Forecasting Trends in an Uncertain World

Written by Rebekah Hutchinson

18 March 2020

Over the last few months, the world has been thrown a curveball, resulting in chaos and uncertainty. Global crises like coronavirus (COVID-19) can crop up at any time and completely change how people think and behave.

Whilst the consequences of Black Swan events can be tragic, it can also be a start point for creativity and innovation. To deepen your understanding of how trends work, here’s a glimpse into one of our strategies on how to better understand these types of Black Swan events and stay resilient.

Calculables and Chaotics

As part of our trend forecasting process at Trend Bible, we routinely investigate both the things we can see coming; Calculables, and the things that we can’t; Chaotics. Calculables are events we can predict or plan for (anniversaries, Olympic events, gallery exhibitions, etc). Whilst Chaotics – like a general election which is diarised but the outcome is unpredictable – may have fairly significant consequences, it’s the Black Swan events like pandemics, terrorist attacks or economic recession that can have prolonged and severe implications.

“The impact of COVID-19 compounds other emerging shifts in consumer mindsets that we were already seeing evidence of. We knew consumer attitudes were changing across a broad spectrum of elements, for example, there was a desire to have more flexibility at work, for the home to accommodate work and fitness, and guilt around taking flights in the context of environmental impact. The pandemic has fast-tracked these, and now consumers have more opportunity to align new behaviours with their pre-existing attitudinal shift.” Joanna Feeley, Founder & CEO, Trend Bible.

Triangulating Research

We typically work 2-5 years ahead, therefore we need our forecasts to maintain their relevance over a long period of time. One method we use in order to do this is triangulating our research. This means we reference multiple sources across a wide range of industries.  We would never pin a trend on one single event, or a single industry, for example the Tokyo Olympics (Calculable), which would render it vulnerable and open to the risk of change. Instead, we join the dots and make a connection between at least 3 different trend drivers across multiple industries.

Trend Bible Meaningful Life Home & Interiors Spring Summer 2020

In June 2018, we forecast our Spring Summer 2020 trend, Meaningful Life. Whilst the Tokyo Olympics was one of the events that underpinned this trend, if we had relied solely on this event, we’d be introducing a vulnerability to the trend that would risk it being deemed irrelevant in the (now likely) event that it is postponed or cancelled due to the most recent Black Swan; the coronavirus. However, because we triangulated our research, we identified other strong drivers reinforcing this trend; seeking solitude, an increased focus on mindfulness and post-consumerism, that maintain their relevance. Whilst we are expecting a sharp drop in consumption of non-essentials, including some décor items, some categories, such as paint and DIY are currently experiencing a boom as householders try to quickly reconfigure their home for home working, or else find themselves with time that must be spent at home.

Images left to right: Trouva, Scion

Often, it’s not the event itself that prompts the desire to buy into the trend, therefore we have already seen a strong focus on Japanese culture and aesthetics over the past year as part of the build up to the Olympic Games. Many brands are tapping into the Japandi trend; a mix of Scandinavian and Japanese design, combining modern simplicity and imperfection. This is a really useful commercial technique to segway from an already successful trend, Scandi, into something with similar emotive drivers but a different cultural aesthetic.

Lucy Ward, Creative Brand Director of homeware brand, Trouva, reported a 53% increase in sales of its wabi-sabi collection since October 2018. Wallpaper and fabric brand Scion have also created their own imperfectly beautiful Japandi collection.

“Ikigai – the art of focusing on small things you love that give meaning to your life – was another driver for this trend and couldn’t be more relevant now as the pandemic disrupts global travel and supply chains. We are already seeing a shift in consumer attitudes and behaviour, due to panic and worry, however, once the crisis settles down, we expect to see people slow down and focus on introspection.” Rebekah Hutchinson, Trend Researcher, Trend Bible.

We would like to extend our best wishes to all of our clients, friends and readers at this extremely difficult time. We will continue to bring you food for thought and practical tools to deal with this complex situation. For more on the future of home life and navigating risk in an uncertain world, view our on demand webinar with our Trend Consultant, Kate Usher. 

We are also offering brands a free consultation with a senior trend expert. Please book your session by contacting us at

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