What does the future hold for the apparel industry in 2020 and beyond?
The answer depends on who you ask.
McKinsey & Company’s report The State of Fashion 2020warns, “The year ahead will open with the industry in a state of high nervousness and uncertainty, with most executives across fashion and the wider business world bracing for a slowdown in growth in the global economy.”
But not all analysts voice this level of anxiety and concern.
In contrast, market research firm Euromonitor International takes a more positive tone in its report World Market for Apparel and Footwear, stating, “Despite its maturity and sheer size, the industry expects a positive outlook, thanks to strong growth in China and India.”
IBISWorld also points to growth prospects in Global Apparel Manufacturing. The report projects rising demand for apparel and improving economic conditions that will boost the industry over the next five years.
Although some analysts voice optimism while others focus on industry challenges, several noteworthy apparel industry trends are highlighted in these apparel industry reports and others like them.
1. The Role of Digitalization
Euromonitor and McKinsey both emphasize the importance of digitalization in the fashion industry. Technology has transformed how consumers shop and engage with brands, and fashion e-commerce companies like Rent the Runway, thredUP, and ThirdLove have attracted significant investment in recent years.
As the marketplace evolves, both legacy and emerging fashion brands must increase their online presence and use big data and analytics to offer more personalized solutions and capture a bigger share of the market.
2. The Growing Importance of Sustainability
Along with digitalization, another key apparel industry trend is sustainability. More consumers are concerned about the future of the planet and are putting pressure on fashion brands that do not have eco-friendly practices.
As a result, some companies are working to modify their business models and develop products made with more sustainable materials, according to Textile Intelligence. For example, Adidas turns plastic trash that washes up in coastal areas into recycled polyester and uses the material in shoes and clothing. To decrease its environmental impact, Chanel invested in the startup Evolved by Nature, which works to replace synthetic additives with alternatives that are more environmentally friendly.
Buying secondhand, or renting rather than buying new, have become other popular ways for consumers to keep items out of landfills and afford more high-end luxury brands. As a result, rental and resale companies are expanding at a rapid pace.
3. A Shift Toward Size-inclusive Fashion
Rising levels of obesity around the world have spurred the demand for on-trend, plus-size fashion, as outlined in the report From Plus-Size to Size-Inclusive Fashion.
In the past, plus-size clothing options have been sparse at many retailers and often relegated to their own separate sections next to maternity wear. Now that is beginning to change as size-inclusive initiatives become more widespread. Nordstrom, Target, and others have expanded their sizes in stores, but most luxury brands have not made similar moves to normalize double-digit sizing.
4. Continued Growth in Athleisure
Another industry buzzword to watch is athleisure. Although new product classes usually go through a cycle of growth and contraction, athleisure continues to "defy gravity." The growing popularity of wellness could help explain the staying power of yoga-inspired clothing.
While other retailers struggle to survive, Lululemon Athletica, the brand that launched athleisure, continues to achieve blockbuster growth, with net revenue of $916.1 million in 2019, up 23% from the previous year.
In the coming years, the global athleisure market is expected to grow at a healthy clip. According to GlobalData’s estimates, the global athleisure market increased 9% in 2019, reaching $414 billion. By 2023, the market is expected to reach $570 billion.
Athleisure is expected to gain more traction in Asia, but Eastern Europe offers another opportunity as volume growth becomes more difficult in the west.
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