In the February 2017 ‘Spring/Summer Trends’ edition of ELLE Decoration I wrote an essay introducing what I described as a seismic shift in interiors. I outlined a new mood that was sweeping aside the previously dominant Scandanavian-inspired, white’n’wood aesthetic that had long tended to be shorthand for style and I called it ‘The New Modern’. ‘New Modern’ was fresh, warm, and wonderful, and heavily influenced by jewel-bright colour, opulent fabrics, exotic marbles and bold prints. It was a real action and reaction moment. But where did it come from? And how does a trend become a style, and ultimately, how does that style materialise as products on the high street?
This was the topic for discussion, alongside a presentation of my predictions for the S/S 2018 Trends at the A/W #EDTrendslive event hosted by John Lewis on 28 September 2017.
In order to track a trend, you need to first understand where it’s come from. I believe that any strong aesthetic change is always representative of a wider societal shift. In other words, it is the result of an intuitive creative response to what’s going on around us — the cultural context in which all the designers are working — but it happens step by step, and I find it fascinating to join the dots, and thus chart the journey.
And so, this ‘New Modern’ journey starts at the 2016 International Milan Furniture Fair. Here every global brand worth their salt exhibits its latest collections — it’s like the London, Milan, Paris and New York fashion weeks compressed into one! Not everything shown here will make it to the shop floor, rather this is where brands test market reaction; and for the visitors, whether journalists or retailers, it presents an amazing collective snapshot of current creative thinking.
However, proper trend analysis is a lot more than just looking at stuff. Unfortunately trends don’t just sit there, neatly labelled and patiently waiting to be written up as ‘forecasts’. Rather it is a painstaking process of observing, contemplating, ordering and then contextualising. The best way I can describe my personal method is to say it’s like putting everything I see through a metaphorical spin cycle, shaking down what exists to see what makes it through the washer. Pursuing this analogy… it’s a way of effectively rinsing away the derivative, and the plain odd, followed by filtering through what’s left in order to place each style suggestion into its rightful position within the broader canon of design. I then log each potential placement in the file box in my head that contains everything of note I’ve seen before, and only then can I assess which bits really speak to me. I also consider what’s happening in art, literature, film, fashion or politics to seek supporting parallels in order to finalise, or challenge, my burgeoning conclusions. In short, it’s a sort of scientific study combined with an acute intuitive antennae for the forces driving the world at large; as such, an equally left brain as right brain pursuit!
And we mustn’t forget what I call the outliers, those seemingly random one-off moments, usually the product of genius maverick minds, which appear to pop out from nowhere but are done with such conviction that they can often be the early signs of something big on the horizon. Crucially too though for me, is the dismissal of the ‘fads’ which are but throwaway fancies, fluttering in the wind; here today, blown away tomorrow. Happily, they exist less often in design, but they’re still out there, often the subject of over-heated press releases, ‘Purple Polka Dots are the New Stripes!”, sadly commonly adopted wholesale as ‘fact’ by many a harried newspaper journalist in need of an urgent soundbite.
Tracking the ‘New Modern’ trend…
And so the journey to New Modern begins in Milan, in April 2016, where there were 4 core trends, and one outlier, that I felt merited consideration, as documented in my August 2016 ‘Autumn/Winter Trends’ edition of ELLE Decoration…
- The style: Black and white
- The feel: Canework revival
- The colour: Forest green >>> Fir green rapidly becoming THE colour for sofas
- The finish: Multi-chromatic ‘iridescence’
- The material: Luxe fabrics/embroidered leathers
- The outlier: Out of Japan
Those Trends in detail…
Black and White: Monochrome is a trend that never really goes away, rather it ebbs and flows through various degrees of popularity and simply finds expression in different ways. It can be considered a barometer of the status quo of the industry. In other words, when monochrome rides high, the industry is playing it safe, and vice versa. In 2016 it was strong, graphic and notable for combining matt and glossy finishes. Straightforward, easy to assimilate and instantly accessible to the mainstream.
Canework: This was a case of this very traditional woven technique now being deemed acceptable for contemporary use, from shelving to seating, lights and more. A great example of the inter-weaving of trends was when when monochrome combined with canework, printed loud and proud in bold black and white as floor finishes. The most striking example of which was at Bisazza, where this traditional motif was re-interpreted by Carlo Dal Bianco in cement tile (see below) — it was both strangely familiar, and yet not immediately recognisable.
Forest Green: This colour was so prevalent, it was as if everyone got the memo that dark green was to be the hue of the moment. A soothing balm of a shade, it does not shout too loudly for attention and yet effortlessly makes a statement of difference and sophistication, particularly when employed as velvet upholstery. It was also a trend that could be fast-tracked to the shop floor with dark forest green soon being widely touted as the must-have sofa colour du jour for the fashion-forward.
Iridescence: the first flutterings of a sense of fun were seen in the use of iridescent finishes on a few select pieces, encapsulating the colours of the rainbow in the manner of oil on a puddle. A barely-there opalescence in some cases, I read this as a first step away from the safety net of monochrome.
Luxe Materials This was seen primarily in the choice of fabrics used, as thick satins and embossed silks prevailed. I also saw intricately hand-embroidered leathers; and unusual stones in bright colours were often the material of choice for star furniture pieces. For example, as seen at Armani Casa, Blue Sodalite, an incredible gem-like mineral first discovered in Greenland in 1811.
Out of Japan This was the season’s outlier. Not quite a full-on trend, but strong enough to be worthy of comment. Nevertheless, this first glimpse of Japan as an influencer was evidenced in rather literal ways: a traditional archive print re-used on screens and upholstery by Rubelli for Armani Casa, futon-esque sofas by Patricia Urquiola for Cassina to watercolour-like weeping willow prints on wallpaper at Designers Guild and an array of lacquer finishes coming through at many other brands.
What comes next? Click here for part two, onwards to Spring/Summer 2017…