"Even lovers of harmony can get the design bug, which, as the ambassador of new technologies and social utopias, turns the home upside-down" (1), "Gray is the new black", or "human needs are turning into a design assignment" (2). Linguistic sensitivity and a pronounced sense of embarrassment appear to be somewhat of a burden for profession trend researchers. Those who earn their living presenting the obvious as something special and the unpredictable as uncontestable apparently themselves need to portray ridiculous things with conviction, sell platitudes as revelations and ideally overload both with scientific viewpoints and demographic facts. The fact that Dutch-born Li Edelkoort does not make the mistake of justifying predictions of the future (for which there are after all no reliable data) with pseudoscientific explanations or marketing slogans is probably one of the greatest secrets of success. She relies entirely on her subjective perception, filters all information in her mind and compresses it into convincing long-term predictions. In her trend books and magazines she succeeds in conveying her impressions of contemporary developments so emotionally and coherently with images of people, plants, objects, materials and colors that with them she is able to touch even hard-headed contemporaries and convince trend research skeptics. In other words, if we have to have predictions of the future, then they at least have to contain honest pathos and not simply be disguised as science.
Lidewij Edelkoort, who was born in 1950, moved to Paris in 1975, since when has been building up a trend empire comprising her studio "Trend Union", various consulting firms, a publishing house with magazines such as "view on color" and "bloom" and subsidiaries in Paris and New York. She is regarded as one of the most influential, perhaps even the most important trend researcher in the world. She advises companies including Camper, Gucci, Moooi, Nissan, and Siemens on trends and lifestyles. Manufacturers enthusiastically adopt color trends that she forecasts and use them in products which then confirm her prediction in the shops. Moreover, in the past ten years, as President of the Design Academy Eindhoven she has strengthened the school's reputation as the talent foundry of avant-garde design. It goes without saying that Li Edelkoort's aura has also played a role in her success. Although she reportedly does not like the media referring to her as a "visionary" or "high priestess" if, dressed in billowing robes and with tightly combed-back hair, you come out with highly significant predictions that are not contradicted, you shouldn't be surprised about religious associations.
Her work over the past 20 years is being showcased for the first time in the exhibition "Archeology of the Future", which has been on show at the Institut Néerlandais in Paris since late January. As could be expected this is not an exhibition which soberly presents Edelkoort's trend books and forecasts soberly and compares them with reality, but rather an extraordinary presentation of the major lifestyle trends of the last 20 years, "a time of horror stories", says Edelkoort, "and a time of creative responses to fear". It is an impressive and successful exhibition, in which Edelkoort arranges a wealth of designs, objects, photos and films into still lifes and chambers of curiosities which make her forecasts even more vivid than her magazines. To this end, she has merged the creative trends of the last two decades, which she herself dictated, into handy pairs of concepts: Body and Soul, Global and Local, Flora and Fauna, Urban and Rural, Armour and Amour, Abstraction and Narration.
Even in the exhibition entrance area visitors are welcomed by an armada of teddy bears, which, in her first trend book back in 1987, Li Edelkoort analyzed as being a sociological phenomenon in which a new yearning for childhood and innocence is expressed. She tells the stories of trend phenomena such as the color pink, the nude look, the rediscovered enthusiasm for food, gardens and plants. She gives visual form to the creative exploration of the themes of the body and age, of narrative aspects, traditions, customs and arts and crafts. And, on the first floor of the exhibition, with objects by Hella Jongerius, Vincent van Duysen, Julian Opie, Jurgen Bey and Studio Job, she illustrates her prediction of a new rural life, which we will strive for and indeed build in the coming decades. For Li Edelkoort sees all these trends as long-term developments which began 15 or 20 years ago and which extend into the present and future: "There is as lot of misconception with regard to trends that has been created by the fashion seasons and magazines' need to constantly report new things and has destroyed the entire logic of lifestyle movements. I am only interested in the major, enduring developments". When you think that far ahead you include the future even in a look back at your work over the past 20 years. Edelkoort places great importance on the fact that this exhibition is not a retrospective, as it covers the years 1990-2010: "So it also includes the future, but as far as I'm concerned I'm already done with that."
"Archeology of the Future - 20 Years of Trend Forecasting with Li Edelkoort"
January, 22 until March 8, 2009
Institut Néerlandais, Paris
March 27 until May 31, 2009