I HAVE SEEN THE FU­TURE

No goats’ en­trails were used in these pre­dic­tions, but next year will see us wear­ing aprons and build­ing boats.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - LEAH MCFALL -

Gasp, dar­lings! Get a load of this! This time next year, you’ll be drink­ing noth­ing but oat milk, set­ting off smoke bombs at wed­dings and wear­ing rib­bons on your clothes. Yes! I’ve been read­ing the 2019 trend fore­casts and I’m telling you, I’m as silly as a kit­ten about what’s com­ing!

I can’t claim to be first with this news, be­cause it’s old to ev­ery­one to whom this in­for­ma­tion truly mat­ters. I guess you’d call them stake­hold­ers, to coin a term that was it­self fash­ion­able once but has be­come stale and mean­ing­less through overuse (see also, re­silience).

By the time year-ahead fore­casts make the news, they’ve al­ready been pre­sented to paint and home­wares man­u­fac­tur­ers, fash­ion and tex­tile com­pa­nies and whomever else might make a buck from know­ing what you and I are go­ing to buy be­fore we buy it.

Clients of fore­cast­ing com­pa­nies pay a for­tune for such ad­vance in­tel­li­gence, in the way wealthy men of an­cient Rome paid sooth­say­ers to de­code the fu­ture in the steam­ing en­trails of goats. And here we find our­selves, two mil­len­nia later, de­liv­ered of sim­i­larly hot and steam­ing, ut­terly spec­u­la­tive, hys­ter­i­cal, hith­erto-clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

It isn’t easy de­ter­min­ing how trend fore­cast­ers es­tab­lish what they know, be­cause they tend to avoid the ques­tion. Ask, and they’ll prob­a­bly lean back in their Eames soft-pad leather of­fice chair and sigh: “It’s the zeit­geist, my flower; the zeit­geist.”

But it’s prob­a­bly safe to as­sume it’s by comb­ing so­cial me­dia, stalk­ing broke-but­fash­ion­able young peo­ple on the streets of ma­jor cities, and ac­quir­ing big data.

No con­test, my favourite fore­caster is the Dutch leg­end Li Edelkoort and she’s back with an­other look-book of fash­ion pre­dic­tions. Edelkoort isn’t big on big data, it seems, but is plugged di­rectly into the cir­cuit board of hu­man­ity. She buzzes with the elec­tric knowl­edge of our shared dreams and de­sires and pro­nounces it, like po­etry, from podi­ums in New York, Paris and for some rea­son, Jo­han­nes­burg next Fe­bru­ary.

Women’s Wear Daily took fever­ish notes last month as Edelkoort stood on the mount and gazed into the mid­dle dis­tance. Ap­par­ently, she says folk­lore will be the big trend of 2019. By this she means em­broi­dery, swirling skirts, “mourn­ing dresses”, rib­bonry, DIY fab­ric belts, and the pon­cho.

I don’t know about you, but this re­minds me of that sum­mer when boho chic was all you could buy on Lambton Quay. I’ve never seen so many pol­icy an­a­lysts, tax lawyers and foren­sic ac­coun­tants in tas­selled san­dals and coin-belts: it was a col­lec­tive waste of our ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion. The only per­son who ever looks good in this clob­ber is Si­enna Miller, and she hasn’t worn a sheep­skin jerkin since she dumped Jude Law.

I’m not thrilled by Edelkoort’s other pre­dic­tion, ei­ther. In what she de­clared “a world echo of labour clothes”, we’ll be pay­ing tribute to the man­ual job by wear­ing aprons and blue work­wear.

As a plumber’s daugh­ter, I can’t tell you how ir­ri­tat­ing it is when some­one who hasn’t done any­thing more man­ual than pulp­ing ki­wifruit in a NutriBul­let styles around town in a de­signer boil­er­suit. I’m sure our De­fence Force per­son­nel feel sim­i­larly when they see some key­board war­rior strolling to the of­fice in camo gear or epaulettes. In my view, you should earn the right to wear labour­ing clothes, per­haps by un­block­ing a toi­let in them.

Edelkoort is all for man­ual labour, even if she isn’t ex­actly do­ing any. “The only way to sur­vive is by us­ing our hands,” she says, evok­ing hand­made, eth­i­cal fash­ion as a way of fight­ing back against fast, cheap fash­ion, de­signed by al­go­rithm.

Iron­i­cally, trend fore­cast­ers are turn­ing to al­go­rithms, too. Pin­ter­est is on the band­wagon, re­leas­ing its top 100 trend re­port by ag­gre­gat­ing user searches. “If an idea keeps get­ting more and more searches each month? And that up­ward tra­jec­tory holds steady for six-plus months?” the com­pany ex­plains with pup­py­ish en­thu­si­asm, “that’s how we know it’s a trend.”

Hard as it is to be­lieve, next year’s wed­ding cou­ples will of­fer guests dough­nuts, and set off coloured smoke in pho­to­graphs. We’ll all be drink­ing oat milk and go­ing Pe­gan (part Paleo, part ve­gan, part so­ciopath). Midlife women will em­brace their grey hair. Mil­len­nial women will go lilac. Ba­bies will be soothed to sleep by au­to­mated rock­ing beds, and kids told sto­ries at bed­time by au­dio­book. Peo­ple will build boats. Yes, ac­tual boats. 2019 sounds like a Kevin Cost­ner movie in which Kevin Cost­ner doesn’t make it.

I don’t want Kevin Cost­ner to die. I don’t want to eat beet­root, dessert hum­mus, or paint my lounge in “neo-mint”. But, as stake­hold­ers in the same fu­ture, we’re sub­ject to its im­mutable laws. We’re go­ing to be plant­based, home­spun and go­ing grey, just as we were in the Great De­pres­sion. How things change, my flower! How things stay the same!

We ac­cept

IN­SPIRE. PROVOKE. EN­TER­TAIN.

Photo: Vic­to­ria Birkin­shaw

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