Introducing: My Resident Expert in Design Trends, Patti Carpenter
Trends are an important way for us to stay on the pulse of the style game. They often inspire and give us an opportunity to try new things. I truly believe that trends speak to something culturally relevant, and that they can be a way forward. This is why I want you to have the ultimate means of knowing all about the growing importance of certain colors and materials while helping you celebrate individuality and uniqueness through your home and lifestyle.
An international expert in trend forecasting, Patti Carpenter is the principal of an award-winning firm focused on identifying trends in home décor, personal accessories, fragrance, and gifts. Patti has designed, sourced, and created private-label collections for leading international brands, and she’s a recognized leader in trend forecasting. As she shows you the latest and greatest ways to reinvent and refresh your homes through tips, blog posts, advice, and insights, enjoy this interview to find out a bit more about who she is and why she leads the pack!
Trending and Trendy
Robin: Hi Patti! Thanks for joining me as an expert!
Patti: Of course, Robin! Very excited to be here.
Robin: Can you start off by telling us what trend means to you?
Patti: Trend simply means the direction in which things tend to move. I am constantly looking at what my next direction is, in terms of what I am tracking, forecasting, and reporting. The hashtag that best describes me is #What’snext! So that's what trend really means to me—the direction we are going to be heading in every category that we focus on. As trend forecasters and researchers, there are some big ticket items that we focus on. For instance, I coined the term SPENT as an acronym for the areas we mostly look at: Social, Political, Economic, Nature, and Technology. Trend depends on all of these criteria individually and together. That is how it resonates with me.
Robin: People often mix up the terms “trend” and “trendy.” Could you tell us the difference between them?
Patti: Yes of course! I always use this example, especially when I do my training with artisans, and try to articulate the difference between the two terms. Look at a very simple visual of a piece of decor or even clothing. To think of it as something “trendy,” it needs to be something that is going up and down in popularity very fast. It is a vertical line. Something that is a “trend” is more of a horizontal line, has more longevity, and has influenced many fields of design for a significant period of time.
A Trend Forecaster’s Journey
Robin: Can you talk about what motivated you to do this work? I’d love to hear more about your journey of becoming a trend forecaster.
Patti: I have been doing this work for close to fifty years, really. I was a clothing designer for 27 years before moving over to trend forecasting. When I was in apparel, I worked in women’s fashion, sportswear, accessories, and occasionally men’s wear. As a designer in clothing, you start every season with a similar mindset: what’s going to be your thing, what colors, fabric, textiles and materials you are going to work with. So, having to understand color, and to track color has always been something I’ve done. It’s something that I love, and it dates back to my fine arts background, which is what I did before becoming a designer. My foundation was in painting, drawing, sculpting, and illustration. I have two degrees from the Fashion Institute of Technology. The first is in illustration, so my background in art really built my understanding and appreciation of color. What I discovered early in the fashion industry was my eye for color, which translated to interior design and continues to be foundational in my career.
Robin: What did it take for you to make it to the top and excel in your field?
Patti: I believe that possessing very good language skills is an important attribute of a trend forecaster. To appreciate certain things like color and material, people need to understand their true meaning in a deeper sense, and, for that, you need to be articulate. Having been raised by a mother who was a writer, I was always encouraged to have a skill with language, and thanks to her, one of the things that my clients appreciate today is the way I speak about color. Apart from having command over language, the way I speak about color also comes from an understanding of it as a designer. Creativity, sense of color, and a lot of what we do basically comes from our gut. It is a very intangible thing, and it often just comes to you. Over the years I’ve acquired an ability to take that intangible thing that a designer possesses and transform it to something tangible by being able to describe it. And that's what I think sets me apart in the industry.
The Ins and Out of Global Trend Forecasting
Robin: Patti, you have often been acclaimed as a global trend ambassador. What does it mean to be one in today’s context?
Patti: That is certainly more difficult today than it has been previously. With the world seeing so many pivots or shifts—people experiencing the same thing at once—I’d like to say that we are in a time where we are resetting, we are reintegrating, recycling, rebooting, reinstating. The world has been doing so much of this recently, and, at the end of the day, it all comes down to resetting. I think that on many levels these changes are necessary. As trend forecasters, we have been discussing it and foresaw some of the curveballs that have been thrust upon us, particularly the situation in which we find ourselves globally. It goes back to those macro trends where technology has stepped up to help us get through life virtually. Online shopping becoming a new norm, for instance, is something we were tracking from the trend point of view, especially how it has become a necessity for every generation. We don’t anticipate ever going back before a global catastrophe hit us, and we were pushed to do things differently.
Robin: That is really interesting. Please tell me more! How do you think your work impacts society?
Patti: Let me give you a simple example. Nature was hugely affected when people had to stay indoors. The air around us became cleaner, fish started returning to their original habitats, you get where I’m going. Being aware helps us be mindful of what we need to do to maintain equilibrium. For instance, we have become more aware of how much manufactured goods are influencing and impacting the world around us and contributing to pollution, and their artificially low cost steers people away from artisan-made, handcrafted goods. We have been able to kick it back up again through recognizing a need for that connection; the beauty of handmade and imperfect items. What I am really trying to say here is this: there are a lot of things that the last year has pushed forward for us, so, as trend forecasters, we need to be aware of all the shifts that are happening around us and how some of these things will be long term, while some will just get us through these times. We have to adapt, shift, and pivot, in order to move forward.
Joys of the Job
Robin: I know that you wear many hats as a global ambassador. What is your favorite part of the job?
Patti: Hmmm good questions! I love how it lets me travel and take me some place every other week— when it’s safe to travel, of course. And I miss traveling when I’m not able to do so. There are two sides to my business, and I love both of them dearly. The side where I work with home decor and interior trend forecasting, and the other side is artisan development, where I work with indigenous artisans in developing countries and help them access the market. I lead them to local markets, regional markets, or export markets depending on their capabilities. This is something that is very close to heart. That work requires me to travel because it requires me to be physically present with the artisans and to learn how things are made.
We have now started to do a lot more digitally as well, to catch up with the pace of the world around us. When it comes to my work in interior design, I love going to markets, being with my design community, seeing new products, looking at what people are talking about, and having those wonderful conversations— especially with creatives who tell me what's inspiring them. That is how I gather information—with interpersonal connection. It also helps that I am in New York, a city that is so culturally rich. I often post on Instagram just things that are happening on the streets, and people often thank me because that helps them keep a finger on the pulse of what's going on, what artists are thinking, and the macro trends that are driving us all. It is really quite marvelous.
The Way Forward
Wow! I’m inspired to have gone on that journey. Patti is tireless and inspiring, and her expertise is limitless. Having learned so much from our remarkable Resident Expert in all things Trending and having gotten a glimpse into her fabulous outlook on the way forward, keep a lookout for my next interview with her. I am really excited about sharing all things currently in trend, and what the future of it will look like. I’m here to keep you in the know, and help you incorporate the freshest looks in your home!
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