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My chat with eclectic, eccentric and thoughtful trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort
I arrived for my interview with Lidewij Edelkoort and made a beeline for the coffee station. (Samsung had invited the noted trend forecaster to the launch of its Chef Collection Pop-up Showroom appliance store on King Street in Toronto.) I hadn’t had my first cup of joe yet, and I knew my brain needed a little boost before I sat down to chat with Ms. Edelkoort. She describes herself as an intuitive, abstract thinker. So, in other words, she’s not the kind of woman you’d have idle chit-chat with. She’s famous for identifying socio-cultural trends and providing her various clients in the fashion, cosmetics, retail and even automotive sectors with that intel. As she was finishing up another interview, I had a chance to take in her rather commanding presence: the signature grey bob, the shock of red lipstick, the Issey Miyake skirt, the Eskandar top and the Céline pony slip-ons. I couldn’t make out what she was saying, but I was already mesmerized by the languid yet authoritative cadence of her voice.
I started our chat by asking the inveterate traveller what were the recent stamps in her passport. “I just lost my passport in L.A., so I came here with a temporary one; it was a narrow escape,” she said, laughing. “But if I still had my passport, it would reflect my latest world trip. I went from Paris to Amsterdam to Seoul to Tokyo to Sydney to L.A. to New York to Toronto. I’ve been on the road about three weeks. It’s very interesting to string all these impressions onto a chain, like a pearl necklace. I’m exposed to all these cultures, food experiences, the architecture, all these new people I meet. It’s so helpful in understanding where the world is today.” And where is the world today, I ask?
Read on to find out the answer to that question, plus discover the one global trend in which Canadians may be leading the way.
“It’s getting better. The world is licking its wounds. We’re in a period of expectancy of a revival or renaissance. In the meantime, we are gearing up, getting ready, by nourishing ourselves. I call it ‘an embryonic moment.’”
Is the sweater-dressing trend that we’re seeing on the fall runways a part of this
embryonic mood? Are we cocooning—not out of fear but a desire to regroup and then re-emerge into the world? “Yes, it’s not about fear; it’s about being protective out of love for yourself and love for life. It’s almost like saying grace for existence. We’re counting blessings. This is the way we get out of the crisis. We did a trend book called
Bold in which we explored this idea that people are feeling that enough is enough. We’ve been so serious. We’ve been so frugal. We’ve been so basic in trying to cope with this crisis. We’re fed up. We want to be happy. We need to go bonkers, but first we’ve entered a cocoon where we’re nourishing ourselves and reinventing life from within. This energy is glowing and inspiring other things.”
Do people have a hunger to find new meaning in their lives? Is this part of the trend? “Absolutely. I think we’re craving the spiritual in our everyday lives. But it’s about ordinary spirituality. It’s not about taking time to meditate or do yoga or go to an inspiring place or a church every once in a while. It’s more about finding the spiritual in every moment. It’s about noticing a ray of sun or the smell of coffee.”
How do you tap into this spirituality? “I experience it every day by being grateful. I experience real intimate ecology in my life. I feel involved in the chain of events. I want to say thank you to the animal who gives me the wool for a sweater or food and milk. There is a growing awareness of this intimate ecology where we involve ourselves in the chain.”
What drives you? What inspires you? “I’m driven by curiosity and by innate ways to give. Almost everything inspires me. I can be carried away by a building, a pebble and everything in between.”
Let’s talk about fashion. Did you see any larger cultural messages reflected in the fall/winter runway collections? “I think colour is important. There is an overload of bright reds. Blood red. Is that related to any political movement? We don’t know, but it’s striking, the amount of red. I like the new darker shades because they’re not as deep and boring as Bordeaux. They’re fruitier, more like burgundy. I think fetishism is also still a strong influence; it’s a large world trend. Fashion, especially, is about living one’s own fantasies. You see that expressed in the use of feathers, black lace, belts, studs and masks.”
Are there any other key trends influencing fashion? “Yes, there’s another important one that I call ‘bland,’ or ‘beyond basic.’ This is a quest for non-fashion. It’s not normcore—I don’t know how normal that is. This mood is different. It’s about being very boring, super-anonymous, not wanting to be seen. Think pleated skirts, sweaters and sensible shoes. It’s very nerdy. It’s very anti-fashion. It’s going to be a movement to reckon with– maybe not yet in fall. It’s not minimalism. Take Céline, where the aesthetic is very styled. It’s very calculated and precise; it’s not something normal. Minimalism is often design driven, but this is non-design."
What’s behind this desire for anonymity? “There is a general rejection of the It girl, the red carpet, the It bag, the It jean…. Exit it!”
Where does eccentricity play into this bland trend? Is eccentricity dead? “There is still some eccentric fashion; Comme des Garçons, for example, is still ‘beyond fashion’ fashion. But, that said, there is very little real eccentric spirit left. The ones that were around all seem to kill themselves. We’re in a romantic moment, so there’s a fascination with suicide. But once everyone is normal again—after the ‘bland’ period—it will become inviting to be eccentric again.”
What’s the role of social media in shaping trends? “I still think that trends do not come from social media. I think they are born within people. It’s only when they are detectable that they are enhanced on a large scale. I’ve never seen a trend come from the Internet.”
Print vs. digital: What’s your prediction? "I believe that the future of all companies—including magazines, but also shops—is to be in both worlds. I am convinced that the virtual and real worlds are NET-A-PORTER.com created a print magazine to deepen its relationship with its audience.
Newsweek went digital and is now back in print. This isn’t a reversal of the trend but a coming of age where you see that you need both and you use both.”
What about all that choice? "There’s a lot of information out there, but there’s no editing of that information. If everything is there, it can’t help you to make choices…. I think there is not enough focus today in the world. People want to do everything. They want to be everything for everybody. Brands want to create all the merchandise they can market; they start with jeans and now they’re doing hotels, soup and water. This is watering down the whole thing. I think we’re tired of that. I think we are going more into a mono-needs period where people and brands do fewer things really well. Sometimes, they only do one thing. We’re seeing that with food. There are shops that are just for oil, or pepper and salt."
With all this information, is it more challenging to spot trends? “No, I have
this intuition that I have trained so that I am able to fish into the zeitgeist and bring back the next trend.”
What are you reeling in now? “There is an evolving mythological aspect to society; we are making myths of ourselves. Take selfies, for example. We are creating the god within us. My next book is all about this; I’ll be looking at legends, elves, druids and cinema.”
How do trends influence you? “I don’t change. I’m not part of the whole thing. I need to be abstract. I need to be in retreat from all of this otherwise I cannot catch anything.”
Has your fashion sense evolved or been influenced by trends? “It hasn’t. I’m drawn to things that are very abstract. It’s all about materials and colours for me. It’s not about cut. It’s formless, my aesthetic. I hold onto it because it allows me to be. I don’t have to pretend. I don’t have to follow anything.”
What countries inspire you most at the moment? “Korea. It reminds me of Japan during the ’80s. Also Brazil. I think there will be major influences from the southern hemisphere.”
What about Canada? We’re not exactly the epicentre of trend generation. “I
haven’t spent much time here, but I think you are closer to Europe than to America in your mentality and the way you want to live. You’re looking for a more honest lifestyle and a feeling of well-being. But you’re much happier than Europe. You’re still young and fresh. I think it is a very nice place to be. You’re a bit like Australia; you’re an outside-insider. You’re a world country, yet you have preserved your own identity. I have been completely seduced by the openness and friendliness and happiness of people here. That’s not happening in the rest of the world so much.”
So does that mean we’re ahead of the curve when it comes to the embryonic moment you mentioned earlier? “Yes, I think so. I do believe the lifestyle here could be an example. There is no sense of urgency. It’s not that there’s no ambition, but there is not blind ambition. I think that is very cool and contemporary–being able to design your pace.”
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