Lee-Anne Carter, Head of Trend Intelligence Swarovski Professional
1. What is your role at Swarovski?
I head the Swarovski Professional Trend Intelligence team, based at headquarters in Wattens, Austria. Our role is to focus on the future – the new and next – to define what consumers will be looking for, and why. This is the crucial aspect, and the reason behind everything we do. Without that understanding, one cannot begin to predict trends.
2. How did you land this exciting position?
It was a case of being in the right place at the right time – and, of course, for an international company like Swarovski, having a strong background in fashion and publishing. For many years I worked in Australia as a Creative/Style Director for magazines, and I was heavily involved in the Australian fashion industry. After leaving my company in 2009, I took a year off and went travelling, which included paying a visit to my sister in Austria – who happens to be a designer at Swarovski HQ. I had been in Austria for one week when she told me about the job. I applied and fortunately got it. I didn’t speak German, but Swarovski is an international company whose business language is English. Nonetheless, I am and will be forever grateful to the Austrians for taking me on and showing patience with me in management meetings. Their English is incredible, by the way!
3. As a girl from Queensland, Australia, what was the journey like that has led you to becoming a forecaster for an internationally successful brand?
Originally, I’m from Sydney, but I studied English Communications, Political Science and Journalism at the University of Queensland, so I guess a part of me is a Queenslander. Without sounding too “New Age”, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Having worked for the BBC in London and magazines in Australia for over 20 years, I was looking for a new career path outside of publishing. Of all places, I ended up in Austria and I’ve never looked back. Sometimes you just need to leap before you look! The journey has been interesting, hard, fun, and at times an incredibly steep learning curve – but never, ever boring.
4. Where do you find your inspiration?
My team and I are forever discovering new inspiration from around the globe. We need to – it’s our job to uncover the new and next before anyone else, and feed it back to the company. That’s the exciting part. I always joke that this job gives me no downtime, because even on weekends or holidays, when I go to a restaurant or a bar or simply flick through a magazine I’m always looking for patterns or confirmations through observing the décor, the people, the clothes and jewellery… It never stops. The team has to travel a lot, of course, which is an endless source of inspiration, but there’s a lot of hard work behind what we do, which most people aren’t aware of.
5. How do you predict what the market will want in years to come? Is it through instinct or previous fashion trends?
Most forecasters will tell you they rely on gut instinct as a part of their role – this comes from years of relying and trusting it, but trend research involves incredibly detailed analysis and pattern detection, covering socio-economics, economics, demographics, politics, consumer behaviour… The list goes on. We need to predict two years in advance for the company and our product, so we need to ensure that the research is crosschecked and checked again.
6. Do you ever feel nervous about predicting future trends in case the market does not embrace it?
I’m not sure if “nervous” is the right word, but of course we do get concerned that we may get it wrong; there’s a lot of money involved in predicting trends, colours, etc., and we are human after all! But we rely on concentrated research, mapping, analysis and the detecting of patterns through a wide variety of sources and resources – each season takes nine months of intense, in-depth research, so there’s a mountain of research behind them, and we are usually satisfied that we have ticked all the boxes before we launch the trends. Having said that, there are never any guarantees.
7. Where do you think the future lies for crystals in Fashion?
Crystal is such a beautiful material in so many different formats. With the world focusing on the importance of ‘Happynomics’, Mindfulness and Wellness initiatives, coupled with the modern consumer’s desire for experience and stories – Gen Z and Millennials, in particular – rather than just existing as a product, crystal is perfectly placed to continue as a material of choice. Its colour and radiance help not only reduce stress and depression, but also emit a feeling of joy and brilliance. That’s why designers reach for it as a pure form of embellishment – because let’s face it, who isn’t looking for a little more joy in life?