PAOLA DE LUCA IS NO FORTUNE TELLER. Yet she has an uncanny knack of telling you what’s going to be hot next season. To do this, she keeps a close eye on the minutest of societal shifts and the quietest of whispers in the world of fashion, in order to predict the seemingly unpredictable.
“Trends do not come from runways, they never do; they always come from the street and very often from underground culture,” says De Luca. “Trends are associated with ideological needs and motives.”
The jewellery design analyst of over 20 years set up her company, The Futurist, to help designers and others in the luxury sectors understand consumer culture and derive trends. She is also the driving force behind the biannual Futurist Luxury Forecast.
“The Esperanto of this age is digital images,” she adds. “Studying those to understand underlying trends is a science.”
She notes one of the key trends of the moment is a move towards gender and sexual fluidity. She has categorized this growing consumer group as ‘the Mindful Neutralist’. Those who live in this world seek out brands which avoid gender or sexual labelling. Usually, they are also keen on promoting ageless values.
In terms of jewellery, this translates into a move towards minimalist and geometric designs that don’t identify with being either male or female.
Jewellery In The Age Of The Selfie
For Spring/Summer 2019, expect to see “linear, fluid and lightweight pieces”. De Luca adds that she sees a resurgence of links and chains.
“Because they are lightweight pieces, they are more affordable, even if they often have diamond accents. They are easy to collect and are meant to be stacked and styled by the consumers, because in the age of the selfie, it’s all about expressing oneself and creating your own expression,” she says.
There is a definite move towards embracing the unique. “Imperfection is today’s perfection,” says De Luca, “Being different is truly being celebrated.”
This beauty-in-imperfection theme answers a need for, and evokes, “surrealism, distortion, and odd, unusual design”. Thus, consumers are embracing asymmetrical rings with unusual silhouettes, and single earrings that are designed to be worn alone.
For jewellery brands, this means “it’s no longer about the matchy-matchy”, since consumers don’t want to have a set of jewellery imposed upon them by a designer. Some brands are now cleverly selling earrings which you can mix and match, any way you want, she notes.
A Rising Generation Wants Retro
De Luca has also identified a consumer group that she calls ‘the Affluent Midult’. These savvy folk are redefining what we know of as “middle-age”. They are often females, aged between 35 and 55, and who have more spending power than any other generation. These Midults are seeking out brands that celebrate midlife with humour and honesty. They want playful luxury and have a sense of nostalgia for anything retro and vintage.
To hook these big spenders, designs for Spring/Summer 2019 are rife with what De Luca calls Op-Coding, a mix between Art Deco styling from the 1920s and the Optical Art of the 1960s. There are many pieces with geometric shapes, often combined to create decorative patterns, and with pixelated effects and 3-D design. There are colour blocks contrasting with dark materials such as enamel and Bakelite.
Stones From The Heavens
The Midult is also looking towards the heavens to evoke the ethereal world. This has led to a micro-trend inspired by constellations, and expressed by images of moons and stars. “Floating patterns, floating gemstones and diamonds give a kind of non-gravity effect, (while) diamond clustering reflects technical innovations,” says De Luca.
Planets and spheres appear in the form of pearls, which are being given a twist in stackable charms, or contrasted with straight or vaulted lines.
Pearls are also showcased in pieces that answer to a Dark Romantic. You’ll see them in designs inspired by the Baroque; as well as in pieces that draw upon dark elements in nature, such as insects and thorns. De Luca notes that ‘Art Nouveaux-inspired jewellery’ featuring ominous-looking florals, as well as bugs — bees, spiders and the like — is also experiencing a surge.
This reflects a wistful demand for “fairy tale-ish, magical worlds with elements of symbolism”.
Though all these styles might be contradictory, De Luca says they work together because consumers are, “eclectic beings, multi-faceted”.
“We are not just minimalist or maximalist, sometimes we are both, depending on the day and mood. These trends are really what we are creating unconsciously, and represent how we feel.”