This post was written by Clint Coffey, a student in the NC State Jenkins Professional Online MBA program and Business and Technology Applications Analyst at Appalachian State University, reflecting on a week-long global immersion to London focused on “Trendspotting for Culture and Design.” You may see an introductory blog post about this immersion here.
Before I left for London, I told my manager that the subject matter of my international immersion was “trendspotting” — I should have just said “marketing.” Why? Essentially, we are studying the intersection of markets and culture to better understand what mass market trends will be in five to ten years. This generated a lot of questions I didn’t have good answers for at the time, but after a few days in London, I am getting a better idea.
Trend spotting is more of an art than a science; some trends can be easily recognized and some take a little more investigating into whatever cultural center we are studying. One of the cultural centers we decided to concentrate on was the UpMarket in London’s Brick Lane district. Only open on Sunday, the UpMarket is a mosaic of culture where food, fashion, art, language and sculpture meld together. A block away from the UpMarket you begin to smell the indescribable aroma of curry, marinara, fried fish, steamed vegetables, and fiery grills all mixing into one overwhelming aroma. You’ll hear street artists performing with a single amp or a homemade flute maker demonstrating his product. Inside UpMarket it’s seemingly all locals, trendspotters and trendmakers — no fanny packs or giant subway maps here!
As we travel through the market I see products similar to those in artisan markets in the States, but I also see artifacts I’ve never seen before. These avant garde products are clues to emerging trends or meta trends that are on the cusp of cultural adoption. While drinking one of the best fruit smoothie’s I’ve ever had from a Greek vendor, I strike up a conversation with a vendor from Malaysia selling fair trade, avant garde-styled shirts. We talked about the designs of his shirts, how he modeled them after what he sees as fashionable in his neighborhood two blocks over and how successful he is becoming. As our conversation was wrapping up I asked where he was from (aforementioned Malaysia), and he asked where I was from. I was amazed to discover, despite my distinct southern accent, that he thought I lived in London. This speaks to both the diversity of the area and the authenticity of the venue we were studying.
In all I’m tracking two potential trends around London, one I picked up from the UpMarket. Later this week, among other events, we will discover the Tate Modern, a cutting edge modern art museum along the Thames, and an office visit at Mintel, a global market research and insight company. I hope my trends continue to reveal evidence of themselves and gain momentum, after all I do have a pretty lengthy analysis to write upon my return!