The really big shifts in how we work and live are still to come, says Lidewij Edelkoort. We should think about how to prepare for them, and how nature can help us along the way.
Dutch trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort has been one of the most influential pioneers of our time for more than 35 years. From her Trend Union headquarters in Paris and agencies around the globe, she provides consulting services for some of the biggest companies in the world in sectors spanning fashion, automotive, cosmetics and food. And as she proudly emphasises, her predictions have never failed: I’m not a fortune-teller, I just capture and summarise fragments of what’s already there, what some others are already thinking, what’s in the air. I find all the information I need in the zeitgeist. Where I can be wrong is in the degree to which a trend takes shape, or in the timing: sometimes I’m a year or more ahead with my forecasts. But aside from all that, trends are not that fast-moving; they usually stay current for ten to twenty years. Our Zoom call finds her in her country house in Normandy, a light, bright old building typical of the area, with dark wood ceiling beams and white-painted brick walls. A very Zen place with a Japanese touch.
So you’re doing what most of the wealthier Parisians are doing—escaping the city lockdown to your country house?
During the first lockdown last March I got stuck in Cape Town, but when I was allowed to come back to France in June, I came straight here to my house. And I’ve stayed ever since. I think I might never go back to living in my city house (laughs). Even though I feel really privileged to live in this beautiful city, to have all this cultural richness, the museums and galleries. But I don’t have to be there every day any more.
What do you enjoy most about the countryside?
I have the ocean, my endless source of mental calm and inspiration. There are forests, sheep, horses, my garden where the birds are starting to sing. The colours here are changing all the time because of the special climate here. Every day we have good and bad weather—and I like these changes. In my house, I have light coming in from all directions, which I never have in Paris. And no ugly billboards anywhere! We have a very small local market and a bakery—and honestly, I live here completely autonomously and I don’t even need a car. Anyway, I don’t drive. But as we can’t travel very far, I can travel deeper into my subjects, in a flow of concentration that nothing disturbs. Because of all that, my work is becoming more and more academic and more fulfilling. More serene as well.
One fruit of that situation is Stillness, a white ceramic watch that Lidewij Edelkoort recently designed for the Swiss brand Rado, the face almost obscured behind white frosted glass. It’s the first time the trend forecaster, who started out as a design student, has actually created an object, and it is a focus of meditation, a comment on the slowed-down times we are living in. The watch is in white, the cutting-edge colour of a blank page—which is also the title of her latest and highly sought-after trend book for the next winter season. White is gaining on black, advises Edelkoort. Even though it is a delicate colour to use and wear, all this new white stuff gives a freshness and crispness to the silhouettes that make them very different from the dominant black that went before. It all started with our shoes. Starting with white sneakers and going upwards, we seem more and more to be dipping ourselves in white ink.