The first Coachella since COVID was a success from an entertainment standpoint, with performances from Harry Styles and Doja Cat.
However, showgoers opted for understated looks, while traditional elaborate styles were marked down, begging the question, "is festival fashion in its flop era?"
Read on for EDITED's action plan to improve 2023 buying and reach out for a free demo to see our data in action.
Interest in festival fashion dropped compared to pre-pandemic Google Searches. This indicates a reset for traditional festival styles is required, as customers appeared to be planning outfits outside of the established looks pushed by brands.
Influencer culture is being challenged, with customers craving real-life experiences without the lens of social media. Revolve’s pop-up experience drew comparisons with Fyre Festival, though it was still successful from an exposure point of view. Going forward, brand activations will need to be more inclusive of general ticket holders, not just celebrities.
Stalwart styles like crochet and fringed apparel were being discounted as soon as Coachella kicked off. Retailers need to rethink their strategies to avoid festival styles being associated with disposable fashion. Look to range these products into stories not dictated by season, such as 70s and Y2K, to avoid discounts eating into margins.
Items that require less investment for future ranges are tie-dye, floral hair accessories and belt bags. All of these experienced deeper discounts than in 2021, when Coachella was canceled, evident of their waning status. Rework crochet and fringing into dresses instead of tops, as they saw lower investment but higher sell outs.
What Went Down at Coachella This Year
Google Searches were Down
Despite Coachella 2022 marking its return after a two-year hiatus, Google Searches for ‘festival fashion’ failed to return to pre-pandemic levels in the US. This is an indication that fewer consumers searched for the term in the lead-up to Coachella, suggesting interest in products associated with the desert bohemian aesthetic has waned, perhaps in favor of customers wanting a more individualistic look.
A Preference for Understated Looks
The Coachella weekends materialized as a melting pot of trends, with influencers favoring Y2K and Western fits. Yet key tastemakers, including Hailey Beiber and Kendall Jenner, were spotted in under-the-radar uniforms of white cropped tanks and low-rise cargos, setting the tone for more subdued dressing in 2023.
Fyre Festival 2.0
Revolve made headlines as the media compared its pop-up VIP festival at Coachella to the doomed event of 2017. According to influencers in attendance, transportation to the event was poorly managed. Guests were left standing in the sun for hours with no water trying to get in, while A-list guests were photographed partying on site. The activation was still a success despite the backlash, accruing more than 5,000 posts from over 700 influencers.
According to a survey by thredUP, one in four Americans planned to attend a music festival in 2022, with 42% planning to buy a new outfit for the event. Nearly one in three stated they would only wear this look once, including 40% of Gen Z respondents. With ultra fast fashion combined with the amount of single-use waste at music festivals, there will be increased pressure on retailers to move away from disposable trends and promote seasonless styles.
Festival Fashion Discounting Trends
Analyzing core festival styles revealed Coachella was a catalyst for discounting at mass market retailers. Products such as crochet apparel or items with fringed details experienced the highest number of first discounts in the weeks when Coachella took place (highlighted below). This suggests retailers need to entice customers with sales to move stock, offering markdowns to cater to last-minute purchasing or planned obsolescence for these styles once the event has passed.
Comparing retailers’ communications with customers also suggests that discounting was rife for 2022 compared to pre-pandemic festivals. Fashion Nova sent an email offering up to 75% off everything without a code in its Western-themed edit, pushing festival dressing to coincide with the final weekend of Coachella. In 2019, its sales were more conservative, offering 30% off with a code in an email promoting festival picks. Other retailers communicating discounts during Coachella included Lee’s festival edit running in conjunction with a BOGO 50% offer. At the same time, Ego promoted festival boots starting from £5.99, when in 2019, it called out a curated edit of festival footwear.
Successful Festival Products
New sell outs of majority SKUs saw a 98% lift YoY. Cowboycore continues to be a trending subculture, confirming Western styles as low-risk investment in 2023.
Since the start of the year, sequins registered a 63% uptake YoY. As dopamine dressing remains a significant influence on trends, this detail shows no signs of slowing down.
Denim’s post-lockdown resurgence lent itself to the shorts category. An essential for festivals, new arrivals in menswear grew 114% YoY, while womenswear was up 93% YoY.
New sell outs across tops, bottoms and dresses rose 123% YoY. Dresses were the standout category, suggesting retailers plan accordingly for future drops.
The fabric has been confirmed for Sexy Dressing 2.0‘s evolution. Combined with sell outs outpacing 2021 by 75%, mesh and netting are key for partywear buys.
With travel resuming, vacation dressing has reached a fever pitch. This has driven new sell outs of relaxed, colorful shirting within menswear festival trends up 197% YoY.
Images via Missguided, boohoo & SHEIN
Festival Fashion to Rethink for Future Ranges
New tie-dye sell outs dropped 3% YoY for menswear, with demand strong for tops, yet declining for all other categories. For womenswear, this print fell 7% YoY, with tops experiencing the deepest decline.
While new sell outs rose 57% YoY, this was driven by dresses at 34%, while tops were the most-invested category at 44%. Using this intel, retailers can confidently rework their ranges to back dresses next year.
Similarly, new crochet sell outs jumped 5% YoY. Dresses and co-ords emerged as the most successful categories, while in this fabric, tops experienced a 23% decline in new majority sell outs.
First majority sell outs are up 22% YoY. However, the saturation in the market has led to increased discounts YoY. Invest in smaller runs in summer and refilling from ecommerce instead of placing new orders.
New arrivals in belt bags rose 98% YoY, though discounting depths are deeper, suggesting this trend is over-indexed and required a price cut to shift. Average discount depths were at 35%, up from 31% in 2021.
Floral Hair Accessories
With the death of the flower crown, new floral hair accessories have been vying to take their place. While newness saw a YoY uptick complimenting Y2K trends, discounting rose from 35% in 2021 to a steep 52%.
Alternative Festival Promotions for 2023
With Coachella dubbed the Influencer Olympics, some retailers sent communications appealing to those who attend for the experience, not the clout, and those who’d rather stay at home. Lazy Oaf advertised products for “the real festies” emphasizing dressing for comfort, not social media, and getting dirty, while having a good time. Splendid called out loungewear for “Couchella,” while For Love And Lemons communicated outfits for a staycation “When Festivals Just Aren’t Your Thing.”
EDITED’s Verdict on Festival Fashion's Future
Festival fashion and influencer culture are due for a post-pandemic reset. At future events, emphasis on pared-back dressing is expected. Consumers will look to prioritize comfort, authenticity and sustainability instead of buying an outfit purely to be photographed for socials and then never worn again. To cater to this shift, retailers should back products that appeal to broader aesthetics instead of specific festival fits. Think styles that can sit within sexy dressing, the 70s, or Y2K merchandise stories to avoid taking steep reductions after the event and preserve margins. Customization is a big opportunity in this space to let consumers express themselves and stand out.