Success in fashion, as in many other businesses, involves the uncanny ability to psyche out trends and translate them into products that will win favor with the customer. Throughout history, successful entrepreneurs have turned unarticulated longings into saleable merchandise. The hard-driving Steve Jobs sensed the desire for touch-screen connectivity before the average teenager, and the couturier Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel recognized that modern women wanted practical suits that fit their natural shape rather than the wasp-waisted New Look.
Fashion, fashion prediction, and trendsetting
“Fashion” is one of those ubiquitous modern buzzwords. Everyone uses it but seldom defines what he or she means. In modern shopping districts such as the British high street, the word “fashion” is often used to sell cheaply made apparel, often called “fast fashion.” But during the numerous fashion weeks that nowadays are organized all over the world, it means something completely different—not to mention the connotations the word has on the Paris catwalks. In general, “fashion” often refers to a certain style of dress.
Studies on fashion forecasting
In the last decade, several studies about fashion prediction or that are pertinent to forecasting in general were published. Most of these studies, however, do not take an historical approach. One exception is David Edgerton’s The Shock of the Old. 11 This insightful book by Britain’s leading historian of technology examines the impact of technologies that are visibly invisible, such as horses in the nineteenth century and electricity and central heating in our own time.
It is debatable when “fashion” became an important economic and social phenomenon. Evidently, as soon as human civilization arose, dress and style began to matter as social identifiers. However, most fashion historians date the rise of the modern fashion system to the second half of the fourteenth century, thereby following Werner Sombart’s thesis that it was the demand for luxuries, emanating from the rising class of merchants and bankers in cities