talking trends with lisa white of wgsn
Posted: 03 May 2017
Trend forecaster Lisa White spends her days working out what we'll all be loving in a few years from now. Whether that means a move towards buying less or simply an obsession with rosé wine, she’s got her finger on the pulse of the planet when it comes to interiors and lifestyle. We chatted to her recently after she had spent some time in Cape Town, attending this year’s Design Indaba conference. How does one learn to predict the future? I learned by doing – and still learn by being constantly curious. Just out of university (where I studied international relations), I landed a job at [trend research pioneer] Li Edelkoort’s office in Paris, managing the many international clients and also writing for Li’s trend books and magazines. I learned a great deal from her – there is a reason she is considered such a guru! – and I ended up as a senior trend analyst, also running and heading the trend forecasting magazines View on Colour, InView and Bloom. Currently, I am head of futures at WGSN, and it’s a fascinating process. We don’t make trends, we capture, analyse and communicate them. Trends are a continual flow of information and inspiration coming from both consumers and creatives – it is about predicting what’s next and ‘pressing pause’ on a particular time period. We highlight what we predict will become a major trend two or more years on, with some of that information being immediately actionable for early adopters. Icelandic-Danish artist] Olafur Eliasson to [Kenyan photographer] Osborne Macharia and [French interaction designer] Nelly Ben Hayoun. Each is able to show the audience how they see the world through their eyes, and in turn allow you to see the world differently. More than anything else, key trends are about listening to all points of view and finding the connections between them. Did any of the Design Indaba speakers resonate with your trend ideas in terms of the direction that you see interiors and design moving towards in the near future? One of the things that South African artist Robin Rhode said was ‘a wall is just a membrane and you can choose to go through’. That resonated with me because of the walls that are going up politically and economically all over the world. In interiors, where people feel safe to express themselves, we find quite the contrary: people really do want to reach out to others and create openness. Just think about the trust involved in services like Airbnb and Uber. With regard to interiors, open-plan offices and loft apartments have been trending – people are looking to create nooks in their interiors, with soft screens and room dividers, plants, armchairs with wings and devices that allow for privacy while keeping themselves open to others and what is going on in the space. Whatiftheworld gallery every time I come, and I am totally taken with our new offices in Cartel House on Loop Street (WGSN Africa). The relaxed but well-designed interior – with lots of plants, and light and open offices full of creative professionals – is a great place to work from. We were struck by how appropriate and useful your 2018/19 idea about people being recognised as 'multi-local' could be in our diverse South African context. Could you briefly explain the idea of the 'multi-local person' – and do you think this idea might apply more in some parts of the world than in others? One of our trends for this season is called Kinship, and it is about how as human beings we long to belong, and increasingly we feel like we belong to many different places. I know I feel very at home in Paris, London, New Orleans and Cape Town. All of them resonate with me because of childhood rituals or the relaxed, creative lifestyles and the open-mindedness of the inhabitants today. The idea of the multi-local that inspired this trend comes from the writer Taiye Selasi, who says ‘Don’t ask me where I’m from; ask where I’m a local.’ She feels that the idea of belonging is no longer based so much on the nation state but on personal rituals, relationships and eventually political restrictions on where you can travel easily. Her TED talk is short and amazing – a must-see or read. Selasi says, ‘In fact, all of us are multi – multi-local, multi-layered. To begin our conversations with an acknowledgement of this brings us closer together, I think, not further apart.’ For me, this is a way of explaining how we can feel at home with other people, in other places that are not our own. And it works all over the world. For more information visit wgsn.com or follow WGSN on Instagram and Twitter.