How does a trend expert work? What is a trend really, and how do they even spot and analyze trends? We have asked the trend sociologist Maria Mackinney-Valentin.

This is a small excerpt from the book ‘Trendsociology v. 2.0’, published by pej gruppen. Buy the book here.

Why and how did you become a trend expert?
After I graduated from the University of Copenhagen, I worked at advertising agencies and various media as an editor and writer. I had a lot of options to help build something from the ground up – including a newspaper and a magazine, but after some years I missed the world of academia. I have always been a bit on the geeky side, so
it was incredible luck when I got the opportunity to do a PhD at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation. That was more than 10 years ago, and I still enjoy my work every day. I hold a deep fascination for how we humans communicate identity to each other. Clothing is universally human, and the way we clothe ourselves acts as an additional and most personal layer of skin that we choose ourselves. That is why fashion is an ideal place to explore new trends in consumer behaviour, especially when it comes to status and gender.

Why is it important to spot trends?
A trend is not an independent organism that hurtles around among us of its own free will. Trends come from a number of needs, we as humans have – social, psychological, cultural, physical and economic. Therefore there is a lot of information and knowledge of trends that is interesting to study when someone like me is preoccupied with understanding humans. I primarily study fashion and identity on the basis of studies of current trends. It gives an insight into the changing strategies that consumers communicate who they are – or rather who they want to be. It is relevant to my work teaching design students. As future designers, it is essential that they are trained in being able to navigate in consumer behaviour, lifestyle and culture.

How do you define the concept of a trend?
A trend is a tendency that someone does something for a while. It is a very loose and open definition, but it is inherently difficult to define something that is characterised by change. Trends are about communities of taste that are constantly changing to a greater or lesser extent. I don’t work with different types of trends. For me, it is the mechanisms that get a change to happen that I find more interesting. Trends may live long or short, but the mechanisms are the same. It’s just the context that is changing.

Which types of trends interest you the most?
I am primarily interested in mass phenomena. I think it’s fascinating when many people have a distinctive identity in taste – it can be specific garments, combinations of clothes, but also ways to style oneself, for example, with regard to hair or makeup.

How and where do you discover trends?
I do spot trends, but also analyse them. I find my cases, which most often are trends, through observation. It can be observations on the street, in the fashion environment, in the media or subcultures. A few times I have worked with historical trends. Most recently, together with an archaeologist, I looked at trendsetters in two villages in Western Greenland in the early 19th century. Yes, I’m a geek.

Are you interested in getting your hands on the entire book, (it’s 400 pages), it is possible to buy here.

The book consists of three parts:
1. Theory and practical description of what a trend is, how it is spread and what effect it may have.
2. Interview with 17 of the world’s top trend researchers
3. Practical process description (5 phased process) with concrete methods and tools for working with trends.