Redefining Trend Forecasting with Sharon Graubard


Sharon Graubard, Bret Schnitker, Emily Lane


December 21, 2021


Emily Lane  00:09

Welcome to Clothing Coulture, a fashion industry podcast at the intersection of technology and innovation. I'm Emily Lane.

Bret Schnitker  00:17

I'm Bret Schnitker. We speak with experts and disruptors who are moving the industry forward

Emily Lane  00:21

and discuss solutions to real industry challenges.

Bret Schnitker  00:24

Clothing Coulture is brought to you by Stars Design Group, a global design and production house with more than 30 years of experience.

Emily Lane  00:35

Welcome back to another episode of Clothing Coulture. Once again, we are in the delightful Penthouse 45 in Midtown Manhattan. Isn't this view spectacular? Bret.

Emily Lane  00:47

It is and the rains pass by and weather is looking to be on the rise the next few days.

Emily Lane  00:52

And we have a fabulous guests with us today to talk about predicting the future of style. Our guest has been noted as a trend Oracle with a ubiquitous understanding of sociology, history and culture in fashion trends. Welcome, Sharon.

Sharon Graubard  01:11

Thank you, Emily.

Emily Lane  01:12

Yes. And I should probably pronounce your full name Sharon Graubard. Did I say that? Right? I was very nervous about your name. So you are the founder and creative director of mint Mota, which is a trend forecasting, consultancy and website. How did you get your start in the fashion industry? Let's start at the beginning.

Sharon Graubard  01:35

Wow, the beginning I studied art. I never studied fashion. And in those years it was kind of uncool to be into fashion. Really? Yeah. It's funny how the 70s If I'm dating myself are such an influence on fashion. But at the time, it wasn't cool. It was all very effortless and you didn't act like you cared even though you did, but I loved fashion. I loved old movies. So without knowing it, I was already a fashion historian you know, because it's

Bret Schnitker  02:09

Slowly sucking you in and yes hard to get out once you are here.

Sharon Graubard  02:13

Vogue I used to look at it at my friend. My mother didn't get it. But a friend's mother got it. So I would read it voraciously. I graduated from art school, I came to Manhattan I grew up close by. And I always got jobs in fashion industry. My first job was as as a textile colorist because I could paint and I could mix colors. So I always tell young people take a painting class, you know, that's when you know, oh, that red has a little bit of blue, or that's a yellow cast red or a yellow cast green. So I was a textile colorist. And then I started illustrating fashion. And the thing about illustration is, you notice the tiniest thing, the waistline is slightly dropped. The shoulders are slightly wider this season, whatever it is. So it developed my eye. I always knew what was going to be happening next. That was something I used to drive my mother crazy, because I'd be like, I have to have round toed shoes. When all the shoes were pointy, or, you know, I always had this thing of what was next. So between that and my art background and getting jobs as an illustrator. The people who used illustrators were fashion forecasting publications. So that's kind of my journey.

Emily Lane  03:42

Oh, my gosh, how fascinating. You were in early in early on WGSN. Right as you kind of made your way into trend forecasting.

Sharon Graubard  03:52

I worked for a company called the Toby report, which is now part of Doniger group. And the Toby was considered the Bible of the fashion industry. And that was even our byline. I don't know if they still use it. And I illustrated for Toby and at Toby we would get the runway pictures and at that, you know now runway is everywhere you go on or anywhere and you see all the runway. At that time. The runway photos were precious commodity, and we used to print a book, black and white. We didn't do color printing black and white pictures of the runway. That's right. And this book of runway photos was like the hottest book everyone was waiting for our we were weekly publication. Anyway, I said I could make a forecasting book using runway photos and tell stories with photos. And my boss Mrs. Jean was like, Are you sure and that if she let me Do it with two of my co workers, we develop this forecasting book. And you know, I always just saw stories I would see like street or chins, or

Emily Lane  05:10

that's the artist in you

Sharon Graubard  05:12

Yeah, yeah.

Emily Lane  05:14

And I love that you bring that perspective to forecasting. It's not, it's not just about identifying, you know, what's happening on the waistline, or the shoulders, or the toe tips, but it's, it's

Bret Schnitker  05:24

the culture thats surrounding fashion. And that's what blew my, there's so many things that blew my mind when you walk me through MintModa. I mean, you know, I, I've been in the industry for a while they say, 10s of years to be polite.

Emily Lane  05:42

Only if its not hundreds of years.

Bret Schnitker  05:47

To the day, but, you know, I I've interfaced with a ton of forecasting services. And I think when I walked through, you know, when I had the I was the lucky recipient of a personal Sharon Graubard tour, which was nice. But I was amazed at the ability to distill all the noise, you know, there's a lot of points of view, right, we live in a world that's super connected. Now, you mentioned, you know, I would assume that, that Fashion Week's and runways are even more condensed at one point. And today, there's a million points of view coming from all over the place with our connectivity, and to be able to distill that information into a viable trend service that sits down and says, Hey, here's what I think is, is the consumer is is listening to and the consumers responding to because, you know, at the same time, that you're seeing this compression of the world, right, and the ability to see everything happening in real time everywhere. We've also moved to a consumer driven economy, you know, that has got to be an interesting wrinkle about a fashion forecasting service, because, you know, used to be designers would tell people what to wear. And today, the most successful designers are those that are the medium and the channel for the consumer.

Sharon Graubard  07:14

That's right. Well, it's changed quite a bit. I mean, I mentioned Mrs. Dean at the Toby Report, she was one of my early mentors. And I remember her saying that, Mr. Neiman and I can't think of everybody in the olden days, but Nordstrom and Macy's and everybody would sit down Saks and Bergdorfs, and decide what the length would be. And that was

Bret Schnitker  07:44

Sll together, they would sit down?

Sharon Graubard  07:45

Yes, they will down and make a decision about what's the length. And of course, it's not that way now, right any length is good. It's what else

Bret Schnitker  07:57

They all sit down and don't decide what you the length is.

Sharon Graubard  08:00

Don't decide. So it's very different. And that's where the storytelling really becomes very important. Because it's a narrative, you're telling a story. When you get dressed. You're not saying I'm wearing a skirt at this season's length, right? You're saying this is me. And these are my values. And these are my people. And you're somehow conveying that, with the cut of your jeans and the fabric of your jacket,

Emily Lane  08:09

You're part of a tribe.

Bret Schnitker  08:31

I think well, that's the thing. MintMota is actually looking at the consumer demograph and the groups you've labeled them, you've done these tribes kind of view and that's the amazing part. It seems so visionary, that as we move to this consumer driven economy, you have looked outward, to identify the tribes who are influencing fashion as we, as we know it today.

Sharon Graubard  08:56

Yes, it's back and forth. So because the designers are so talented, and there is so much information in every photo from the you know, people say when I first was working with the runways, Abercrombie and Fitch or a company like casual company would say, well, we don't do ball gowns. And I would say this is real. These are jeans, these are trousers, these are everyday dresses, this these are visionary designers, when people say, Oh, the runways not relevant, it is irrelevant because they are channels.

Bret Schnitker  09:32

Absolutely right.

Sharon Graubard  09:33

They are channels for the consumer as well. The good ones.

Bret Schnitker  09:36

The good ones, for sure. I think there are two separate groups and I think that's what makes our business so fascinating. The ones that that that their business has grown commercially are these amazing channels with a wonderful aesthetic to channel the consumer. And then you have this off shoot of just pure artists. I am expressing my view of the world and my view of life. If and if you'd like it great. If you don't, that's fine too. And I think that helps stem and spur the evolution of our makes us think, right. You know, we had finished a podcast with another guest and we talked about, you know, this whole trend and fluid fashion and non binary and, you know, that's an exploration that's a discovery of that and there's these brave, you know, talented designers that are walking down that space and trying to think through all that, that is that and the challenge within that anatomically and, and design and embracing and being, you know, sensitive to the culture and understanding all those different things. And I think that's that's the nice combination, what exists today and in our fashion world, right?

Sharon Graubard  10:46

Yes. Well, I think even the most avant garde designers like I have, I always say All roads lead to rei meaning Rei Kawakubo, am I it's funny, I googled that expression one day, and I saw Oh, somebody said it and I looked it up and it was me because the quote came up.

Bret Schnitker  11:06

your are an oracle, you actually found yourself way back than.

Sharon Graubard  11:13

I look at Rei Kawakubo, black on different colors black. That was a no no. raw edges, we're still exploring in fashion. The same with Martin Margiela. The most avant garde designers are ones that I always include in my forecast because the seeds of what people will want are in there. So it's not wild and crazy stuff. It's a early spark.

Bret Schnitker  11:44

A premonition, if you will.

Sharon Graubard  11:47

And the ideas like I always say, we're not putting it out there, because Prada, Miuccia Prada did it. Were trying to get at what Prada was thinking about. So that's how kind of how we do the surround.

Emily Lane  12:01

It's really getting inside the intention behind it. Exactly. Yeah. You really, you know, we're a trailblazer, looking at runway to inform trends. What is your process now?

Sharon Graubard  12:14

Well, it has changed to bet although I still look at the runway and I'm still blown away. At the ideas, any sweater, you know, you might do a close up on a knit from Joseph Altuzarra or something. And there's so many ideas in there, the way it's finished the stitchery the way it hangs on the body. So I still look at runway. But I look at people a lot. Thank goodness, I live in the East Village on the corner of Avenue and third. And to me

Bret Schnitker  12:50

If you want to send some flowers.

Sharon Graubard  12:53

I could just run across the street to buy a bottle of water and I see something that inspires me. I love real people. Watching people of course now we have Instagram. So it's like the whole world is there and the little two inch square on your phone. people inspire me history, costumes in in movies, movies, in general, film is a tremendous inspiration both past and present. You can and you know that's why it drives me crazy. When people say fashion moves so fast. Now, it moves at exactly the same rate that it has always moved

Bret Schnitker  13:33

I'm just moving much slower.

Sharon Graubard  13:39

It's you know, you look at a movie from 1934. And the clothes look different than a movie from 1939 or 1942. I mean, fashion moves, it moves. So that's a really fascinating thing. I watch what's happening. I watch What the Thrift Shops have what the vintage show what's what's drawing people's attention. At the at the last metropolitan vintage show. All of these things are clues. And then it's almost like I see the clues all around me. And then I find them on the runway. So it's almost the opposite.

Emily Lane  14:19

How interesting.

Bret Schnitker  14:21

I had a mentor one time that said fashion runs in seven year cycles. I don't know if that's exactly true. But do you see cycles in fashion traditionally?

Sharon Graubard  14:29

Seven year? Yeah, I mean, I have a theory that well, as far as vintage decades people are drawn to the decades of the time when their parents are were young. So whatever

Bret Schnitker  14:43

Exactly opposite what I was like, you know, this statement of I don't want to be my dad. You know,

Sharon Graubard  14:49

there's that moment where like you see those old pictures of mom and dad when they first man. It looks so cool. Yeah. So it keeps kind of moving like 80s 90s But I don't know, that's an interesting question about the cycle.

Bret Schnitker  15:04

I've seen some, it never comes back the same, there's always there's always an evolution or a change to it. But the, like you've mentioned the seeds. That's a really good word. The seeds of the DNA of some of the things that have occurred in the past are finding its way into fashion. You know, and it's, you know, you mentioned the whole vintage show, you know, you're looking you go, they're looking to the past, again, to inform the buyer, right, via the press. Yeah,

Emily Lane  15:30

I get the sense that history has always kind of played a key role in, in your perspective, do you think that in trend forecasting, it's important to be a historian? In a sense,

Sharon Graubard  15:43

definitely, you have to know where we came from. One thing that really is so important is terminology. And it's not taught in school, it doesn't seem to be taught in fashion schools, I hope I'm not offending any educators might be listening. I have talked to people about what a particular shirt looks like. And it especially when I used to illustrate, and the person on the other end of the phone or in the show room would be like, Oh, it's just a regular and I would say, What kind of caller Oh, just a regular caller, there's no regular caller. Is it a point callers spread collar, a Peter Pan collar, a platter collar? What collar is it? And, and for fabric? To they don't know the terms? Is it dry hand? Is it fluid? Is it crisp. So terminology is part of the communication, anything you could do to communicate and fashion history is part of it. Vocabulary is part of it. You have to know what it is in order to describe it. And then in order to play with it to make it different than it was before.

Emily Lane  16:57

You're kind of a curator, aren't you a curator of visual experiences of history of sort, you know, a story telling of what you see on the streets and words and descriptions that really feels like you're a curator to me.

Sharon Graubard  17:14

Yeah, that I mean, it's funny that that word is now such a part of everyday vocabulary, but it is it's curating. It's almost like making a collage. You know, again, I come from that art background. So like, I'm very into the words, we name items unmeant mode, or we call it something and we're Oh, you know, even we just finished our denim report. And I call it I even hate the name of our denim forecast really. And last season, we called all the brown denims Earth stained or earth wash. And this season, we called it coffee stained, but we will never just say Brown denim, right? We find a thread that relates to what's happening now what people are talking about something that you can almost smell.

Bret Schnitker  18:01

Visualization, right? Something that sticks with you and you're reading all these different elements. I found that exactly, to be accurate when you were walking me through and it's just like, it's a way that when people are in a hurried world and you know, not everyone in our industry are designers, right? There's everyday merchants, people that are going out trying to make decisions. They have different levels of skill, different levels of length of time in the industry. And looking at MintModa there was this wonderful calmness I had to be able to walk through and go. Yeah, I see it makes. Yeah, it's in our industry, you see it at trade shows, you know, they're like flea markets, you can really find anything. If you want to support something, you can find it right we are we're diverse. As a as a species, we're quite diverse. But I think you know, the ability to sit down in a very aesthetically pleasing and focus way you you present it to somebody that can sit down and say, Okay, I kind of need some help here. Help me walk through where we're going in this crazy world. And you know, as it relates to clothing and fashion and I think it's just such a wonderful thing that you've done.

Sharon Graubard  19:12

It's interesting you say that because that was my original byline for MintModa was making sense of the madness or making sense of the chaos or something like that. But we, with my partner, Maria Valentino, my business partner, we came up with the line forecast that move you because we also felt that the emotional content of and that goes back to the storytelling and that goes back to clothes and consumers. Nobody needs a new top but you fall in love with that top, you fall in love with a vision of yourself wearing that top. So very emotional.

Emily Lane  19:55

It is that's exactly how I look at when making purchase of a new garment. What Is my experience going to be in wearing this item?

Bret Schnitker  20:03

It's like a family member of an extremely large family by the way. We are the world because she has got a lot.

Emily Lane  20:17

I love it! Somebody who might be interested in getting into the industry, understanding forecasting, maybe feels that they are able to, you know, have an uncanny approach to seeing what's going to happen in the future. You know, somebody might want to come join you at minimoto Someday, what kind of advice would you have for them?

Bret Schnitker  20:43

Be a psychic.

Emily Lane  20:46

Get a crystal ball.

Sharon Graubard  20:48

It's it's watching and looking. And I do tell students look at everything you go to an art opening, go to a party, look at what people are wearing, watch old movies, fashion history, it's so important for understanding and also costume dramas I love to him nowadays, constitute just blows my mind. And then I say, vocabulary, be able to express you know, the thing with fashion forecasting is it's a communication. So be an artist, be a graphic designer, be a writer, so important. You need to communicate your ideas to your clients color. Take a color class, get your paint sound, like Brett was saying, and I too have my paints now, man. Yeah, messy. But that's part of the that I mean, all of those things for forecasting you and be read, be aware of the culture know what's going on. It's not about you, you and it's a funny dichotomy with forecasting, because you have to make it personal and and apply your tastes develop your taste and apply your taste. It's so it's very personal. But you also have to make it very universal. You know, I always sort of ball when people say, Oh, no one can wear that. Or I can't wear that. That won't look good on me. It's not about you.

Bret Schnitker  22:26

Size small. I can't wear.

Sharon Graubard  22:28

Yeah, but you know, that's another thing that's happening right now. Fashion is for everyone. I've always felt so passionate about that. And now we're seeing curvy, and husky. Yeah, sure, short and older. And fashion is for everyone. It's a joy. And it's been a mistake, I think for the industry to make people feel like they're excluded. And now this new inclusive approach is very different than the past. And it's so important. And refreshing. Yeah. And and invite everybody in, like, we were saying earlier fashion can save the world. Believe it.

Emily Lane  23:13

I think that's all really, really excellent advice. It really seems that it's having kind of a voracious appetite for knowledge and experience.

Sharon Graubard  23:22

Yes. And then bringing that into what does that do to a sweater? What does that do to a pair of pants? It doesn't just exist from nowhere. It's for a reason.

Emily Lane  23:36

You. You write haikus for your website? Are you the writer of those? Yes, I think that is such a beautiful approach. It's taking all that you're seeing in these stories that you're telling and condensing it to just a few simple words. And in those haikus, you immediately get the essence of, of the story you're about to see.

Sharon Graubard  23:56

Well, they are real haikus by the way 575 I sometimes just amazing. I read about a new fragrance called haiku I think, and they had haikus to go with every fragrance and they're not real haikus goodness.

Sharon Graubard  24:17

But, you know, poetry in general is the most packed form of literature. And a haiku is the most packed poetry so I guess I tried to make a nugget a packed nugget. And they just I write them very quickly, you know, they just kind of come to you. Yeah, just kept on my fingers. You know,

Bret Schnitker  24:44

MintModa is about intuition and and how you distill that down. It's just amazing. All these nice little, you know, things you would that are unexpected. A haiku is definitely unexpected. in fashion forecasting, I love that.

Emily Lane  24:57

Maybe you'll have to write one for our episode and we can put it in our show notes.

Sharon Graubard  25:02

Oh, that really lovely. Kind of like doing everything on on many different levels like a high coat, I'm so glad you like it but maybe some people are alienated by it. But then on the very same page we have the Totems or the keys. So it's a white shirt, a tailor jacket, and a you know, slouchy trouser, whatever the look is, will work on a lot of different levels from kind of trippy, down to very brass tacks. This is what you need to do. This is the buckle. This is the button. We work on both levels, or I would say more than both several

Emily Lane  25:42

Oh, so many different angles. And that's great because people process information in different ways. And so you're providing all of those different options,

Sharon Graubard  25:53

Kind of a left brain, right brain.

Emily Lane  25:55

Right. Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for joining us here today. Best wishes as you continue to predict our future.

Sharon Graubard  26:03

Thank you. It's been an absolute pleasure and lovely to meet both of you in person.

Bret Schnitker  26:09

I want to add, you know, the number of years that I have been in the industry. I think that you are doing such a tremendous job at MintModa, and I would urge everyone watching to go to explore what the opportunities are there and see the difference that can be in terms of fashion forecasting.

Sharon Graubard  26:26

Thank you.

Emily Lane  26:27

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Redefining Trend Forecasting with Sharon Graubard