The Math Behind Fashion Trends

By Shikha K. ’24

Fashion is not only an art but at its core, a form of mathematics. Without math, the fashion industry would cease to exist. At the surface, we only see how math plays a role in measurements, prices, and production, but from a consumer standpoint, one of math’s most important roles is fashion trend forecasting. Even those who claim they do not care about trends rely on the use of fashion forecasting when purchasing clothes. Fashion trend forecasting is centered around the predictions of what patterns, colors, textures, and other elements of fashion will come into style across numerous markets. These predictions are directly tied to the analysis of data from previous fashion seasons and trends. Inevitably, all fashion trends circulate throughout recent years. Items are often inspired by notable trends from previous decades, like bell-bottom jeans from the 60s and 70s and tie-dye from the 80s and 90s. 

Fashion forecasting usually uses consumer data as well as pop culture and lifestyle trends to predict fads These trends are organized using mood boards, which are visual tools used to map out forecasters’ and designers’ ideas. Costuming in movies and shows, celebrities, and popular aesthetics all play a major role in how many people dress, and forecasters rely heavily on these factors.  The process often starts with a consideration of the season; for example, most American consumers are not going to be buying tank tops during the winter months. Since forecasting often happens up to  two years before styles hit the market, this is crucial. Color forecasting is also essential. This can be more difficult, as color palettes can change, but there are often patterns based on the demographic a style is targeting. Certain colors trigger an emotional response to a product for certain groups. For example, red and black often give a sense of power to business audiences. Another element that determines trends is the production of new fabrics. Depending on what sorts of textiles are available, fashion forecasters can predict the sorts of designs that may be created by those fabrics. Fashion forecasters also look to the latest influential cultural figures, who are often “trendsetters”.

Fashion forecasting is usually conducted by agencies or large companies themselves, like Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and other stores in the industry. Since designers often use other designs as a precedent, certain styles become popular throughout the fashion industry, which can create trends. Trends that are determined by fashion forecasting are frequently  divided into sections based on the audience; there is runway/high-end fashion, street style, business styles, etc.

In 2020, some of the trends that were forecasted to dominate the runway were colored leather, puffed sleeves, suits, and sets, but the trends ruling the younger demographic have been very different. Mom jeans, small purses, totes, and Y2Kfashion have made a return, as well as the rebirth of the “preppy” style, reminiscent of the previous decades. These aren’t new styles but have been reimagined to introduce a new decade of fashion, and right there, at the intersection of math and fashion, is fashion forecasting.

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