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If you ask Li Edelkoort, there is a golden future awaiting all of the industries that can meet peoples’ need for well-being. In her new trend book The Bible of Well Being, she sees evidence that society is focusing more and more on discovering and encouraging a sense of comfort in every aspect of daily life. Industries such as fragrance and food, beauty and health, living and home furnishings will be inspired by upcoming tendencies that will lead them towards a wide palette of new product ideas. Consumers want to do something good for themselves and integrate more enjoyment and sensory pleasures into their everyday lives. The “commandment” in Edelkoort’s current Bible is “Enjoy!”
Li Edelkoort is one of the most sought-after trend researchers on the planet. For 20 years she has been pointing companies towards what tomorrow’s consumers want, how they will live and what will be important to them. When this 55-year-old Dutch woman speaks, corporations listen – among others, Coca-Cola, Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, Shiseido, Dim, as well as car companies, banks and even governments consult with her at her offices in Paris and New York. In the world of fashion and design, she is considered an icon of style with a fail-proof sense of what tomorrow will bring. Time magazine named her one of the 25 most influential fashion experts of our day, and the famous British design magazine i-D listed her among the world’s 40 most important designers.
According to Edelkoort, trend research is not a science, it is an art that arose from necessity. Trend forecasting, unlike trend spotting, is indispensable in every branch of industry, even though the need for it has yet to be recognized the way it should. “I don’t discover anything new,” she states. “I observe and interpret peoples’ behavior and moods and note down what I see. I act as a catalyst for the spirit of the day and turn it into trends as early as possible.” Li Edelkoort relies primarily on her intuition, and after that she works with scenarios of explanations and philosophy. Her perceptive awareness of societal movements, political developments and social changes is a tool she uses in her work.
Li Edelkoort always uses the same approach in her analyses. She looks for answers to questions such as: what will our lives be like in the future? What will people want? What wishes and needs will they have? What characteristics will a product need to have to be a success on the market? How does a product appeal to peoples’ senses – how do you inspire people to want to buy things? She regularly publishes her trend-forecasting books in a limited edition of 250. These €2000 volumes contain her analyses and forecasts along with key words, expressive photos and samples of textiles. Text and photos communicate with one another, as she says; the idea is to decrypt their message.
What is the difference between trend and lifestyle, and how long do their cycles last? Li Edelkoort says that a shirt, a shape or a color can be examples of a trend. While there are short and medium wave trends, most last for much longer periods, evolving gradually each season or returning from time to time. Pink as a fashion color is now a classic, teddy bear cosiness is a time-loved attitude, skin-like materials have moved with the times, our obsession with plants and gardening has introduced the concept of outside-inside. These “lifestyles” are trends with long lifespans; lasting for five, ten or twenty years, or even up to a half a century, before they lose popularity.
One idea that is coming to an end is globalization, as Li Edelkoort has been warning her clients for five years. In her eyes, it has had its run and is drawing to a close. “We are tired of seeing the same brands all over the world, no matter whether you are in New York, Tokyo or Sao Paulo.” Edelkoort believes that local products will undergo a renaissance, as will regional cuisines. This does not mean that global brands will end, but they will have to adapt to the needs of consumers on site. Future brands will experience a breath of fresh air if they combine their globally-oriented basis products with local features, regional variety and national flair and a product design that is eye-catching because of its outsider character. The mainstream is over; the middle of the road is a dead end ally, Edelkoort says.
When it comes to lifestyles, she sees our society at a turning point: we are starting to slow down and take things more unhurriedly. What’s more, people are looking for more authenticity and honesty, for truth and direct communications.
Is wellness in or out? In Li Edelkoort’s eyes, the wellness industry is about to boom. Her theory is that in this period of terrorist attacks, natural disasters and economic crises, people have a greater longing than ever not only for more safety, but for a feeling of comfort, calm and balance. The desire for well-being will be the driving force throughout every aspect of our lives. This will be apparent in how people spend their leisure time as well. Taking a major vacation each year will no longer be as important as having a bit of a vacation feeling on an everyday basis – a “holiday everyday”. People will create their own “wellness world” at home where they can pamper themselves and surround themselves with things that give them a sense of stability, relaxation and balance. These objects will include top-quality foods, a luxurious living environment as well as exclusive products for body and hair care. This new lifestyle will place great emphasis on how we eat, Li Edelkoort says. Food, drink and cosmetics will play a decisive part in peoples’ search for new tastes and sensory impressions, and this will trigger a veritable flood of new items in the consumer goods market. Japan will inspire many trends, from fashion, eating habits and cosmetics all the way down to relaxation techniques. Fragrances will be a critical issue in all sorts of products in the future, including foods.
Li Edelkoort agrees that luxury will be a focus of future consumer behavior. This is why she sees a large potential for market growth in luxury articles. She coined the term “democratization of luxury” to describe this development, which involves the lines blurring between exclusive brands and discount items. In her opinion, this will lead to a dead end: consumers will want either Zara or Prada, either H&M or Hermès, but nothing in between. The concept of luxury has shifted dramatically in the past several years, and it now also encompasses eating healthily, taking care of yourself and feeling well. A new kind of luxury is evolving that features high-quality, durable products. These objects will improve with time, and consumers can feel a relationship with them. She advises corporations to prepare for this new surge of luxury.
Has Li Edelkoort ever made mistakes in her predictions? She has never been wrong, she says with self-confidence, although she has misjudged the duration of some trends. There is a risk of over- or underestimating the extent of a trend or the tempo with which it takes off. The most difficult thing is calculating the exact time and extent of the trend.
Trend researchers cannot describe anything that does not already exist, she explains – they cannot invent trends. “Trend research has nothing to do with my own sense of creativity. To sum it up, what I do is capture, document, interpret and pass along information,” as Li Edelkoort describes her work, which has long since become her life hobby as well.