WGSN as Critical Thinking Laboratory

“Dear Gender Studies Faculty,

I came across this fashion trend report, “No Middle” below, and suddenly realized our fashion trend service, WGSN, might serve our students’ research.  We might have to mediate the intent and process of this kind of data; fashion, like every field, has its own language. Still, it’s a resource we haven’t exploited yet and this shows me that it can be relevent.

-Sherri Saines, Subject Librarian

No Middle – Genders Defined

You weren’t expecting that, were you?  WGSN for Women’s Studies?

Often being able to buy a more expensive resource hinges on your ability to ‘sell’ it as useful to many different majors on campus.

So a general article database is a no-brainer, but something like WGSN (or Fashion Snoops, etc.) looks, at first glance, like something only a fashion student could love.

This blog post is here to change your mind. 

 WGSN can be used in at least 3 important ways by many disciplines outside fashion and design:

  1. as inspiration for any creative media

  2. as analysis of culture, in which the student uses what WGSN is saying as one expert opinion

  3. as an analysis of culture, in which the student analyzes WGSN as text

(Some groups may have to be introduced to the idea of an image-based resource.  This is not a Datamonitor analysis, but it can offer useful information and good leads.  Also, WGSN’s reports won’t come up in your discovery layer results, or at least we haven’t figured out how to do that. )

1. As creative inspiration, the graphics in WGSN are high-quality brain food.  Because it is searchable, finding a set of things to ponder is easy.

  • Theater stage design would be interested in the rooms in the Lifestyles and Interiors section. (you can only go to the report if you have a subscription.)wood stove
  • Theater costume designers can dig into the archives / older archives for near history, or search “vintage” for reports and images.
  • Visual artists get lost trolling the image library. Try searching “blue shoes”, and click into the image library. Warhol would have a heyday. Remember that these images can themselves be mashed-up in educational settings.  blue shoes WGSN
  •  Web design / multimedia students will apply the Color, Materials, and Prints sections to imagine virtual worlds and web environments with a unique slant.

2. Social scientists of many kinds will be interested in the reports and analyses.

  • The Market Intelligence section offers business students brief reports on which stores are most profitable, reaching online customers, what’s moving  in Asian retail, etc.
  • Browsing WGSN for social  trends is easy and interesting to students,  springboarding further investigation. If the Athleisure boom has hit SoCal,  for ex., my sociology students will ask, why not New York? Why Athleisure now?  How is our idea of fun changing and why?   The_Springs_The_Springs_IMG_0144
  • Students of globalization can track the heavy impact of retail & marketing across cultures.  The City by City section of WGSN covers culture as well as fashion; the Business and Strategy “Regional Insight” pages delve into life & business.

3. Meta-analysis of WGSN as text: as a record of cultural shifts, metropolitan life, etc., WGSN is one beautiful hunk of data.

  •  For gender and sexuality studies, WGSN is a ready-built dataset.  Vogue is often used in this way, but WGSN’s reach is more varied, as in, for example, Street Style / Music Festivals.
  •  For linguists, the language of both the advertising WGSN highlights as well as the words WGSN uses in its reporting are fodder for analysis as text:  If you are trying to sell me perfume, what words do you use and not use and why?Afropunk_Fest_afr20815_E52B3304
  • For English classes, which rhetorical tools are being used here?  What is the tone and diction of a report about festival hair, if I compare words describing African-American to Caucasian examples?
  • Design and media students query WGSN design principles: has the arbiter of trends used trendy colors and layout to capture our attention?


And, finally, students understand visual-as-data.  It’s internet-y.  Teaching them to think critically about WGSN as a source can be a segue to being safe and mindful on the open web.


Sherri Saines



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