Experts Predict the Latest Trends | Holland Herald


“William Higham believes that the
young are showing “old” behaviour
patterns: “The younger generation
now are risk-averse,” he says. “It’s a
reaction against their parents.” With
increasing choices within their grasp,
women are becoming “amazons, not
bimbos,” in the memorable words of
leading trend predictor Li Edelkoort,
while men are, “Figuring out their role
now there are so many female breadwinners,”
says Higham.

Among the many new
trends to emerge
recently, one of the
most striking is the
huge number of people
spotting emerging new
trends. We’ve always tried to avoid the
shock of the new by anticipating it, but
what was once a trickle of soothsayers
and tea-leaf readers has blossomed
into a global industry beset by more
buzzwords than you can shake a stick
at – perhaps reecting that, contrary to
there being nothing new under the sun,
nowadays there is actually quite a lot.

“It’s the sheer pace of change now
that stuns my audiences,” says busi –
ness world forecaster Rohit Talwar,
who talks to industry about current
trends in China, India (“Chindia,” or
“the Himalayan cousins” in current
buzzspeak), and other developing
economies – and whose pronouncements
are sometimes about as
welcome as Cassandra’s predictions

of the fall of Troy. “Many in the West
have been caught napping,” says Talwar.
“The sheer sophistication of the new
markets comes as an incredible shock.
It’s not just a case of cheap manufacturing.
They’re creating new business
models that we can’t compete with – in
India, there’s talk of the $1,000 car. They
are innovating beyond what we see in
the West – for example, an underwater
luxury hotel in Dubai and Dongtan,
China, the world’s rst sustainable,
eco-friendly city built from scratch.”
So fashionable
Talking to forecasters like Talwar is
seen as increasingly vital for just about
any business. According to James
Woudhuysen, professor of forecasting
and innovation at the U.K.’s De Montfort University: “Futures research is likely
to grow as uncertainty prompts more
interest in the future. The feeling
will grow that if you aren’t very professional
in forecasting, you’ll fall
victim to a rival. And the feeling will
be right.” Not everyone agrees, however.
Columnist Janet Street-Porter
was surely not alone when she recently
accused futurologists of charging big
bucks for “telling governments, corporations
and advertisers the blindingly
obvious dressed up as nuggets
of wisdom.”

Nevertheless, Marian Salzman,
co-author of the book, Next Now,
argues that we live in a world so paradoxical
that trendspotters have a useful
function in interpreting the contradictory
inuences. She points to a
basic conict between “convulsive
economic changes in the global
economy,” and “an increased struggle
for control and consistency in private
life.” So, while “everything is intercon –
nected and borderless” on the public
level, right down to the current “globesity”
(that’s global obesity) epidemic,
individually we are seeing withdrawal
into a private world (“anti-social is the
new normal”), and an obsession with
“the local, the home-made and the
natural.” The latter ties in with the
world’s new environmental priorities,
which surely nobody needs a trendspotter
to point out (though it’s maybe
helpful to note the rise of “ecosexuals”
– who choose their partners according
to their green credentials).

“In five years, the environment will
be the biggest issue in business,” says
Rohit Talwar. “It will change every –
thing, and it’s all going to happen very
fast.” In January 2007, the World
Economic Forum reported that 20%
of its members ranked “protecting the
environment” as a high priority, up
from 9% last year. Companies like U.K.
retailer Marks and Spencer, which
launched an ambitious “carbon neu –
tral” eco-plan in January, are already
moving towards this.

We can expect many more to follow,
say trendspotters. In the midst of everexpanding
global markets, local produce
is set to become 2007’s major
food trend, with local energy generation
(otherwise known as “distributed
power”) also making a strong showing
(it’s already quite established in
Scandanavia and Germany). “To be
really cool in 2007,” advises Salzman,
“you’ll be living in a sustainable, selfpowered
home and growing your own organic vegetables in the garden. I call
it the ‘Live Like Bono’ trend.”

Consume or create?
Uber trendspotter Faith Popcorn simi –
larly argues that we are all increasingly
aected by “moral status anxiety.” Our
individual standing, she says, is more
and more likely to be measured not in
terms of what we own, but how far
we’ve developed ourselves, and what
we do for others. Linked to this are
predictions of the end of conspicuous
consumption. Conscientious con –
sumption will take its place: according
to Popcorn, the holiday others will
envy us for won’t be the most expensive,
but the one during which we can
help the most people. “Less but better,” was the surprising cover line on con –
sumer style magazine Wallpaper’s
January issue. Or, as other forecasters
have put it, “Less is the new more.”

“Until now, everything has been about
how much you consume,” says Reinier
Evers, the Dutch founder of consultancy
“But consumption is too accessible
now. What really counts today is
status – and that comes from your ecocredentials,
or your status in the virtual
world, or your creativity as a consumer.”

Becoming a big shot in the virtual
world mainly means creating a cool
digital alter ego (avatar) in an online
game, William Higham of The Next
Big Thing forecasters, explains.
“Millions of people are joining the
gaming community every day,” he
says. “World of Warcraft alone has
seven million players – one million
online at any time. Brands are in there
too – Adidas, for example, has virtual
stores in Second Life.” Gamers are just
one among a number of niches that
brands now have to reach. “After 50
years of mass consumption, people
have realized they want individual
consumption,” says Higham.
Consequently, manufacturers are
experimenting with “unique” pro –
ducts, such as the Terra Plana boots
featuring a dierent fabric in each
and every pair, and with involving
customers in creating new products,
as Japanese basics store Muji is doing
with its consumer focus groups and
international design competition.

Everyone’s an artist
Using new technology, it’s getting
easier all the time for “creative consumers”
to make their own music
or lms. The advent of new, “3-D
printers” (aka rapid prototyping technology),
will add furniture and other
objects to the list. This new ease of
creation means that, “Our belief in
authority is declining,” according
to Rolf Jensen, author of
the The Dream Society.

He believes that big companies are
being forced to decentralize, and
big brands will have to splinter into
“micro brands” (as is already the case
with fashion retailers, among others).
Technology means we can live
second, “game lives,” or be designers,
writers, musicians and lm makers –
often, all in one day. “Having tasted
the nectar of virtual liberation, we’re
beginning to reject the singularly
dened roles we’re expected to play in
society,” Faith Popcorn says. She calls
the result, “identity ux.” Brands will
have to become “liquid” to keep up
with chameleon consumers, and brand
loyalty has given way to ckle “brand
sluts,” and even “brand abstinence,” as
some seek out the handcrafted, homemade
and authentic instead.

The blurring of traditional
boundaries applies to most things
in society, says Marian Salzman.
Take age: rst-time mothers of 46
are commonplace, plastic surgery
allows us to deny the ageing process
altogether, and middle age has become
“middle youth.”

William Higham believes that the
young are showing “old” behaviour
patterns: “The younger generation
now are risk-averse,” he says. “It’s a
reaction against their parents.” With
increasing choices within their grasp,
women are becoming “amazons, not
bimbos,” in the memorable words of
leading trend predictor Li Edelkoort,
while men are, “Figuring out their role
now there are so many female breadwinners,”
says Higham. “Recently we
had the metrosexual trend, which was
all about men being well groomed and
empathic, then we had the retrosexual
reaction, with men being macho and
bearded again,” he muses. “Now I
think we’ll be in the middle, with
men adopting a kind of modern,
007-inspired persona.”

Dizzying dilemmas
So there we have it: life in 2007 involves
being an age-denying amazon
or 007, grappling with moral status
anxiety and living multiple online lives
while creating your own products and
growing your own organic vegetables –
all against the overarching contradictory
backdrop of environmental urgency,
stockmarket optimism, globalization
and what some forecasters say is a
general atmosphere of “FUD” (fear,
uncertainty and doubt). “If there’s a
nal trend,” says Marian Salzman, “it’s
that it’s extremely unpopular to look at
the big picture.” She might be right –
but nevertheless, there do seem to be
an awful lot of people doing just that.