What are TikTok ‘trend forecasters’ and how do they predict trends

Trend forecasters are all over TikTok these days, and are well-known for their ability to drive consumer demand.

Before the digital age took the world by storm, most people turned to the advice of magazines, in which fashion editors would effectively translate high fashion runway collections to the masses with editorial spreads and photoshoots. They were the gatekeepers of style, but with social media making fashion more accessible, consumers have rendered traditional trend forecasters in favour of amateur influencer forecasters.

Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have long acted as sources of fashion inspiration - spawning the original wave of what we now call influencers - but in recent years, TikTok has usurped Instagram as a fashion breeding ground. The platform’s unique algorithm has allowed fashion trends to grow, evolve, and die out at an unprecedentedly rapid pace.

Under #FashionTok, the new gatekeepers of fashion have emerged and they’re using their continuously viral takes to exert their influence on the masses.

Fashion analyst and writer Mandy Lee (@oldloserinbrooklyn) - who has more than 500,000 followers on TikTok - has become a #FashionTok favourite over the years for her uncanny ability to forecast trends, namely the mids aughts-inspired “indie sleaze” trend and the revival of ballet flats during the balletcore craze.

She has popularised trends of her own such as the #75Hard Challenge, in which people commit to not buying more clothes and instead stick with styling pieces they already have for 75 days. She also coined the “Macaroon method” for winter styling, a method based on the sartorial layering choices of The Row founders Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen.

The influence that TikTok trend forecasters like Lee and her contemporaries - Agustina Panzoni (@thealgorythm) and Coco Mocoe (@cocomocoe) - has often reached the mainstream, sending a lot of trends into overdrive.

Australian TikTok trend forecaster Ainsley Coote (@melbgirlambassador) explained to Harper’s Bazaar that she often looks to the runways to call out a trend. She told the outlet, “I’m just looking at what brands are doing … but a bit of it is that if I want something to be a trend, I’ll say, ‘This is going to be a trend.’

“Other TikTokers who do the same thing as me copy [each other],” she continued. “If one person posts a video saying, ‘I think this is trending,’ in the next few days, others will have posted similar videos. It’s almost like if enough people say something’s happening, everyone goes, ‘Oh, it’s happening.’”

Experts define short-lived trends as micro-trends, referring to certain pieces that take over social media for any time between a few weeks or months, but don’t have much longevity beyond that such as the green House of Sunny bodycon dress that was seen on everyone from Kendall Jenner to your next door neighbor but ultimately lost steam.

Meanwhile, macro-trends are considered evergreen and usually encompass a certain style - like the ongoing 2000s revival - rather than a singular item or print. Macro trends tend to have a longer life, typically lasting through multiple fashion cycles.

In a report titled Fashion’s New Algorithm: How TikTok Killed the Trend Cycle, London-based digital agency The Digital Fairy pointed out that TikTok trend forecasters have contributed to creating “the new style economy” and accelerating the trend cycle to an alarming degree. They noted that trends have now become so minute and short-lived that these days seldom few have a real-world impact despite going viral on the platform.

The fashion industry, however, has taken note of TikTok’s sway over consumers, with Vogue Business having its own weekly TikTok Trend Tracker to keep tabs on content creators and up-and-coming trends. TikTok itself also has its own trend report that users can check.