On Trend All the Time: Go Inside a Trend Spotter's Brain

Find out what it takes to predict the home design changes that will catch on with trend translator Nancy Fire.

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Trend spotter. The words conjure up an image of a black-clad city-dweller offering up inflexible, bossy rules and predictions from her minimalist SoHo loft and offering Diana Vreeland pronouncements like “Orange is in!” “Green is the new blue!” “Cover your home in fur!

Nancy Fire is none of those things. For one, she prefers the term “Trend Translator” to describe the work she does as the creative director and co-founder of Design Works International, an airy atelier in Manhattan’s Midtown neighborhood. With her husband and co-founder Neil Breslau, Fire has one of the most enviable and also high-pressure jobs in the design industry: figuring out the trends that will trickle down from top-tier designers and creatives and eventually end up in some form or other on store shelves, and eventually in our homes. Over the years, Fire has shown a remarkable knack for predicting what covetable colors, patterns, textures and surfaces will take off, and which trends will prove too esoteric or unattainable to ever make it. We sat down to pick her brain about what’s next and new and how she knows it.

Tour Nancy Fire's New York Apartment

What would you recommend people do to keep up with what is interesting and new in the world? Are there certain destinations, certain publications you feel give a great read on the cutting-edge?

In this ever-changing world of product design and trends I highly recommend a visual mix of retail and on-line shopping, social media platforms, design shows as well as museums and local art/design events. I have been attending [Paris trade fair] Maison Objet for the past 25 years and feel that this show is the perfect design barometer. Since I am familiar with the show, its easy for me to spot the newest product designs each season. The show is held two times a year, January and September, both in Paris and a Miami show has been added in May for the U.S. designers that cannot make the trip overseas.

It’s so important to visit museums and design galleries because many trends are inspired by art shows for pattern, color and design.Next year, 2018 marks our 30th year in business so

How do you know what is going to be a trend with legs and not just a passing fad?

Next year, 2018 marks our 30th year in business so lets just say this his not “my first rodeo.” After years of understanding the marketplace, it's easy for me to spot a lifestyle look versus a fad that will not be long lived. In my studio we never focus on fads for lifestyle longevity, rather we look to these for quick print inspiration in the junior or tween markets.

Where are you most inspired?

I am most inspired walking the streets of NYC and finding new street designers, pop-up stores, design influencers and fashion style.I like the word trend translator because this is truly what I do…I translate the most commercial way for my clients to understand what is right for their business. No two clients are alike and everyone’s needs are different. It’s really in the translation of what colors, style,

You've called yourself a trend translator rather than a trend spotter. How would you describe what a trend translator does?

I like the word trend translator because this is truly what I do…I translate the most commercial way for my clients to understand what is right for their business. No two clients are alike and everyone’s needs are different. It’s really in the translation of what colors, style, materials and patterns are right for the season and which trends have legs that will stay around for a while or at least transition into next season's style.It’s really important to be aware of your surroundings in everyday life

What are the skills you have to be a good trend translator?

It’s really important to be aware of your surroundings in everyday life like, food, fashion, home and general design. It’s key to visit design shows, galleries, conferences on design and connect with fellow designers in the industry.

Has there been a trend you expected to be big that didn't quite catch on?

Not really, but I did underestimate the Havana Trend after the sanctions were lifted for the U.S. I thought this would be a quick fad and it turned out to stay around a bit longer.

How would you describe your personal style in terms of your own home décor?

I am eclectic classic, so I like to mix and match with timeless pieces that are livable and cozy. My apartment in NYC and my home in East Quogue, Long Island both share a sensibility that says…stay a while. Both my husband Neil and I love design but in a more relatable fashion because it’s important to us that our friends and family feel at home in our homes. We love to entertain and feel that having fun home decor accessories is key in mixing and matching style.

What's the trending element you can't get enough of?

Cozy comfort that still has a sense of sophistication, so mixing and matching textiles on furniture as well as in accessories.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

An artist or an art teacher because I love to create.

What mass market stores do you think do a good job of translating trends?

Target is “always on target” because they take an artisan approach to design by showcasing different styles.

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What luxury stores are great for seeing what’s coming down the pike in terms of trends?

ABC Carpet and Home, Collette, Perch, Dover Street Market, Story.

What are some ways for people to think about integrating a trend into their home without breaking the bank or completely changing their style?

Wow. I love this question because today you can change up your style in so many inexpensive ways. Textiles is number one by adding a few new decorative pillow patterns to your sofa, bedding or outdoor seating areas. Online fabric suppliers like fabric.com and Jo-Ann Fabrics carry affordable over-the-counter fabrics that are awesome for sewing new cushions, chair pads [yes, people still use these] drapes, seat covers etc. Curb appeal is also an easy way to update the outside of your home by painting a front door. We just did this and our lavender door is awesome…adds charm and personality to your home. Rugs are affordable today and many people are layering rugs with a sisal beneath a texture or pattern rug. FYI, it’s really fun to hang a rug on the wall as a piece of art...

Nancy's 8 Favorite Shops to Catch the Trends Before Your Friends

1: Merci

2: Colette [sadly it's closing in December]

5: Story

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