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Culture

German Visions of Tomorrow

Wondering what's in store in 2005? German experts have spoken: From fashion and leisure to cultural and political events, trend researchers make it their business to know what's hot and what's not in the year ahead.

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This year, we'll dress like proper ladies and gentlemen, experts say

Lest you think trend researchers only care about predicting which shade of lipstick will be a best-seller (for 2005, think pink and red-orange, by the way) Roman Retzbach is quick to correct. The head of the Future Institute in Berlin said 70 percent of his work is aimed at politicians and influential leaders within the United Nations and the European Union.

"Trend research has gained more relevance in the post Sept. 11 era," Retzbach said. "Before, politicians got trend reports and said, 'How nice!' and then tucked them away in their desks. That's changing. Today, the president of the United States has a future expert among his consultants. Trend experts are now important members of political teams."

Gerhard Schröder mit China Präsident Hu Jintao

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, left, with Chinese President Hu Jintao

One of the big questions in 2004, said Retzbach, was whether Turkey would join the EU. He predicts that Turkey's candidacy will be successful, and adds that within 15 years, Russia will also have joined the bloc. Indeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin tops Retzbach's list of political leaders to watch in 2005, along with Chinese leader Hu Jintao (photo).

The cult of the individual

Trend forecasting has also become an indispensable part of the business world, as the marketing departments of major companies seek to better understand the consumer psyche, and in turn, increase sales. German firms looking to strike it rich in 2005 would do well to note that, as in 2004, the focus is on the individual.

"Germany has to catch up with the US here," said Peter Wippermann, the founder of Trend Büro, a Hamburg-based trend research company. "There, for a longer time, customers have been the focus of attention. In Germany, we pay more attention to products, but that's changing and companies are realizing they have to appeal to consumers."

Warten auf Karl Lagerfeld Kollektion für H&M

Customers line up outside the H&M store in Frankfurt, Germany for the Lagerfeld collection

And if there's one thing that German individuals like, it's getting a great deal. That means discounters and the purveyors of "cheap chic," such as clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), can be expected to continue to do well in 2005. But Retzbach said there's an additional trend even these retailers should not ignore.

"In society, lifestyle, and business, the key word is 'eventing,'" he said. "Make something into an event, and people will come. We saw this recently with electronics retailer Media Markt. They put their prices down for one day, and people were willing to stand in line for two hours to pay for something."

Discounting luxury

Karl Lagerfeld Kollektion für H&M

Karl Lagerfeld, seen here with a model for his H&M collection, brought haute couture to the masses

Events that combine discounts and luxury are surefire winners, according to Wippermann, who cited H&M's recent venture with designer Karl Lagerfeld as a classic example. Lagerfeld's limited edition "haute couture for the masses" sold out within hours at stores across Europe, highlighting yet another consumer trend -- "the importance of the moment," as Wippermann put it.

"Retailers are putting artificial time limits on the availability of products rather than saying, these are the products we have all the time," he added.

Speaking of fashion, Wippermann predicted that 2005 will see a return to stricter differentiation between the sexes, with women wearing the romantic, feminine styles of the 1950s, and men dressing either in classic suits, or sporty, athletic clothing.

"Fashion is really the last vestige for men and women to express their gender and sexuality, as in other realms, men and women have achieved more equality," Wippermann said.

Bye-bye Big Brother?

Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt's star is predicted to rise even further in 2005

According to the Future Institute, among the other trends to watch out for in 2005 is the end of reality TV. Hard as it is to believe that we could tire of watching a group of talentless strangers cooped up in a container live out the minutiae of their daily lives, it seems the end is nigh for Big Brother & Co.

Quality, scripted dramas are once again in demand. On the big screen, count on seeing more of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. And, in keeping with Retzbach's overall assessment that 2005 is the year of retro, two notable Germans who will enjoy a comeback of sorts are physicist Albert Einstein and poet Friedrich Schiller: The two men died 50 and 200 years ago respectively.

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