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Home / Mint-lounge / Q&A/Lidewij Edelkoort | Living in the future

Knowing what’s right and when has made Dutch designer and forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort a sought- after prophet across the luxury industry—textiles primarily, but also automobiles, interiors, gardening and cosmetics. “It’s not a mystical experience," she says. “The ideas I develop are in the air. It’s how they’re interpreted that’s the creative part."

A fashion designer by training, Edelkoort, 62, started her career as a trend forecaster at the leading Dutch department store De Bijenkorf. Her Paris-based agency, Studio Edelkoort, works as a creative and operational think tank for a broad base of clients in Asia and Europe.

Crystal clear: The longest forecast Edelkoort made was 25 years into the future for 2020. Ruy Texeira

Her longest forecast so far has been 25 years into the future—for 2020. According to her, that society will attempt to bridge contrasts: the rational and the emotional, the male and the female, the vintage and the contemporary, the minimal and the decorative. “In the new world, we’ll want answers that address a combination of both. It’s interesting to see how much of it is there already and how the rest will unfold." The fashion industry is witnessing this already, for instance, in androgynous clothing, in fragrances, softer materials and brighter colours for men.

Named one of the world’s 25 most influential people in fashion by Time magazine, Edelkoort talks enthusiastically about her latest project—Trendtablet.com, a social media platform that relies on visual contributions from users to explain how trends evolve and flow. “I’m hoping for many contributions from India," she beams.

We met Edelkoort for an interview while she was in New Delhi earlier this month for the India Design Forum (9-10 March). Edited excerpts:

This is your 10th visit to India. What brought you here in the 1970s?

I was here designing clothes for European markets. It was exciting to work with certain restrictions. Unable to find good trimmings, we had to rely on detailing, embroidery and smocking to make things work. In fact, I believe textile production in India modified the way fashion took off in Europe. Designers like Martine Sitbon, Jean Paul Gaultier…they did their collections in India, they used a lot of embellishments.

When you make a forecast for a specific date, like 2020, does it mean that’s the year the forecast is at its best?

Trend-mapping: Edelkoort’s latest venture, Trendtablet.com, is a social media platform. Shown here (from far left), a fish dish from the award-winning Danish restaurant Noma. Charlotte Bjorklund

What about seasonal fashion trends?

Seasonal trends are bullshit. I do them because that’s the way the fashion industry functions. Contrary to what the media reports, trends are very long-term. They’re like a layered sandwich. Every season you look at it your own way. So when I say trends, I’m not really talking about the latest outfit of Lady Gaga.

Tell us about a slow rising trend right now?

People are becoming more creative. They want to assert their uniqueness. The consumer wants to be the curator of his or her own existence...bespoke is the only solution.

How will the refocus on bespoke redefine luxury?

The Lapin Kulta Solar Kitchen Restaurant in Finland. Lapin Kulta

Where do Indian luxury brands stand at this juncture?

Everything is ready to burst, ready to be packaged. There’s a sense of innate taste in India—beautiful yarns, lovely colours. I believe these things are ingrained in some societies from the oldest days, maybe because of nature and climate or something else. But the culture builds from that.

Indian luxury brands also have the heirloom tradition working in their favour. In the future, I see “hand-me- down" as a great concept for luxury globally.

What are your observations on Indian design?

India needs urgently to create its own design language— especially in industrial and craft design. Fashion is doing well, relatively. But you need hotels that reflect contemporary Indian style. India is coming into its own in so many other ways except in the design world. The problem, the way I see it, is because contemporary Indian design has completely distanced itself from the past.

What is the way forward?

Design schools should take on the task. In the Netherlands, producers requested young designers to revisit old traditions of metal making, weaving, embroidery and so on… A whole generation of young designers were thrust into 16th century technical processes. Now they produce contemporary objects with an echo of the past. This is what has made the Netherlands such a design force today: the rediscovery of old crafts by young people.

The other important thing is to remember that you can only be global if you’re local. Think of any success stories: Chanel is 100% French, Ralph Lauren is 100% American. In fact, the only time Ralph Lauren did a show which was not about America—it was about India in fact—it failed. That’s because it was not what people expected of him.

A contribution under the section Earth Matters on the site. Malcom Kirk

And what do you imagine the Indian luxury brand that comes out of such a partnership to be like?

The Indian luxury brand will have a different colour perspective, a different tactility. It will cater to men and women of enormous grace…that brings me to the point that the men in this country need urgently to take a sartorial check and that will happen if they become more contemporary, less macho perhaps.

What is the future of luxury in India?

Several evolving global trends are good for India. The wind is blowing this way! The interest in bespoke, in cultural rootedness, the focus on the handmade... The future of luxury will be time, peace, amazing natural scents. The idea of luxury itself is going to change.

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