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      think pieces Felix Petty 17 November 2015

      on the brandwagon: inside the weird world of trend forecasting

      Predicting the future isn’t the same as creating it.

      on the brandwagon: inside the weird world of trend forecasting on the brandwagon: inside the weird world of trend forecasting on the brandwagon: inside the weird world of trend forecasting
      K-Hole, A Report on Doubt

      "Fuck someone wearing Chanel, stare at the label while you're cumming, and you'll become Karl Lagerfeld." This is at the essence of chaos magic, the power of positive thinking, the visualisation of success that leads to success itself, and also, apparently, the fashion trend to look out for. According to K-Hole's new trend report, A Report on Doubt, anyway, chaos magic will come to define the next few years. People are inclined to believe them because K-Hole's previous trend report gifted us normcore. The eagerness to believe that chaos magic will become a thing might just lead to it becoming a thing, and this of course is chaos magic in action.

      When A Report on Doubt dropped, everyone was looking through it, eagerly scanning the pages of the PDF in a rush to file some copy on what K-Hole had decided would be big this season. Everyone had run out of think pieces to write about normcore, and needed to find something new to generate content on and to link disparate scenes together. More than anything, fashion in 2015 needed a buzzword. And yet A Report on Doubt hasn't really seemed to go anywhere, no one really seemed to understand it. Everyone was too eager to adapt it to fashion, to be the first on the bandwagon, and it all came out too literal or too metaphorical. Whatever chaos magic was, whatever chaos magic meant, was getting lost. Was this K-Hole's difficult second album? The limp follow-up to the success of normcore?

      Normcore was a rebellion tailor-made for the millennial mindset. Surrounded as we are by regurgitated images of the last 60 years of post-war teenage fashion angst on our social media feeds, we'd become bored of the cliché outsider icons, bored of the parade of young punks, the suited mods, free-loving hippies, gloomy goths, aggressive skins, and smiley ravers. No niche subculture was too niche anymore, no marginal musical scene too marginal. We'd seen it all and it wasn't really rebellion anymore because what's the point in dressing up and dropping out and being a hippie when your dad did it too?

      In response to this barrage, normcore said that its lack of rebellion was the new rebellion. "Having mastered difference," they explained, "the truly cool attempt to master sameness. Normcore moves away from a coolness that relies on difference to a post-authenticity coolness that opts in to sameness." It was an insider's wink of studied normality; normcore saw basic ugliness and utilitarianism as an aesthetic for our time, and fashion responded. Nothing will make you cooler quicker than standing out, and when everyone else is standing out you should blend in. If everyone is rebelling by being studiously normal, then it loses its power and potency; what's ostentatious is totally relative, as is what's exotic. You move from avant-garde to parody in a matter of months now. As quickly as something is "in", as it's popular, it's over. Nothing is cool forever and in the hyper accelerated world we live in things are cooler for shorter too. We used to get 15 minutes of fame, now we're lucky if we get five seconds before we continue scrolling. The cycle of coolness is constantly accelerating.

      Chaos magic is K-Hole's response then, not only to normcore, but to the fact that they aren't really cool, or new, or interesting anymore. To the fact that the landscape has changed underneath their feet. Chaos magic is sincere instead of pessimistic, embellished instead of utilitarian, stand-out instead of blend-in. Be yourself. Or rather, be the yourself you want to be, and K-Hole still want to be relevant, they still want to dictate, they need to find a new landscape for "now".

      K-Hole explain that "Chaos magic lives in the same realm as the cult of positive thinking. But it goes beyond making mood boards of high end apartments you'd like to will into your possession. Belief becomes a technology that creates change... Chaos magic isn't just believing in The Secret, it's deciding to believe in The Secret to begin with. Mixing your own Kool-Aid, deciding how strong to make it, knowing when to drink it and when to stop." Or, as the trend forecasters of the glossy fashion press decided, an electric blue skirt from Toga, sparkly Chelsea boots from Asos, a bracelet with an eye detail as a clasp, Topshop jeans with more sparkles, a dress from Whistles with abstract reflective shapes stitched into them — this was the most basic form of magic imaginable.

      This, of course, is the problem with trend forecasting, with trying to decipher what's going to become popular; it's not a science, but if you get it right once, you might be liable to believe you can get it right all the time. The best way to predict the future is to create it, but conversely, predicting the future isn't the same as creating it.

      What made normcore happen that means chaos magic probably won't? What makes one thing impossibly popular and another derided and forgotten? What, essentially, is the difference between One Direction and all those other, processed, gelled, sexy-but-in-a-safe-way boy bands and singers from the X-Factor who were destined for obscurity? Same Difference, Journey South, Tabby Callaghan, Joe McElderry, Marcus Collins… where are they now? If Simon Cowell could have just created One Direction, would he have even bothered with the 11 other series of X-Factor? Would Simon Cowell even recognise Steve Brookstein if he walked past him in the street?

      This is where organisations like K-Hole come in. It began as an art project, as a parody of the youth-focused, consumer-driven trend forecasting agency, and in a twist of fate that they, ironically, probably never predicted, they've ended up so successful that they've become an actual trend forecasting agency.

      Trend forecasting, or predicting the future, is a gap that humanity has been trying to fill since forever; it's a gap that God filled with his prophets, that the Greeks filled with their oracles, that the Middle Ages filled with Nostradamus, and that Dan Brown filled with Leonardo da Vinci. We believe in these prophecies because the future is too scary, the present too uncertain, and the past too weird, we believe because there's too much money to be made by being first, by being right, by predicting the future, to not believe, simply because what if? But K-Hole is a fiction like The Da Vinci Code is a fiction, like Star Trek is a fiction, and just because it's a fiction it hasn't stopped people making pilgrimages to the Rosslyn Chapel or dressing up as Klingons.

      Trend forecasting, the science of popularity, the enigma of success, pops up wherever there is money to be made; from the financial markets to the fashion industry, from judging the potential ability of tomorrow's star athletes to predicting which member of which boyband will go on to become the popular solo star. Trend forecasting will tell you which lottery numbers to pick and not to do anything when mercury is in retrograde.

      "Magic means you can give yourself an opportunity to stop analyzing things," K-Hole concludes, in A Report on Doubt "Even for us - how are we going to figure out what's next? How are we going to bend all the information at our disposal into a new truth?" In a world full of doubt, in a world of Brexit, Grexit, Trident, Jeremy Corbyn, food banks, Russia, Syria, ISIS, Donald Trump, electric blue skirts from Toga and sparkly Chelsea boots from Asos, it's easier and more comforting to stop analysing, stop believing, and let K-Hole do the thinking for you. Whether chaos magic becomes a thing or not is irrelevant, you just might as well believe it, because what else is there to believe?

      @felixlp

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      Text Felix Petty

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      Topics:think pieces, the here and now issue, k hole, felix petty, trend forecasting, normcore, chaos magic

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