Fashion is at the heart of contemporary culture. Many fashion industry trends allow for self-interpretation, relatability, and personal fulfillment in an era where people try to find their way, voice, and self-expression.
With a value of more than $2.5 trillion and employing over 75 million people worldwide, the fashion sector significantly affects our lives, the economy, and the world.
From fast fashion and the significant effect fashion has on our planet’s resources, to positive advances in the ongoing e-commerce climate, to innovative technologies like artificial intelligence that advances customers’ shopping experiences, here are five consumer industry trends in the fashion sector that have revolutionized the fashion industry:
1. The Digital Shift and E-commerce
The e-commerce fashion industry’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is expected to hit 14.2% by 2025, valued at $672B by 2023, according to Statista. During 2021, SaleCycle saw over 71 million conversions in online fashion from 150 of the most prestigious fashion brands worldwide.
Apparel, footwear, and accessories sales skyrocketed in 2021, hitting $180.5B in the US alone. That’s expected to expand by 13% in 2022, with consumers set to spend over $204B on fashion items online.
So what is magnifying this growth?
- Broadening global markets
- Online accessibility
- Consumers with income to spare
- Celebrities and influencers
E-commerce has more opportunities to make a significant impact on consumers worldwide than ever before.
2. Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is the clothing industry’s model of cloning the newest runway trends and reproducing them at lower costs for consumers. Then they sell these knock-offs at trendy retail stores that are easy to access. This is currently a $30B market and is projected to reach almost $40B in 2025, according to the Fast Fashion Global Market Report 2021. Major players in fast fashion include H&M, Forever 21, and Zara, as well as traditional mass-market department stores such as Macy's, JCPenney, and Kohls.
Advantages and disadvantages of fast fashion include:
Advantages of Fast Fashion
- Customers visit stores more often to get first access to new items
- Trending clothes are more accessible
- Clothes are more affordable
Disadvantages of Fast Fashion
- Cheap clothes
- Poor quality
- Encourages a throw-away mentality
- Intellectual property theft
- Environmentally unfriendly
While fast fashion has staying power, it also has adverse effects on the environment, which makes a case for supporting sustainable fashion, another trend that has changed the fashion industry forever.
3. Sustainable Fashion
Even though fast fashion is easily accessible, consumers are still increasingly committed to sustainability. Sustainable fashion refers to clothing items that are both well-made and durable. The goals are both to prolong the life of a garment and reduce the amount of waste used to make it.
Additional sustainability trends in the fashion industry include:
- Making clothing, accessories, and footwear with recycled materials
- Thrift fashion
- Minimalism and capsule wardrobes
- Sustainable luxury jewelry
- Rental subscription services
Fashion production makes up a whopping 10% of carbon emissions and is expected to increase to 2.8 billion tons per year by 2030 (the equivalent of 230 million vehicles driven per year).
A report by IUCN examined sources of primary microplastics, as opposed to larger plastic waste degrading in the water; the discovery was mind-blowing. They found that major sources of microplastics in the ocean include invisible particles from products such as synthetic clothing, synthetic textiles, personal care products, and more.
Consumers are learning more and more about the damage the fashion industry has on the environment. Fifty-two percent of shoppers say they’re more likely to buy from a brand with shared values of environmental responsibility.
Statista’s research shows that 42% of global customers purchase eco-friendly and sustainable products. As a result, a growing number of fashion brands are finding unique ways to embrace sustainability. For example, Vin + Omi harvests its own crops of horseradish plants and chestnuts to make its clothes. And Patagonia has designed a fleece sweater made entirely of recycled polyester.
Companies are also beginning to prioritize not only the sustainability of their product but also the impact of their packaging on the environment—which, with the rise of e-commerce, has become incredibly wasteful.
4. Influencer Marketing
It’s no surprise that social media is the go-to source for young women’s clothing purchases. Fashion influencers show up on the consumers' phones day and night as part of intricate fashion marketing campaigns by savvy brands. Influencers on social media platforms are the link between a fashion brand and consumers.
One of the most influential social media platforms in the past years has been TikTok. Fashion icons like Bella Hadid and trendsetting luxury brands like Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton are turning to TikTok to stream fashion shows and other brand-specific announcements.
Social media is the outlet for self-expression, and influencers lead the charge. What they do or say, followers do or say too. Influencer Wisdom Kaye, TikTok’s best-dressed fellow, has over four million followers and has been signed to high-fashion brands like Dior to promote their clothing to his audience.
5. Artificial Intelligence in Fashion
Brands enhance consumers' online shopping experience by tracking the customer journey with artificial intelligence (AI). With that knowledge, the AI can create predictive analytics. This allows retailers to forecast trends and assist with shopping recommendations based on a customer’s personal style.
It’s key to understand the different applications of AI in fashion:
Design and Product Development: AI can track design elements and use powerful algorithms to design new patterns from past designs and projected trends.
Buying and Merchandising: By using predictive analysis and trend forecasting, fashion designers can get real-time data to address consumer demand and predict future trends.
Styling: AI can generate online, personalized customer recommendations after retailers build and track client profiles.
Head Office Operations: AI assists with inventory management and competitor analysis.
AI can also be of enormous benefit in e-commerce regarding personalized recommendations, visual product search, fashion inspiration, and conversational commerce in the form of chatbots.
With advancing algorithms, AI continues to gain momentum as a technology trend in the fashion industry while targeting customers' wants and needs and collecting data for marketing and advertising purposes.
These trends have already changed how the fashion industry operates today and will, no doubt, continue to lead the charge in the future. With the ease of e-commerce and fast fashion, shoppers have much broader accessibility to fashion-forward trends that were once only seen on the runway. But don’t discount our widening interest in sustainability. Climate change is an ever-growing concern among our youth, so expect to see advancements in a more eco-friendly fashion future.
If you are a leader in the industry and have something further to share on the future of fashion or other culturally diverse topics, consider becoming a Rolling Stone Culture Council member to allow for meaningful discussions and connections between other similarly experienced professionals. Reach out to a representative today and enjoy more insights about fashion, music, business, and more on our blog.