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Circularity and the metaverse: 2022’s State of Fashion report is here

By Rachel Douglass


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Image: Jasmine Sanders in EWG x Hilfiger VR Film

As it comes to the year’s end, businesses have started to detect the subtle light at the end of the covid tunnel. The pandemic has forced the fashion industry to adapt to a ‘new normal’ and the development in technology has contributed a significant impact to the direction fashion is progressing.

Looking ahead to the not-so-near future, The Business of Fashion and McKinsey and Company have come together to release the annual The State of Fashion report for the year 2022. The analysis is based on interviews with top industry executives and an expansive industry survey, outlining what businesses are expecting in the coming year and how they are preparing.

From pandemic recovery preparation to the expansion into the metaverse, the report covers a broad range of impactful topics that the fashion industry is looking towards in 2022.

Digital sphere: metaverse, social shopping and cyber safety

As expected, the digital world is set to continue its expansion throughout almost every aspect of our lives, including fashion. The increase of brands turning to the newly established metaverse is, in part, due to the potential high engagement from young consumers it can provide. The report suggests that brands should turn their focus to gaming and virtual fashion as a new method of community building, stating that 81 percent of Gen Z played video games in the past six months. The rise also extends into shopping experiences, as McKinsey relays the importance of digitally-forward communication methods, proposing the experimentation of augmented reality (AR) and other associated technologies.

Of course, as the world turns more and more to the digital, the risk of cyber-attacks and improper data handling becomes more evident. According to the report, 53 percent of fashion executives say it is likely or very likely their company will experience a significant cyber-attack in 2022. This figure implies an urgency to improve cyber defences and invest in digital security.

Pushing the circular narrative

Businesses will continue to put their focus on the issue of circularity, with many stating they are looking for “maturity of technological solutions” as a defining factor in the scaling and use of closed-loop recycling. Circular textiles are one of the main elements emphasised in the report, with 60 percent of fashion executives surveyed stating they have already invested or have plans to invest in the recycling system next year. As technologies begin to scale up, businesses will need to adopt them into the product development process for large-scale operational use.

Running alongside circular textiles, the value of transparency and authentication is a key matter for both consumers and businesses. As recorded, approximately two out of five fashion executives plan to adopt product passports in 2022 or have already done so. This rise in product QR codes and blockchain transparency tools has been prominent, allowing customers the freedom to explore merchandise life cycles in an accessible way.

Consumer priority shifts

Pandemic-related occurrences have caused a distinct alteration in the way consumers are choosing to spend their money. An at-home lifestyle caused a boom in sportswear and loungewear during the days of prolonged lockdowns. However, as the world continues to increasingly venture outdoors and social restrictions ease, it is likely that consumers will turn their attention to other categories, suggested McKinsey.

Additionally, the disruption of travel has also caused a shift in consumer behaviour. Reportedly, international travel will not fully recover until at least 2023, implying that luxury brands should turn their focus to engaging with domestic markets. As air traffic only appears to slowly increase between Asia and Europe, for example, businesses are targeting consumers on their own turf, seen through the likes of events such as Prada’s Shanghai and Miami simultaneous fashion shows. A fitting extension, as China’s luxury sector enjoys a possible 70 to 90 percent growth over 2019 sales by the end of 2021.

Bumpy road ahead

This, however, can not be evenly observed on an international scale. Recovery following the pandemic will be different depending on the country and other national factors within. The report proposes that businesses must assess local conditions if they operate internationally, emphasising that nations with strong healthcare and economic resilience are likely to outperform others. Like China, fast growth has also been reported in Europe and the US, with the latter seeing a positive trajectory on consumer sentiment and 67 percent of fashion executives saying they expect better trading conditions in 2022.

Nonetheless, logistics could prove a problem in the formulation of the ‘new normal’ with increased pressure on global supply chains and rising costs standing in the way of stable deliveries. A substantial 49 percent of businesses have noted supply chain disruptions as the number one issue to possibly impact them in 2022. This will force companies to rethink sourcing strategies and supply chain management in order to cope with growing consumer demand. To implement these changes, it was also reported that many workplaces will be looking to enhance their upper management, retaining talent that can optimise the creation of a flexible and diverse workforce.

Business of Fashion
Circular Fashion
Supply Chain