Netherlands-based trade show Modefabriek returned in full force over July 10 and 11 and with it came a host of talks, presentations and workshops that looked to inspire visitors in the challenging current climate. Among the crammed schedule, trend expert David Shah took to the floor to offer his take on the current and future state of fashion in a talk entitled ‘A World of Contradictions’.
While Modefabriek’s overarching theme was ‘Together Again’, Shah instead explored a current bubbling trend that sees consumers lean towards an increasingly polarised society. Elaborating on this, Shah noted that despite the world attempting to come together in a bid to return to some form of post-Covid ‘normality’, polar opposites had never been more present. Everything from politics to business, Shah continued, are seeing very disparate points of views, with very few people remaining in the middle.
Supplier is key in mid-market challenges
It was this that is also becoming prominent in fashion too, Shah pointed out, as consumers begin to fan out to either mass market brands or high-end labels, leaving mid-segment retailers scrambling to relate to each sector. Shah underlined that much of the mid-market segment’s potential decline could be attributed to the need to prioritise suppliers. Many retailers in the aforementioned market rely on Europe-based suppliers, the forecaster noted, which are facing an inevitable price rise due to inflation, causing these retailers to struggle with where to produce as they are often reluctant to take production outside Europe to cheaper locations. “The key to the future is the supplier,” Shah added. “Control your supplier, control your margin.”
Additionally, much of this trend can be linked to the ‘new consumers’, who Shah said are rich and/or young. As today’s prime buyers, their influence can be seen in the ongoing rise in fast fashion, for which Gen Z make up a large portion of the market, or newly adopted strategies by luxury houses, where heritage brands look to attract a younger audience through more relatable messaging – for example, Tiffany & Co. appointing Beyoncé and Blackpink’s Rosé as brand ambassadors.
Alongside these young consumers comes a new understanding of community that revolves around a sense of neo-collectivism and collaboration. Shah said that this has contributed to a push in activities such as crafts, a community-centred movement that gained favour during the pandemic, giving consumers the opportunity to experiment with their clothing in a sustainable way. Shah added that resale and vintage also link to this new fashion conversation, both of which he said would not die out due to the extent of garments that exist.
A contrasting eco-friendly trend that was touched upon was that of “regenerative sustainability”, putting nature at the forefront of creation. On the back of numerous brands using mushrooms as part of their manufacturing process, Shah suggested that this reliance on nature will only continue to rise, with new design methods established to further connect to the earth. Alongside this, he also spoke on the potential to merge nature with the metaverse as we look to bring the real world to the online.
Making the metaverse more human
A tech-forward perspective is something that cannot be avoided, Shah continued, as more innovations develop and unveil new possibilities. However, as technology and the metaverse continue to grow and it is still uncertain what the future holds for this sector, Shah spoke on a number of ways brands are making the online world more human, such as bringing our senses into play. These experiences, he added, will build on the inevitable phygital future through which we will likely see an increasing blur between the real and unreal worlds.
To implement these changes, brands are opting to hire more and more tech people into their companies instead of designers in a bid to become leaders in virtual reality. Yet understanding what a consumer is going to want in this fresh new setting is still clouded. While some are already embracing technology’s impact in the real world, such as Bottega Veneta’s digital green hue, others are being pushed more towards nostalgia-based experiences, with Shah stressing that there are still varying bubbles left to explore.
Fashion trends collide
As some brands embrace this version of nostalgia through preppy clothing and classic sportswear, others are running in a new direction with collection’s that aim to mirror nature’s downfall, shown in avant garde apocalyptic fashion that looks to highlight society’s issues. Meanwhile, the lines of luxury are beginning to blur, with brands jumping from extremist glamour and maximalist wardrobes, characterised through sequins and dopamine dressing, to an emphasis on basics and multi-use products that prioritise comfort in an increasingly ‘work-from-home’ culture. This mindset comes to a head through modernised sportswear, evident in Jacquemus’ Nike collaboration, which sees gym clothing take on a more elevated appearance. Similarly, celebrity-backed brands and clothing trends promote a new sense of body positivity, with inclusive garments that encourage the wearer to take control of their own body, something Shah said will only be emphasised in coming seasons.