As the person responsible for trend forecasting, today she is at the core of the developments in a profession where the order of the day has been disrupted by the Covid-crisis.
To help predict what the future trends will look like, forecasting agencies such as Nelly Rodi or Peclers Paris use the time spirit as a guide. Aside from catwalk shows and professional fairs, informal discussions, expositions and travels are at the core of the reflection process. Today, health measures implemented to combat the pandemic affect the majority of sectors and the fashion industry hasn’t been left unscathed. Catwalk presentations have taken place online, expositions have been canceled in many cases, and the same applies to the industry’s fairs. How then does a style agency go about forecasting trends based on signs from society? What are the changes it implements in its way of working? Peclers Paris’ Elizabeth Prat has agreed to provide FashionUnited with some answers.
“This morning, we had a meeting about four major ideas for summer 2023,” says Prat. She continues: “We construct these ideas based on everyone’s contribution. Every person that works at our agency, from every level of the organization, presents some very personal ideas. This is a crucial moment.” This democratic way of working is not new, Peclers Paris pursues what was already in place, with the difference being that it now takes place online. Peclers Paris employees now carry out 90 percent of their work at home.
According to Prat, the meetings are always consistent in that way. “What has been remarkable, is that despite everything, a fair number of people have still come up with ideas,” she remarks. “Personally, I’m very interested in art, I never miss an exposition that could potentially influence fashion, or culture in general. However, with all those closures, we’ve had to rely on other ways of finding inspiration and ideas. Of course, online experiences are more present than ever before. Think cinema, improved TV shows, as well as social media with Instagram taking first place.”
Nevertheless, Prat points out a novelty at the core of the Parisian forecasting agency: “Right before quarantine, we organized a number of sessions, which were initially physical but then turned into digital versions, in which we analyzed our own consumption patterns,” she said. “Every individual had to talk about how he or she felt with respect to his or her own consumption habits. That gave us an indication of the wants and needs of every employee.” If this way of working came to be before quarantine, it thus provides a way of working and expressing oneself that is not unique to pandemic times. From now on, the language of Peclers Paris’ employees and its forecasting professionals will turn to introspective methods. “Usually, when we would have our meetings, we would talk about our customers or the things we had told them. Right now however, we talk about ourselves,” Prat says.
What an extraordinary situation triggers in people
Content is absorbed and developed according to the current moment in time. The head of fashion trends explains: “What’s fascinating about what we are going through, is what an extraordinary situation, like this one, triggers in people. Our current way of thinking when we pinpoint a theme is asking ourselves why we do it. For instance, we had a theme called ‘the praise of the shadow’. We came up with it thinking: it’s a strange situation, the streets are empty, there’s a weird and almost scary side to it. We will do something creative with that by giving it a more mysterious and scary side”.
Not surprisingly, Elisabeth confides that the trendbook for knitwear is more substantial as there is much more to say than before. She quotes trend forecaster Li Edelkoort, who says that knitwear plays a very important role in times of crisis. “It’s a reassurance, a cocoon, it’s very soft, it warms you up,” Prat adds.
In other words, knitwear is one of the biggest trends. But Elisabeth also tells us about new athleisure, fashion as a tool, new urban wardrobes and the idea of being ‘dressed up’. “At the agency, we wondered what it would be like to wear t-shirts and hoodies all day and then wear a garment with some ‘flair’,” she said. “I liked Demna Gvasalia’s approach, who experimented with that himself: by not dressing up anymore and by not wearing anything but shorts and jogging suits, he noticed that his morale dropped. When he dressed up again, it had an impact.”
Trend agency Peclers Paris appears to have kept its morale high in the face of difficulties brought about by the health measures. Just like the rest of the apparel sector, Peclers has adapted. But this does not necessarily mean that the situation can remain as it is. The physical aspect is very important when it comes to the business of a trend agency. Elisabeth mentions the work around colors as something that requires a tangible experience in particular. She adds: “Last week there was a fabric fair, Fabric Show. It was very interesting to be able to touch fabrics again. Sitting in front of a screen only allows you to engage with the visual aspect, but the tactile part of our profession is extremely important. Seeing fabrics again was a joy.”
Photo credit: Courtesy of Peclers Paris