Trendspotting or trainspotting

'Fashion is not just a matter of life and death, it is more... it helps define who we are.'87 Fashion is the cause and retailing the agent of the change hysteria. Fashion has a glow, yet also a withered sadness, as what we wear is always on the cusp of going out of fashion. The industry of fashion trendspotters inexorably forges the forward path. Trendy they may seem, yet in their own way they are as obsessive as trainspotters in their raincoats and anoraks. With their ear to the ground they read the signs and symbols of changing taste and desire. They not only track change but also create it, as there are always leaders, early adopters, before the laggard majority. Being sensitive to trends helps companies stay ahead of the game, a game that is moving ever faster. Barely a decade ago there were two fashion cycles in clothing. Now there are six, requiring the frenzied change of window displays and media bombast. Car purchasing is moving down to a three-year cycle. Home makeovers, which did not exist as a concept until recently, are now on a five-year cycle. Moving house was a once-in-a-gener-ation thing. It is now down to a seven- to ten-year cycle. Relationships are shorter and divorce no longer carries a stigma.

Consider some trends from the trendspotters - and they will have already gone by the time you read this (see box overleaf). For example, 'branded brands', 'being spaces' and 'curated consumption' are, apparently, just round the corner if not already upon us. At their core they are about individuality, not solidarity, and they seek to distinguish the individual from others, making you as the individual feel you are the most important person in the world. You become what you are through the brand and your control of it. You surround yourself with associational richness.

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