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Top consumer trends that brands should know about

By Huw Hughes


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Amsterdam - To keep up with the head-spinning speed at which the fashion industry and wider retail industry is changing, brands need to keep up-to-date with the latest trends and the consumer behaviours that are driving them.

Earlier this month, David Shah, owner of Metropolitan Publishing, the publishing house behind Pantone View Concept, spoke at the biannual Appletizer trend seminar held in Amsterdam, sharing some of his insights into key consumer trends to look out for. These are FashionUnited’s top takeaways from the event.

Brands go gaming

“The new movement isn’t through fashion, it’s through gaming,” Shah said towards the beginning of his talk. Gaming and e-sports are indeed becoming increasingly popular ways for brands, both inside of the fashion industry and outside of it, to further grow and engage with their customer base. In fact, the gaming and e-sports industry is forecast to grow from 131 billion dollars in 2018 to 305 billion dollars in 2025, according to GlobalData.

And the fashion industry has taken note. In recent months alone, a number of big-name fashion brands have waded into the digital world. Earlier this month, Adidas became the first retailer to allow customers to purchase items within a Snapchat game, with the German sportswear giant selling ‘8-BIT’ baseball cleats for 130 dollars via its own retro game on Snapchat.

Even luxury brands, which have broadly been slower to adopt newer innovations in a bid to maintain their traditional appeal, are dipping their toes into to the gaming world to attract younger consumers who are more than ever looking for experiential ways to interact with fashion. In July, luxury brands Louis Vuitton and Gucci both released their own retro games. “All the clever companies are using gaming,” Shah said. “That’s why all the influencers are there.”

Comfort trumps formality

“No one is buying suits anymore,” said Shah, who used to produce 1.5 million suits a year for Marks and Spencer but had to stop because the demand simply wasn’t there. Earlier this month, the company, which is the biggest menswear retailer in the UK, announced it would be reducing its formalwear ranges following a market-wide 7 percent fall in suit sales.

After all, the modern consumer doesn’t want to look smart; they want to feel comfortable. While the introduction of dress-down Friday in the early 2000s used to be the epitome of casualisation, now the trend has well and truly made itself comfortable in every part of society. Even workers at US bank Goldman Sachs, who were once renowned for their lofers and bespoke suits, have been liberated from formal work attire.

As people move away from formal, they move towards comfort. The wellness economy is booming and fashion is on the frontline. That trend is perhaps most clearly seen in the skyrocketing popularity of athleisure which, according to GlobalData, is expected to rise by 9 percent in 2019 and continue to outperform the clothing and footwear market beyond 2023. The boom in sleepwear attire is also a perfect example of this, Shah said, as more people drop formality for comfort and functionality. “We are living in a very casual society,” he said. “Athleisure is the new lifestyle.”

Less is more

While having a variety of choices as a consumer is generally considered a good thing, too much choice can be confusing and overwhelming. “Reduce the colours, reduce the choice, reduce the materials - customers want very simple, basic designs,” Shah said. But the trend extends further than just product designs, it also more broadly applies to product offerings. The modern consumer is looking for simplicity in a high-velocity and over-saturated fashion industry, according to Shah. “The keyword at the moment is reduction,” he said. “Reduction of problems, reduction of stress, reduction of materiality.”

Shoppers want to buy less, but by buying less they want to know that what they are buying will last and function properly. They want to know that a brand is specialised in the product it's selling. “As shoppers, we want to come to the brand and know that they’ve done years of research to make the perfect product,” Shah said. It’s the move from fancy to simple; it’s about buying a product that consumers know will last and have been refined to be the perfect version of itself as opposed to a sub-par carbon copy.

This trend is even materialising in the way fashion is presented through retail, with stores like Nordstrom stripping down their offerings and instead presenting just the core basics; a refreshing and clean take on today’s often ‘bigger is better’ retail mentality. Nordstrom Local concept contains very little inventory, focusing more on customer engagement and product education. The Nordstrom Local store in Los Angeles’ West Hollywood offers services such as personal styling, on-site alterations, in-store pickup, returns and manicures.

Sharing is caring

“How many of you wear second-hand clothes?” Shah asked the audience of a few hundred people, most of whom were Dutch. Around 30 percent of them raised their hands. “It’s amazing because if I had asked that question in China, nobody would have put their hand up; if I had asked it in America, maybe three people would have. This trend is sweeping through the world.”

The resale sector is indeed growing at an incredible rate, with the resale market in the US forecast to be 1.5 times bigger than the fast-fashion market by 2028, according to a report by second-hand fashion platform ThredUp.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, millennials and Gen Z, age groups that the fashion industry is fighting over the attention of, is driving the second-hand movement, adopting second-hand 2.5x faster than other age groups. The same ThredUp report found that 56 percent of 18-29-year-olds prefer retailers that offer new arrivals every time they visit, while 74 percent of the same group prefer to buy from sustainably conscious brands - two benefits that the resale market offers.

It seems like every week a big-name fashion brand adds itself to the list of companies trying their hands at resale, either through their own channels or via partnerships. From footwear to luxury, from high street brands to fast-fashion giants, resale is only going to increase in popularity. “Everybody is doing rental and resale," Shah said. “Get on to this because it’s definitely the future.”

As a natural progression from this, Shah also talked briefly touched on the growth of vintage, something that he recommends brands to explore. “All the stars are wearing vintage. Everyone is into nostalgia,” he said. “Go into your archives. Look what you were doing 30 or 40 years ago because people love it.”

Back to nature

In terms of colour trends, Shah said that clay, white, beige and natural woody colours are popular, with wood being the new key trend to look out for. “Today it’s about everything wood and wood-based. It’s why camouflage is still massive, it’s about being part of nature,” he said, as concerns over the harmful effect the fashion industry has on the environment continue to grow.

Photo credit: Lululemon, Facebook

David Shah
Louis Vuitton
Marks and Spencer
Metropolitan Publishing