This man knows what you’ll be wearing in 2015
Written by Libby Banks
If you’re anxious to know the precise handbag style, sock colour, and hem length that will be in vogue come 2015, ask Isham Sardouk. As the Chief Creative Officer of fashion trends forecaster Stylesight, Sardouk is in the business of predicting – and shaping – the future of fashion.
Isham Sardouk and his team spend their days researching and analysing the multi-faceted world of style for their client base of international designers and retailers. The Stylesight team then uses this information to forecast what shoppers will crave in the distant future. While mere mortals find it hard to imagine what they’ll be wearing next week, the idea that there are professionals who have already deduced how we’ll spend our 2015 pay cheques is impressive – and even a little terrifying.
But for anyone with an appetite for fashion, Sardouk has a dream job. “I suppose it does sound glamorous,” he shrugs, “I’m always on the move; travel is so important as that is the only way you can get a sense of trends as they emerge on the streets.” Sardouk splits his time between the company’s headquarters in New York and its London offices.
“One of the best things about my job is that I get the opportunity to enjoy the two cities that I love the most,” he says. “They are the crossroads for so many different cultures and many different types of style tribes – I think of them as non-stop engines for fashion, art, and design.”
While most of us only become conscious of fashion trends when they are highlighted in glossy magazines or hit the stores, Sardouk and his team need to stay a significant number of steps ahead. The company’s clients, which span everyone from Bulgari and Prada to Nike and Adidas, require this information way ahead of time to ensure that their new collections anticipate the future ebb and flow of style.
It’s hard to imagine how to embark on such a task without the aid of a crystal ball.
“People often assume that we start by looking at what is happening on the catwalks at fashion weeks in Paris or New York, but we rarely predict trends by looking at the runway,” Sardouk explains, clearly accustomed to people being mystified by the mechanics of his day job. “Of course I go to the shows, but they are really confirming our previous forecasts. At Stylesight we’re thinking about styling, silhouettes, colour, and print approximately 18 months ahead of the runway – in fact many of the designers are our clients. Personally I’m more interested to see what’s happening in art.”
The job is anything but nine to five. In his endless quest for inspiration and the next big thing, Sardouk spends his weekends at galleries, antique fairs, flea markets, and museums. “It’s impossible to switch off because style never stops evolving. I’m always searching for this thing that’s going to make an ‘Aha’ moment.”
When we meet, he has just spent a weekend in New York visiting no fewer than four different exhibitions at MoMA, as well as the new exhibition by conceptual artist James Turrell at the Guggenheim.
Sardouk says that a common assumption about his job is that to forecast fashion trends you must look exclusively at clothing. He believes that to stay ahead, his team cast their style net much wider.
“I take inspiration from people who create, whether it’s art or music or cars,” he says. “It’s about the newest looks on the street, what’s happening in art schools like Central Saint Martins and Parsons, what’s happening in technology, what’s happening in the movies, and it’s also about asking who and what the new generation aspire to.”
For an outsider it can be difficult to see how a new art movement will impact on tastes in knitwear.
“Looking at this stuff might sound a bit esoteric and removed from the reality of fashion,” he admits, “but what comes right afterwards is the expertise, and the skill of the job is in understanding how an influential artist, a celebrity, or an emerging consumer attitude will affect someone who is creating a garment or a shoe.”
Sardouk, who started his career as a fashion illustrator before rising to design director at lingerie super-brand Victoria’s Secret, believes experience working in the fashion industry is the only way to succeed as a trends forecaster. “It’s easy to forget that fashion is ultimately a business and our clients need our information and advice so that they can sell their designs,” he says. “To succeed, it is vital to get experience working in a design environment so that you understand how things are created from concept to market: from picking the right colour to designing the garment details and tweaking the prototypes and seeing how the final product is presented in stores.”
Keeping abreast of emerging tastes and international trends is a global operation. Sardouk oversees a team of more than 60 trend-spotters in Stylesight’s New York head office, as well as a network of more than 100 correspondents in “every major fashion city you can think of”. His team have a global meeting every month where correspondents list the top ten trends emerging in their city. This, he says, allows the team to keep tabs on how tastes are evolving globally and locally: “If broderie anglaise is showing up in Los Angeles and Shanghai, then we know it’s probably going to be important internationally.”
So what will fashion shoppers be yearning for in the coming months and years? “For Fall 2014/15 we’re predicting a new take on folklore with plenty of intricate decoration, embellishment, and embroidery, and we’ll also see a continuation of the romantic trend with plenty of pretty floral prints, and there’ll be renewed appetite for all things baroque – but with a dark twist.”
Now it’s simply a case of waiting 18 months for the designs to hit the shop floor…
Isham’s Guide to New York
As an NYC native, Isham is passionate about his hometown. For a perfect weekend in the city, he recommends dinner at the Beatrice Inn. Owned by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, it is an excellent place for blending people-watching with fine dining. If Italian cuisine is your thing, Isham recommends Il Buco for chic food that majors on high- quality and locally sourced ingredients. For a cultural fix, the Gagosian and David Zwirner galleries are two of Isham’s favourites. Both focus on modern art and are ideal places for experiencing the city’s edgy art scene first-hand. If you can handle an early morning, head to Manhattan’s century-old flower district, which occupies little more than a block in Midtown and is a startling oasis in the fast-paced city. Isham also recommends retail therapy at the quirky interiors boutique Nest on 9th Avenue.
New York, USA
Stylesight Global Headquarters