The Dutch-born trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort, founder of the Paris-based consultancy Trend Union, has a knack for being ahead of the curve. In fact, she kind of is the curve, the rare mind who—with her sharp eye, wide-ranging tastes, and quick wit—is able to situate herself within past, present, and future. She astutely understands historical markers of time and often predicts, with surprising precision, what the Next Big Thing is. Working for clients across a variety of industries, from fashion and textiles, to interiors and hospitality, to cars and cosmetics, to retail and food, Edelkoort travels the world studying the subtle market shifts that shape our lives. A sociocultural omnivore with a deep design knowledge, she’s the dean of the Hybrid Design Studies program at Parsons School of Design, where she’s spearheading a new M.F.A. in textile studies.
Since founding Trend Union, in 1975, Edelkoort has gained a cult following as a sustainability-minded soothsayer. For more than three decades, corporate leaders have gravitated toward her, as one would a shaman, for strategic, big-picture advice. In the late ’80s, she started giving her now-infamous trend presentations, in which she unpacks, interprets, and predicts the market movements developing before us. An archaeologist of the modern day, Edelkoort is part curator, part sociologist, digging up vast amounts of information, much of it visual, so as to infer, intuit, and map out complex explanations of the now. Her findings aren’t fanciful, even if on the surface they may appear to be high-minded. They are indeed quite often pragmatic, if not also paradigmatic. Sometimes—as was the case with her 2015 “Anti-Fashion Manifesto,” a treatise against the wastefulness and greed of the global fashion industry—they also tend to be refreshingly direct and pointed.
On this episode of Time Sensitive, Edelkoort speaks with Spencer Bailey about a movement back toward the farm and nature; the notion of animism (i.e., that a soul is embedded in everything); combatting fear in a time of prolific fear-mongering; and her reasonably optimistic belief in a more collaborative future.