Google has just launched its inaugural fashion trends report and intends to make bulletins on what’s hot and what’s not in the world of apparel a regular thing. Its theory – all that search data means it knows what the world wants to wear.
The problem is, while Google may know that a lot of people are searching for emoji-patterned jogger pants – a development for human society which should frighten us all – it doesn’t necessarily know what’s coming next.
People turn to search when they have a catalyst to seek something out. You’ll only search for those accursed emoji jogger pants or a tulle skirt after a prompt – be it an Instagram photo, an ad or a real world encounter.
Google sees fashion trends when they’re cresting, not as the wave is building. The remaining value of human trend spotters over algorithms is that they get to things before they’ve spread from the mavens and influencers.
Facebook and Twitter have an advantage over Google because they map our social graphs and should, in theory, be better at picking up on the atomic units of a trend coming together.
The key to predicting a trend is watching small groups of people whose taste becomes infectious. It’s not in examining the huge flow of data through search. That just tells you what’s already cresting.
Malcolm Gladwell is the source of a lot of scorn these days – with good reason – but his seminal New Yorker article on cool hunters still nails the essence of the process:
Coolhunting is not about the articulation of a coherent philosophy of cool. It’s just a collection of spontaneous observations and predictions that differ from one moment to the next and from one coolhunter to the next.
Ask a coolhunter where the baggy-jeans look came from, for example, and you might get any number of answers: urban black kids mimicking the jailhouse look, skateboarders looking for room to move, snowboarders trying not to look like skiers, or, alternatively, all three at once, in some grand concordance.
Smart forecasters will be tapping in to Google’s insights, but they’ll keep their ear to the ground and their eyes on social media.
Image credit: Shutterstock