Back to the Future | Interview with Lidewij Edelkoort

By Nicole Ex | July, 2024

To truly see things, you must live on the edge of society, maintaining a distance from what you seek to comprehend, Lidewij Edelkoort says. The internationally acclaimed forecaster and guest curator of our summer issue, predicts an era in which creativity takes centre stage, heralding what she calls the Age of the Amateur: ‘Whether it’s through play, dance, song, culinary arts, gardening, craftsmanship, or visual arts, creating by hand has always brought us joy, purpose, and pride.’


What does time represent to someone who predicts the future? And how do you become a pioneer, a time traveller, an interpreter of things that lie ahead? Trendforecaster Lidewij Edelkoort (b. 1950) increasingly finds herself living in the future she once foresaw. And more than once she has wondered if she was right with her visions of a world-conquering colour palette, a new silhouette, a tendency, or a change in our societal preferences. Since founding her company Trend Union in Paris in 1986, she has not only predicted the future but also played a role in shaping it. For example, when Madame Edelkoort declared pink was on its way, the future turned pink. In 2003, Time Magazine honoured her as one of the twenty-five most influential people in the fashion world. In 2012, she received the Culture Fund Prize in the Netherlands, and by the spring of 2024, she was listed among the fifty most influential women in architecture and design by the prestigious magazine Dezeen.

Meanwhile, seventy years separate the remarkable eminence grise and the toddler she once was, captured in a childhood photo: a girl dressed in a knitted sweater, jersey pants and tiny sandals, her gaze fixed on the distance with an open, observant demeanour. It is one of the things that immediately strike you when first meeting her in her home on the coast of Normandy, that unwavering, curious gaze in her light blue eyes.


Lidewij Edelkoort in 1953 (left) and at the Waterlooplein flea market in Amsterdam


Nicole Ex: How do you develop a way of looking and feeling that enables you to register what changes are on the horizon?

Lidewij Edelkoort: ‘To truly see and inter- pret things, you must live on the edge of soci- ety, maintaining a distance from what you seek to comprehend. This detachment is essential. That’s why travel is crucial – it offers freedom from one’s own culture and allows for the ex- ploration of new ones. Wherever I go, I strive to observe the unusual, as it’s often the exceptions that foreshadow the future. The future unfolds through thoughts, actions, and creations of cer- tain individuals, initially embraced by a small group before rapidly proliferating into a trend.’


What defines trends? Where do they originate?

‘A trend emerges from a collective consciousness that transcends individual minds. Our thoughts extend beyond our brain and coalesce into a shared field of contemplation. When this field reaches critical mass, with an important portion of people thinking along similar lines, it becomes a shared movement from which we all draw inspiration. When this mass approaches around 20% it becomes commonplace and solidifies into an acknowledged phenomenon.’


Like a vast cosmic database?

‘Yes, essentially all our experiences, thoughts, and desires are swirling around, waiting for someone to grasp them. Some individuals are more adept at catching these insights earlier than others. There’s almost always someone who expresses a desire, such as “I really want a red sweater,” and then, lo and behold, two years later, it becomes a reality. We all have these moments of foresight. But it takes dedication and rigorous training to turn this intuition into a profession.’


How do you cultivate that intuition?

‘By listening attentively. In the beginning I sometimes used to ignore that inner voice, only to realize later that I was wrong. Therefore, I made a conscious decision to wholeheartedly trust my intuition. By remaining committed, you start receiving instinctive signals. It could be a sudden revelation about a colour, a sculptural form, or deep insight into emerging social dynamics or pivotal societal shifts. It’s incredibly nuanced and at times I even feel it physically. Myshoulders yearn to broaden, or my legs might long to elongate. And no, this is not about my personal desires, it is more like an internal cue. Speaking of which, it’s high time for a trend of longer legs.’


Legs, you say?

‘Yes, long legs. But first we’ve got to address the issue of breasts because, obviously, that’s a major concern.’




Read the full interview in the new summer issue, See All This #34 ‘The Wardrobe as Art Collection’.
Order the issue here >



Header photo by Thirza Schaap



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