AHEAD OF THE CURVE
Orietta Pelizzari is fashion’s crystal ball.
Orietta Pelizzari has been called many things: image expert, idea scout, international market consultant and, most recently, unofficial Italian Ambassador. But when she introduces herself, the founder of trend forecasting studio Mattori goes simply by “trend analyst.”
You may have heard of a trend forecaster or cool hunter, but that’s an altogether different job. “Cool hunters grab ideas, saying, ‘Blue is the color this year,’” she explains. “Analysis is when you say ‘This shade of blue is good because…’” Her approach requires a team of no less than six people each season – specializing in everything from style scouting to marketing – and sometimes decades of quantitative research to determine the status of a trend.
Pelizzari has worked with Milan Fashion Week and its affiliated fashion houses, including Etro, Missoni, Zegna, Canali and Corneliani. Some brands tap her at the start of the design process, before a pencil even hits paper. “A creative director talks with me because I’m outside the company. I see things differently and I don’t have to abide by the brand’s rules,” she says. Whether its on color, material or silhouette, “I can give straightforward advice backed up by data.” (Or by connections. Pelizzari also relies on insiders to tip her off, including one at a high-tech printing company that devised a new way of producing luxury sneakers for a particular client. She was able to get textile samples and investigate the technique’s potential for the rest of the industry.)
CEOs tend to impose trend analysts on designers, but Pelizzari says she’s usually welcome, despite the industry’s notorious egos. “Creative directors see me as someone who takes the pressure off of them,” she explains. She either backs up their ideas or guides them towards something more commercially viable, which ultimately means more success – and praise – for a collection.
Other brands ask for Pelizzari’s expertise just before a collection hits the sales floor. She might consult with a sales team or communications department, advising on strategies for specific markets. Pelizzari illustrates her role using Kim Kardashian as an example. The reality star may sell out clothes in Latin America, but she’s an ineffective PR tool in Asia. Brands that regularly send her clothing in exchange for Instagram posts or red carpet credit would be advised on a more relevant approach. “She influences no one in Asia,” says Pelizzari, “because no one has her body type.”
There’s a reason this example is at the top of Pelizzari’s mind. “Ten or 15 years ago, Europeans were the biggest spenders,” she says. “Now, the Asian consumer is buying the most and, as a result, influencing the most.” Their buying power translates to skinny, androgynous runway looks that suit a certain body type; think rocker rebels at Saint Laurent and Alexander Wang. Even more traditional brands are adapting to this new client. “Armani used to use an Italian size 50 or 52 model, but now they need men who are toned and skinny,” Pelizzari points out. “A size 44 or 46 is standard.” This influence trickles all the way down to shop windows on Italy’s famed Via Monte Napoleone, filled with lithe, genderless mannequins that court out-of-town spenders rather than curvaceous locals.
Coincidentally, when we meet for coffee in Beirut, Pelizzari is on her way to Shanghai. She spends some days riding her bike between meetings in Milan, but most often an airplane acts as her office. On this flight, “I have my ‘To do’ list: prepare six trends, one press release, a presentation on which brands a retailer should invest in and another one on the direction of denim.” When she lands, she’ll pick up a local Time Out magazine and sightsee in the supermarkets, hair salons and restaurants where the average person spends money. She’ll pay particular attention to young people. “How can we predict how they’ll grow, and plan a strategy accordingly?” she says, stroking the Italian leather couch beneath her. “They don’t buy Cassina furniture today, but maybe one day they will. It’s my job to predict which couch they will buy.”
–MacKenzie Lewis Kassab