Young. Smart. Hungry for trends.

Interview with the Ambiente Trendwatchers

Trend watchers from the Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands will soon be back at Ambiente in Frankfurt tracking down the latest trends. As in the previous four years, these young Dutch students will be seeking out their own personal trend products to present on special guided tours of the fair. Trends don’t grow on trees and it takes expert knowledge to find them. We spoke to young trend explorer Lisa Wife who was just putting the final touches to her investigations – and heard from a team that had set itself the goal of making the world a better place.

It’s pretty much unique. Fontys is one of very few universities where you can take a course in ‘Trendwatching’, which forms part of the syllabus of the International Lifestyle Studies (ILS) degree. 24-year-old Lisa Wife is one of nine students who will shortly be presenting at Ambiente the findings of their joint trend research. “I love exploring the world and meeting new people,” she says. This bodes well for our Ambiente Blog interview. We’d like to ask the team spokesperson about the ins and outs of scientific trend watching. Since hot new trends don’t just grow on trees, where have they been looking? And what drives a team to dedicate around six months of research to create an illustrated Trend Book?

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First of all, what motivates you to be a trend watcher and what skills do you need?
Lisa Wife: “Trend watchers should by nature be curious about changes – about changes that are felt globally and that are measurable at product and consumer level. They also need strong intuition as well as the drive and desire to undertake intensive and wide-ranging study. It helps enormously if you are really keen on research and have a talent for analysis.”

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How does the selection process work?
“Applicants must come up with answers to a number of theoretical tasks in an initial assessment process. Then there are interviews with professors at Fontys University. The selection is ultimately based on these interviews. In the ILS course we are trained to be lifestyle professionals. This means ultimately that we become concept developers with wide-ranging knowledge in the area of trend research. By keeping closely in touch with the spirit of the age and social developments, we learn to design concepts for companies and organisations in which products and services are identified that improve the quality of life.”

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Ambiente is starting in a few days. How are your preparations going?
“Our 9-person team has met on a weekly basis. Over and above this, we have been in regular close contact to exchange new ideas and inputs. In the meetings we gave updates and discussed results. Although this creative process is time-consuming, it is important for the development of the project and, of course, for us students. We support each other as the aim is to get the best possible results. We are all highly motivated.”

What are your inspirations when looking for trends?
“Both areas – i.e. desk and field research – are important sources of information and inspiration for us. For example, we have investigated magazines, presentations, websites, blogs, social media – as well as street style trends and events. We also seek out inspirational designers, talk to people, visit events and explore cities in order to track down signs of coming trends.”

How do you formulate trends?
“By combining and then pooling all the results of our intensive research. In this process we ask questions such as: What does that mean? Which values are represented? Why is this happening? When we see that something ‘fits’, we then set about formulating it. We subsequently discuss our results, widen the research and finally come back to our clusters or groupings, which we refine until we have a reliable description of a trend.”

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So you come to Frankfurt on the first day of the fair with your ‘Trend Book’ in your bag. What happens then?
“The Friday, i.e. the first day, is always somewhat stressful as we quickly need to define our trend tours based on the ‘Book’. This has worked very well in previous years. On our guided tours we want to show visitors as many great products and examples of trends as possible. And the designers are of course always happy for us to present their ideas and concepts. Although the first day is the most strenuous, it is also simply amazing to see how the trend tours take shape from the theory, and to see how our work over the past months has borne fruit.”

What do you expect to find at Ambiente 2016?
“In short, a host of revolutionary design trendsetters, particularly in those areas where the diverse aspects of sustainability are addressed. Other developments that we also expect to find and what our new ‘Trend Book’ will look like can be discovered from the end of January on our website: