London - The end of the year is in sight, with Christmas and Boxing Days just days away. 2016 has proven to be quiet the unexpected year in fashion, which is reason enough to look back and reflect upon the most discussed topics of the year. This year has been a year of many changes, especially in terms of catwalk shows, new calendar concepts, ‘modest’ fashion and capsule collections. FashionUnited lists the main fashion buzz words of 2016 below.
'See Now, Buy Now'
Most likely one of the most mention phrases of the year, the ‘see now, buy now’ business model was a fairly new concept within the fashion industry until the start of this year when Burberry took the fashion world by surprise. The British luxury brand announced in February its new plan to abandon the traditional fashion calendar, as well as seasonally bond products, in lieu of two collection drops per year. Each collection for menswear and womenswear would be shown together during fashion week and then launched immediately afterwards, coining the phrase. US designer Tom Ford announced his own ‘see now, buy now’ model shortly afterwards, opening the gates for a sea of changes in fashion show format and brands business models.
In its first ‘See Now, Buy Now’ collection, which was unveiled this September during London Fashion Week, Burberry tapped into consumers needs by making the collections available for sale immediately afterwards, instead of waiting 6 months. Research from retail search firm Verdict showed that 85.6 percent of consumers prefer to buy clothing which is suitable for the current weather conditions and can be worn immediately. Over 51 percent on respondents said they do not enjoy buying clothing for the next season, for example shopping for summer clothing in March when brands release their Spring/Summer collections.
“Therefore, it increasingly evident that traditional buying cycles are no longer in sync with the way consumers like to shop for clothing,” says Nivindya Sharma, Senior analyst at Verdict. A number of fashion brands have followed in the steps of Burberry and Tom Ford this year, including Vetements, Prada, Tommy Hilfiger and Gucci, who have all adopted their own version of the ‘See Now, Buy Now’ business model. US designer brand Ralph Lauren is the latest retailer to move away from the traditional calendar system and embrace the new concept.
Co-ed fashion shows
Another phenomenon to emerge in the fashion industry this year, and one
that is closely related to the new ‘see now, buy now’ concept sees
designers merging their womenswear and menswear shows into a single show.
As part of their new strategy,
It was not long until other retailers began following in suit and shaking up the traditional catwalk format. Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Dsquared2 among others all present their collections in a co-ed event. Although the majority of the industry supports this shift, it raises the question as to what the future holds for Men’s Fashion Weeks and how relevant they will be. During the most recent Fashion Week Men in Milan, there was an alarming absence of headlining names, such as Calvin Klein and Bottega Veneta. "Men Fashion shows are slowly airbrushed from the calendar and rebuffed into women's events, almost like an accessory," pointed out Reuters earlier this year.
A lot of effort has gone into improving the working conditions of garment workers in textile factories in countries such as Bangladesh and India following the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in 2013. However, one country decided to take things one step further and in July 2016, the Netherlands brought together trade organizations VGT, Modint and Inretail, trade unions, the local government together with five non-profit organisations and Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development to sign an agreement for sustainable textiles. The textile covenant is the first of numerous international corporate social responsibility agreements initiated across the globe to make the fashion industry more sustainable and ethical.
All the parties which signed the agreement, which include a number of local fashion retailers, pledge to sell sustainable and ethically produced fashion within the next five years and improve all aspects of the supply chain ranging from the environment, climate and labour conditions. Over 75 companies have signed the agreement, including Wehkamp, Zeeman, The Sting and De Bijenkorf. Together they have promised to address problems in numerous areas of the fashion industry including child labor, discrimination, safety and water pollution. Each company has pledged to publish an annual report of the improvements they have made and the results they have achieved. “[The fashion industry] can be and should be more honest,” said Mariëtte Hamer, chairman of the Social-Economic Council (SER). “We need to make the industry more sustainable, eco-friendly, animal cruelty-free, child labour free and safe for all workers and I believe we can work together to do something about these issues.”
Garment and factory working conditions were not the only thing on fashion companies minds this year, the environment was also a major point of discussion in 2016 as brands and retailers worked to become more sustainable. Brands from all ends of the spectrum launched new initiatives ranging from fast-fashion king Zara, who launched its first ‘green’ collection in September known as ‘Join Life’ to Stella McCartnery, who published its first environmental profit and loss report. The H&M Group took things one step further and announced its aim to become 100 percent circular, thereby closing the loop in fashion and reusing and recycling all unwanted garments.
In the UK the concept of circular fashion has become more significant as approximately 350,000 tonnes of unwanted clothing end up in landfills each year, according to data from WRAP. An astounding 95 percent of this is then burnt, ending the lifecycle of a garment which could have been reused to create something new, whether it be fashion or something entirely different. There are a number of new initiatives currently seeking to close the loop in the industry, such as chemical and mechanical recycling which makes it possible to create new garments from recycled clothing. However it will take time to scale these small initiatives to size to fulfil customer demand, and time to educate consumers into seeing each item of clothing as a resource. “We need to raise consumer awareness to see all clothing as a resource and request cycled clothing,” says Cecilia Brännsten, H&M’s Sustainability Expert to FashionUnited earlier this year.
Affordable Bridal wear
Those seeking to buy a wedding dress this year may not have been willing to spend a fortune. Thankfully 2016 was also the year of affordable bridal wear as a number of retailers launched their own in-house range of wedding gowns. Retailers such as Asos, Whistles, Missguided and Net-a-Porter all launched affordable bridal collection this year, offering everything from traditional princess gown to more trendy bridal jumpsuits. “These are precious dresses, suitably special enough to celebrate the big day, yet won’t blow the honeymoon budget,” said Nick Passmore, creative director at Whistles on their affordable range.
This shift towards more affordable bridal wear is thought to be spurred on by a change in perception on what a wedding should stand for and a shift in the importance of the wedding dress and what it should look like. ”More and more, today’s couples are influenced by what they see passing for the norm on social media,” ” said Katie Smith, Senior Retail Analyst at Edited. “They see pictures of Solange Knowles’ white bridal jumpsuit and realise, ‘hold on, I can bring the trends and culture I like to the altar too’. And the high street is perfectly positioned to cater to this new customer.” In addition, new couples are more savvy when it comes to money spending and are choosing to spend more on things like their honeymoon or new house than the actual event itself.
Terms such as quality, sustainability and durability have been important within the fashion industry for a long time, but the concept of premium became vitally important in 2016. Premium denim in particular became very popular this year, according to research firm Technavio. According to a recent report in the denim market, the global denim market accounted for 58 billion dollars (55 billion euros) this year. 26 percent of this consisted of premium jeans companies and brands such as LVMH, Seal, PVH and Levi's. “Good fit, style, and durability are the major attributes that have increased the preference for premium denim jeans,” says Technavio, who predicts the global premium denim market will grow 8 percent over the next four years.
During the most recent edition of the Kingpins Show in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the denim boutique trade show underlined how sustainable and premium quality of denim is of paramount importance to businesses and retailers. “Anyone can say that they are sustainable, but you must be able to explain how. A label that simply reads “this is sustainable” is not enough, then you have no idea what's sustainable about,” argued Simon Giuliani, marketing director at Italian denim mill Candiani. “You have to inform your clients and customers and then give them the opportunity to choose.”
From the debate surrounding the Burqini in France to the very first fashion show to feature the hijab during New York Fashion Week has placed modest fashion firmly on the industry’s radar this year. Although modest fashion, usually worn by Muslims to protect their modesty, is still on the rise in the Western Hemisphere, in the East is has become a booming market. More and more young Muslim women are seeking out new ways to combine fashion with modest dressing, which has led to a spike in retailers such as Uniqlo, Marks & Spencer and DKNY launching special capsule collections aimed at this demographic.
However, not everyone was keen to embrace Modest fashion in 2016. Pierre Bergé, the widower of the late designer Yves Saint-Laurent, shared his opinion on the growing number of Western designers catering collections which follow Islamic dress code, complete with headscarves. "I'm outraged," he previously told the French radio station Europe1. "Creatives should have nothing to do with the Islamic fashion. Designers are there to make women more beautiful and give them freedom, not to cooperate with this dictatorship, which we hide women and let them lead a hidden life,” said Bergé. Despite the criticism, it appears that the global market for Muslim fashion in 2019 will be worth approximately 500 billion euros.
Photos: Facebook Bottega Veneta, Burberry Facebook, Mulberry Facebook, Asos website