Sustainable and ethical fashion has grown from what was once a trend to a burgeoning fashion industry. To provide you with more context, the Business Research Company estimates that the global ethical fashion market will grow from US$6.35 billion in 2019 to $8.25 billion in 2023 with a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 6.8%. The sustainable fashion trends of the future are heavily influenced by the issues and events of today, which usually cannot been predicted by anyone.
As we leave the year that brought us a global pandemic, the BLM movement, the Australian Bushfires, flash floods in Indonesia, a volcanic eruption in the philippines, and various humanitarian uprisings in Africa including #EndSARS, we can all truly see just how much our lives can change in one year.
As we look towards the upcoming year, it is not difficult to see that more intelligent technologies and social uncertainties will conspire to continually redefine our concepts of time and change. At EWP, we’re constantly tracking consumer attitudes towards sustainability concepts and inspired by this research, we’ve curated our sustainable fashion trend predictions for 2021.
1. Colours and prints
For years, sustainable fashion has been mostly associated with neutral hues and classic, timeless styles while mainstream fashion remains replete with bright colors and designs. This was for the most part, an attempt to differentiate sustainable fashion from mainstream and fast fashion while simultaneously embracing the ideologies of minimalism.
This ‘traditional’ concept of sustainable fashion has begun to change and one of the biggest sustainable fashion trends of 2021 will be a more pronounced move towards vibrant colors, bold designs and fun patterns.
Even today, there is a growing number of designers looking to fill that gap and offer sustainable clothing that is fun, colorful and cool and the trend will only continue in 2021.
Another reason we can expect next year to be a super colourful one in sustainable fashion is that designers will use vibrant designs as a means to compensate for the drab ‘slob fashion’ year instigated by the pandemic lockdowns.
2. The rise of the capsule wardrobe
The biggest influence on our style this year has been the pandemic. One of the consequences of working from home is that our “uniforms” consisted heavily of bathrobes, sweatpants, loungewear and in some cases even just underwear.
Another consequence of lockdowns is that more people have realized that professional dressing can be achieved with the most basic of items and there is little need to buy so many clothes, encouraging people to create more outfits with less.
The economic repercussions of the pandemic has also triggered low consumer confidence; as the financial future cannot be predicted, people are preferring to save their dollars rather than buy. And since fashion is not high on the list of priorities when budget is tight, we can expect more to embrace capsule wardrobes.
3. Digital sustainable fashion
This year, and as a direct consequence of the lockdown and social distancing rules, usual fashion activities (such as fashion shows) were practically non-existent, and if they were, they went online. Fashion brands in a bid to reach their target customers resorted to digital fashion.
Between virtual fashion shows, 3D fashion designs and everything in between, fashion labels were forced into the digital sphere this year and we believe this trend will accompany us into the next year. Digital fashion, if executed properly, is infinitely more sustainable than the conventional notion of fashion and we expect more offerings in the upcoming year. There are none of the problems associated with mainstream fashion such as environmental pollution, the issue of waste and unpaid or forced labour.
4. Rewear goes mainstream
The pressure to wear a different outfit for every occasion has been significantly changing over the past few years but this year, this pressure was adequately arrested by the global pandemic alongside the subsequent lockdown of cities. In just a few months, the question ‘what new outfit do I wear to this event?’ was removed from people’s everyday thoughts since physical events and conferences were cancelled and it became illegal to socialize and network in person.
As a result, it became less common to purchase new clothes for the simple reason that we were all locked down in our homes. From celebrities and news anchors, there was a unanimous lowering of expectations around everyday fashion and an acceptance of outfit repeating and ‘shopping’ in your existing wardrobe. Fashion priorities have undergone a radical change this year and as far as 2021 is concerned, the trend of outfit repeating and the rewearing of clothing will become a fashion mainstay.
And if people want to indulge in their love of a ‘new outfit’ for a special occasion, they’ll opt for renting rather than buying because ownership is no longer in vogue.
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5. Increased inclusivity and diversity
Companies that exhibit their products on models who look different – in size, skin tone, age, shape, personality and non-binary gender attributes – are gaining traction now more than ever. Today, clothing brands such as Universal Standard, TomboyX, Girlfriend Collective, and Reformation have already remodelled their entire missions to offer a wide range of sizes for womxn of every body type. Some fashion websites even allow users to swap out clothes on different models with varied sizes and figures before they buy.
The concepts of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ are going to be the ultimate fashion keywords next year; words that have been used for years within the ethical fashion industry as issues of environmental justice, racial inequality and cultural appropriation are brought to the forefront.
We have already witnessed a market shift towards more diverse and inclusive marketing; more fashion, beauty, skincare, cosmetics and personal care brands expanded offerings to consider age, size, colour, gender, sexuality and identity. Next year we can expect more fashion brands to use inclusive language, hire diverse employees and models, and use visual marketing and merchandising to communicate these values.
6. Sustainable collections by mainstream fashion labels
Sustainable fashion has continued its awesome growth in the last few years and as outlined earlier, is expected to grow 6.8% by 2023. What this means is that mainstream brands will feel the push to enter sustainable fashion markets as consumers become increasingly environmentally and socially conscious and demand fashion businesses produce responsible clothing.
Not only are mainstream brands going to have to shift their operations to try and retain customers in 2021, due to customer pressure, they will be required to demonstrate genuine dedication to sustainability as a conscious generation of shoppers are now able to discern cases of “greenwashing” more easily. Next year we can expect many fashion brands to introduce ‘sustainable’ collections alongside their main collections. Already, ASOS has released its Circular Collection made from recycled materials, while H&M continues to release their Conscious Collections featuring sustainable fabrics such as recycled polyester, pineapple leather, Tencel and organic cotton.
Ultimately, and as unpleasant as it was, the lockdown has allowed for space to rethink. Social distancing has created a more level playing field for smaller designers to be seen and heard. The pandemic provided fashion brands much-needed freedom to step off the hamster wheel and reconsider their offerings. The result is that next year, more fashion brands will work towards being more ethical, and broaden their missions to include sustainability initiatives and environmental causes.
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Cover image via ASOS Circular Collection.