We all know that COVID-19 has changed the world forever. The fashion industry, in particular, has been feeling the beginning of these changes since last year. Our industry’s over reliance on one section of the world (read: China) ensures that our (un)diversified portfolio is straight up crushed when a crisis starts there. In today’s article, we are sharing the 6 trends coming out of COVID-19 that will be accelerated due to the novel coronavirus, and how you can get ahead of the curve.
The resale market will takeover faster than we thought
McKinsey & Co suggested that the resale markets would outpace fast fashion within the next ten years. This will absolutely happen faster, due to consumers looking for better deals on their favorite fashion’s in an economic depression. ThreadUp, a popular resale website, in a report published with GlobalData, tells us the resale market is going to double from $24 billion (in 2019) to $51 billion by 2024.
Consumers will also be using these sites as sources of passive income, so marketing that message effectively will put certain businesses ahead of others. Reuters reported that Alibaba’s ‘Idle Fish,’ the biggest used clothing website in China, has recently recorded its largest sales day to date. The brands who focus on user experience and simple transactions will win here. Although it may be too soon to tell, brands like The Real Real may have a leg up due to their use of pop-ups and other brick-and-mortar spaces to catch the consumer who still value an in-store experience.
It’s our prediction that companies like Facebook and Amazon will continue to penetrate these markets in big ways. Facebook, especially, will be poised for such a takeover (at least in the Western world), since the Marketplace feature already comes standard with all accounts and the community groups around secondhand fashion are already in place. Not to mention their ownership of Instagram, which is poised to be the WeChat of buying in the West. The more luxury brand image (compared to Facebook and Amazon) and their integrated shopping function only needs to be meant with a willingness to spend more than $300 through an app to see great success. Making an authentic connection between all of the pieces to streamline the buying and selling process could be a win for Facebook.
Besides the income value for both brand and consumer (the brand can offload old stock and benefit the same way a consumer can offload their own closet ‘stock’), this trend will also be fueled by interest in sustainability. The Real Real surveyed their customers, noting that 57% of clients say environmental impact and sustainability are key motivators for them, with 32% saying they shop the site as an alternative to ‘fast fashion.’ While we know, according to the Global Fashion Agenda’s Pulse Survey, that 75% of consumers view sustainability as extremely or very important, only about 16% consider sustainability when making a purchase. It’s important to note the word ‘consider,’ as overwhelmingly consumers buy on criteria like quality, price, and image. However, we still believe the sustainability aspect as a solid way to help market your products, as long as your brand is authentic in those practices, and will grow as a selling point in the next ten years.
The great sourcing shakeup
One of the number one questions that needs answering coming out of this crisis will be: what happens if this happens again? Can we just cancel all those orders again? How can we get our stock in our hands to reuse it to make PPE? How can we transform the stock into something else and sell it? Are we prepared for a crisis? Another scenario that may be possible is that much of the world goes ‘back to normal,’ while China, Bangladesh, India and other major sourcing areas continue to be on the lights on/lights off mode for years to come. It would be impossible for nearly any company to plan for this type of volatility, without moving their sourcing.
A smaller manufacturer that caters to regional needs is better poised to not have their orders cancelled, or will at least have better chances for negotiation.
This is why we will see a big move towards a more regional approach to sourcing. The Americas, taking advantage of free trade agreements like CAFTA, will be able to leverage Central America’s growing manufacturing infrastructure. Not only will it reduce lead times, it could help with minimums (as Asia’s minimums are most often too high for many smaller businesses). The challenge here will be finding or training factories to sew as well as the manufacturers in Asia. In Europe, a return to manufacturing closer to home, in countries like the UK, Portugal, and Italy will ensure quality and safety for much of that region.
The other benefit of closer connections with suppliers is better partnerships during times of crisis management. A smaller manufacturer that caters to regional needs is better poised to not have their orders cancelled, or will at least have better chances for negotiation. Larger retailers aggressively cancelled orders overseas as their ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality got the best of them.
The big caveat is the power of the current suppliers that has made the threat of new entry difficult. Low prices have reigned supreme as the (near) single determining factor when deciding on a manufacturer. For years we have seen large retailers pit these manufacturers against each other in an effort to see who gets more pennies off of their first cost. This has trained manufacturers to compete on price. Given that this will be their biggest bargaining chip (besides perhaps established infrastructure) when faced with a regional manufacturer who can greatly reduce lead times, they will absolutely be enticing brands to go back to the ‘old way.’ With the increased focus on sustainability, the demand for a regional manufacturer that can help reduce environmental footprints and pay higher, livable wages will be apparent.
Sustainability, sustainability, sustainability (beyond eco-friendly)
While we have been talking about sustainability for-literally-ever, it’s been narrowly focused on the environment and human health. How does your product impact the earth and how can you improve that? What will start to come into focus even more will be the true aspect of a sustainable business: is your business going to be around in the future? Is your customer going to be around in the future? Brands will need to educate themselves on the aspects of building an infrastructure for a sustainable business. Meaning how to find better ways to connect with their consumer, while protecting the environment, employees and customers alike to be truly sustainable into the future. It won’t just be using recycled fabrics or giving back through charity, it will be bottom-up and top-down restructuring to make your business an enterprise that continually sustains into the future.
Over the coming years, we will fully realize that sustainability will be left up the brands to police and advocate for.
Over the coming years, we will fully realize that sustainability will be left up the brands to police and advocate for. In America, for example, the seriously decreased regulations on environmental guidelines, matched with our consumer interest in exports from countries who also have inefficient waste management and environmental practices will continue to steeply increase our environmental footprint. Brands will need to transform their marketing messages and practices to educate the consumer on how sustainability is a value to their life. The current consumer is already poised for knowledge on how they can be better prepared in a crisis, what’s next is finding a way to educate the consumer on environmental issues before the climate change crisis sneaks up on us like COVID-19 did.
Focus on ‘country’ and ‘home’
The new definition of sustainability and the sourcing shake-up will be fueled by the idea of focusing on ones home and home country. There will be an increased focus on citizens looking to their leaders and government, asking what their purpose and responsibility is in their lives. Throughout this crisis, we have seen some country’s leaders step up while others have taken a backseat…or jumped out of the car entirely (we won’t name names! *sips tea*). This will absolutely either instill trust in one’s government and support them more, or create disdain in one’s government and seek serious changes.
From a design standpoint, it will cause creatives to look within their past, whether it be their own heritage or the countries they are operating in, for inspiration. We have been seeing this play out in America over the past few years in the Wild West trend. For consumers, ‘nostalgia’ will continue to reign supreme, with any consumer over the age of 30 looking back to their younger years for an indication of why they are where they are now (good or bad). For the Gen Z’s, the focus on creating a future that isn’t like their present will continually fuel newness, while referencing what they feel is the best parts of the past. In the short term, we will probably continue to see influences of protest and punk culture mixed with traditional garb, inspired by clothing of one’s distant ancestors.
The bigger trends surrounding #stayathome is athleisure and seeking life’s little comforts. We bought tie-dye sweatsuits and made enough bread to really need those sweatsuits.
The concept of ‘home’ will still be a focus of consumers as they move out of confinement. The bigger trends surrounding #stayathome is athleisure and seeking life’s little comforts. We bought tie-dye sweatsuits and made enough bread to really need those sweatsuits. While we do see a return to sophisticated dressing, comfort will remain at the forefront of consumer’s minds. Product developers will have to make sure to ‘comfort the unknown’ while pushing a consumer into new trends, just as much as they will need to increase their use of knit fabrics and do-anything-in-it silhouettes.
The return to sophisticated dressing
This one we kind of saw coming. The runways over the past few seasons have certainly turned more formal, in both menswear and womenswear. The ‘own your body’ trend we saw in womenswear moved into menswear, with more sheer fabrics and skin shown (like sleeveless garments and crop tops for men – we don’t know why that last one is necessary outside of a good bit). Womenswear moved into more dresses, more suiting, with streetwear being almost a thing of the past. Menswear presented similarly; outside of the hyper-sexuality trend the focus was largely more tailored.
We often see that once a trend has completely saturated the market, consumers tend to go in the opposite direction, swinging the pendulum completely to hit ‘refresh.’ Perhaps the isolation of the world put the proverbial straw on the camel’s back that will break streetwear, pushing us into this era of more sophisticated dress.
The Google Trend searches for ‘men’s suits’ have started to increase since the beginning of April (along with ‘men’s dress pants’ and ‘men’s ties’), although that may be people preparing for job interviews once stay at home orders are lifted. Searches for ‘dresses’ and ‘womens suits’ have also started to rebound from the steep drop at the beginning of March.
The future of future
We know, from looking at the past, that big disasters and times of crisis push us into the future more quickly. A guest on a recent Pivot podcast, author Anand Giridharadas stated that it is usually “reset moments that create a space for change.” He discusses how, in America, WWI brought women’s suffrage, WWII brought the civil rights movement. Other examples of this have happened in every country around the world. He goes on to say how, under the novel coronavirus, everything is being tested and much of it is failing.
Fashion brands must find innovation in utility and design, a merger between function and fashion that is sustainable; and, embedded into everything from our basics to our couture.
Consumers will absolutely recognize the need for change. And, be questioning how and when that change will actually happen. They will be primed and ready for newness. While this novel coronavirus will catapult many societies into the future, businesses will inevitably need to continue providing new options to consumers as their wills falter and we return back into our old ways. Fashion brands must find innovation in utility and design, a merger between function and fashion that is sustainable; and, embedded into everything from our basics to our couture. Beyond that, they must transform their organizations to meet the changes in consumer culture, wherever that may end up.
This article is part of our continuing COVID-19 coverage. For more on how these trends will play out in the market, check out our Quick Insights. For more about educating your business on sustainability and marketing, check out our Courses.