Fashion is one of the fastest-moving industries out there; close your eyes for just a moment, and you’ll miss some seismic shifts in the landscape. Predicting what’s next for the fashion world is never easy since trends seem to disappear as quickly as they arrived. Even so, there are a few developments in the industry worth keeping your eyes on, such as:
Sustainability is the word on everyone’s lips these days. Manufacturers and consumers alike want to be sure that their clothes are being made in as eco-positive way as possible, and the latter group will want more than just the former’s word.
There are plenty of third-party organizations out there capable of certifying brands as sustainable, carbon-neutral, net-zero, and other important qualities for environmentally conscious consumers. This doesn’t just stop and start with the garments themselves, though: the next generation of sustainability tracking includes everything from the materials to the transportation. Companies looking to compete in the new green market will need to ensure that every aspect of their business is handled with respect to nature.
2. Independent Retailers
At a time when online shopping is taking off everywhere, local and boutique brands are looking for ways to broaden their clientele by finding the right retailers to sell their clothing. Independent retail is becoming an effective channel for wholesale apparel brands to do this.
There are also Wholesale apparel platforms such as Faire that are making it easier for brands to find the right retailers and vice versa. As this format increases in popularity, more wholesale apparel brands will be able to grow their businesses.
3. Local and Independent Designers
Consumers are tired of buying the same clothes with the same patterns from the same brands over and over again. When looking for something fresh, shoppers are increasingly likely to seek out independent designers and garment makers, particularly ones local to their area.
That being said, it’s not clear how much more customers are willing to pay for clothes from these sources. Affordability remains a key factor, but the shift away from big names in commercial fashion is impossible to ignore.
4. Garment Rental
Buying and wearing new outfits frequently is fun, but generally not fun enough to justify the cost. Garment rental circumvents this issue by allowing customers to try out clothes without fully committing to owning them and allowing them to make a full purchase if they like something enough.
While there are some major concerns over rental fashion’s carbon footprint, many firms are looking for ways to minimize it while still catering to the needs of their customers. Garment rental offers an affordable way for consumers to live the fashion-forward lifestyle they want to, and that alone is enough to promise its growth in the near future.
5. Gender Neutral Clothing
This is less a business trend and more a shift in taste: younger people, particularly Gen Z consumers are quickly shifting towards clothing not specifically intended for either men or women. This is something garment makers should take particular note of, as their traditional lines may become too sex-specific for customers. Opting for more gender-neutral apparel is a big win for designers and manufacturers, as it allows them to reach the same consumer base as before but with fewer overall clothing options needed.
Another trend taking hold among consumers young and old is the use of athletic clothing as leisure clothing — more commonly known as athleisure. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have started to favor comfort and usability over all else. Athletic clothing fits the bill here nicely and makes for excellent work-from-home outfits as well. Companies that make athletic apparel should be sure that their garments fit all body types and offer a full range of comfort; it’s not just athletes who are buying anymore.
7. Social Responsibility
Over the past year, consumers have taken a strong stance against social injustice and are looking for the brands they buy from to follow in support. Fashion firms should look to emphasize a diverse slate of models and designers, as well as taking careful account of the ethical manufacture and distribution of their goods. Diversity and social responsibility initiatives have been around for years, but customers are finally demanding to see results from companies that want their patronage.
8. “Slow” Fashion
If the 2010s were the decade of “fast” fashion, then the 2020s are all but sure to be the decade of “slow” fashion. Slow fashion emphasizes garments that may be slightly more expensive but are durable, wearable, and good to be worn for a number of years. Fast fashion, despite its affordability and popularity, has come under severe scrutiny for its wastefulness and ecological impact — two areas that slow fashion successfully remedies by privileging clothes that are built to last.
9. The Position of Retail
Even before COVID-19, retail was in a precarious position. The rise of e-commerce had put many brick-and-mortar stores up against the ropes, and the events of 2020 and beyond only exacerbated that fact for many. All the same, consumers are ready to get out after over a year of staying in. Movements to support local businesses continue to gain strength, and the joy of going out shopping is slowly being rediscovered by customers everywhere.
All of this leaves retail in an uncomfortable spot — on the way out in some areas, booming in others. The key for retailers will be to navigate these choppy waters effectively, knowing when and where to focus their efforts instead of going all-in on e-commerce or attempting to push back against its current.
Just because the fashion world is unpredictable doesn’t mean that the trends aren’t worth watching. The nine developments listed above are already making waves across fashion, and the coming years will see some of them be utterly transformative in their impact.
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Photo by Dom Hill