Some trends result in style.  Style takes two forms, the long term new trend and the oscillator and the social phenomenon.

Style as an oscillator.


Some people like Tim Gunn or Prof. Loe Feijs are eternally trendy.  This is called Style in fashion.  See the discourse about fashion here.   We see this in the Oscillator.  Not only is the person eternally trendy, they make the people around them look trendy as well. These often don’t happen alone, but occur in a group of loosely associated people and those people closely associated with them. A few examples are Maria Luisa Frisa, ex director of Pitti Immagine and Mauro Taliani, Ex stylist of Hugo Boss.

Style as a social phenomenon.


Sometimes called a meme, a social phenomenon happens when a fashion trend leave a memory.  This memory comes back into play later when in encounters the next trend.  Dots are left over that feed into the next trend.  These trends are often longer in the internet age. but when I tried to model it the visualisation became confusing.

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Keeping it cool in Milano

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Fashion trend shuttles

Sometimes fashion trends move. They grow out of one trend and then move somewhere else and bloom.  Think about how jazz started in the USA, moved to France and then moved all over.  In fashion we describe trends like musical movements which are socially more apparent.


In the lower right hand corner a fashion trend encounters a Not spot as it avoids it, the trend launches towards the Hot spot in the middle, As it hits the hot spot it explodes and merges with the trend coming out of the south.  At the same time it merges with an oscillator and two cultural hot spots.

Sometimes trends travel. While the trend doesn’t quite work in Rome, when the style hits Milan it goes big.  We see this happen in the simulation, and although the trend colors change, we can think of this a social movement.

Symmetry – The Big Trend

Every once in a great while a trend goes big. Sometime they go big in a way everyone notices.  Think Calvin Klein underwear 1990.   We see these in the simulation.  They look like this:


“Symmetry is an important property of both physical and abstract systems, and it may be displayed in precise mathematical terms or in more aesthetic terms “-

The symmetry we see here spawns a lower level symmetry as it encounters an oscillator. In fashion trend terms, a big fashion trend (Beige) breaks into a bigger trends (Dark Green) and that breads a few tailing trends (cyan).

This trend would go even bigger, but in runs into oscillators and the Not Spot. 

Note that this grows out of the Hot Spot and there is a nearby shuttle.

Below is a picture of Andrea Paconesi.  I’ve had the pleasure of doing a few projects with him and the Institute of European Design over the years.  He is the genius behind and a master of fashion trends.



Complex Adaptive Systems

Describing fashion trends is a difficult thing.

I want to give a big thanks to Prof Loe Feijs, Dr. Frank Delbressine and Prof Matias Rauterberg for the elective in Complex Adaptive Systems in Industrial Design at Eindhoven University of Technology. . Please follow their research at and google them for some amazing projects.

I’d also like to thank   for their great courses.  If you want to learn about complexity systems theory on the internet,  this is the place.

I achieved a 90% on their Complex Adaptive Systems exam.  Learning about CAS is  free, so go check it out.

Troy Nachtigall Cert.jpg


This image by the Sartorialist says it all:

Why I love this and think it’s important

Nolita-Agds @Pitti Bimbo 2010.

It was an evening like many others standing outside the Florence train station.  I was a fashion designer for Mauro Taliani, head stylist for Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, and Jean’s Paul Gaultier. We’d just finished work on the first Hugo Boss women’s collection. Swallows were swarming over head as they always do around the station.. The well dressed men and women of Florence were coming and going through the station.  I stood there mesmerised at how the movement of swallows in there ebb and flow matched the fashion trends over time of a society of fashionable people.

A few years later I would use this idea in a project with studio AGDS, Plastic birds would be commanded by a swarming algorithm to simulate the movement of real birds in a fashion context.

So there it is, Fashion is complicated, and little would I know until I took a class on Complex and adaptive systems at the Eindhoven University of Technology that there is a mathematical way of describing it. Systems theory, Self organisation, Chaos Theory Network Theory and Cybernetics all seem wickedly complicated when we thing about fashion trends.

Yet if you look at fashion trends as the swallows over the Florentine train station, you get it.  Each bird seems impossible complicated, but if you relax and look at the swarm, it becomes organic and easy to understand.


It was in this lecture by Prof. Loe Feijs and Dr. Delbressine on Complex Adaptive Systems that Prof. Feijs demonstrated how to play the game of life with Houndstooth.  He even wrote a paper about it with Marina Tutors. It’s a great read if you are into fashion.  You might just like math for the first time too.   I liked it so much that I made this during class:

Pied de Poule (Houndstooth) meets the Game of Life by Conway

In the discussion that followed, Prof Feijs, Dr Frank Delbressine and I mapped out how fashion trending might be simulated.  It took 18 tries, but I think this works as a simulation of a single trend.

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The white board that inspired this project.  Drawings by Prof Loe Feijs, Dr Frank Delbressine, and me.


This image by the Sartorialist talks about beginnings.