How EDITED data can pinpoint the rise and fall of fashion trends.
Y2K and dopamine dressing have been the ubiquitous aesthetics season on season. Meanwhile, the uptake of TikTok subcultures and binge-worthy TV series results in micro trends being spat out rapidly.
This report investigates how longstanding trend theories hold up in today's chaotic retail landscape and how retailers can understand when key looks are ramping up or slowing down.
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Social media has made some traditional trend cycles irrelevant for modern retailing. However, when paired with EDITED data, brands can use the Diffusion of Innovation Theory to benchmark an aesthetic’s status. Analyzing the number of sell outs vs. the percentage of newness can shed light on when a trend is emerging and needs to be invested in or when to pull back on a waning style.
The new trend cycle supports several conflicting trends that can coexist within fashion’s ecosystem. Both 00s and 70s dressing run in parallel. At the same time, a representation of the duality of the future, a utopia or dystopia, is presented with dopamine dressing and Avant Apocalypse.
Overarching trends underpinned by patterns, color and nostalgia can reach a four-year-plus lifespan. This is evident with the reign of animal print, dopamine dressing and Y2K for consecutive seasons. While macro trends are lasting longer, micro trends with a month-long lifespan are being churned out of TikTok at light speed before fading or evolving into something new.
Using EDITED can help retailers determine which region is the first to pick up on a trend. Both mini skirts and platform heels saw a greater uptake by French consumers before resonating with the US market, indicating that it’s worth looking at western Europe markets for range inspiration.
EDITED can follow a trend’s journey from viral to seasonless status. Sneakers within the mass market are an example of an item that initially blew up from the athleisure and normcore boom and is now a staple within retailers’ ranges due to high replenishment levels and stock positions.
Trickle Down & Bubble Up
Trends used to come about in two ways: trickling down from the runway or bubbling up from street style. This method made it easy for retailers to pinpoint the lifecycle of a fashion trend. However, the explosion of social media has now made this theory outdated. While runways and street style still inform trends, consumers are now taking direction from influencers in real-time and the reactivity of fast fashion can provide rapid feedback on which trends have been successful and which haven’t.
Diffusion of Innovation
Developed by E.M. Rogers in 1962, the Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) Theory explains the rate at which consumers will adopt a new product or service. Concerning fashion, innovators or enthusiasts first get on board with a new trend, accounting for 2.5% of the population. This is followed by the early adoption phase, at 13.5%, and then commercial acceptance as the early and late majority embrace the trend at 34% each. Finally, the trend reaches the laggards, which make up 16% of the population, indicating the trend is reaching saturation or becoming obsolete.
Retailers can set metrics to determine the stages of their invested trends. For example, EDITED can measure trends in the innovator stage that are beginning to see an uplift in sell outs. However, they haven’t yet reached mass acceptance, so they don’t equal a lot of newness within their category. Meanwhile, saturated styles are still experiencing newness, while sell outs are declining. Ideally, retailers want to aim to have a new trend online or in store before it peaks, or reaches the early majority stage, in order to be ahead of the curve.
- Innovator: Fetishcore apparel. +31% sell outs YoY, 1.7% of newness.
- Early adopter: Cargo pants. +183% sell outs YoY, 2% of newness.
- Early majority: Mini skirts. +33% sell outs YoY, 47% of newness
- Late majority: Dopamine dressing. +22% sell outs YoY, 40% of newness.
- Laggard: Sweatpants & joggers. -54% sell outs YoY, 5.2% of newness.
- Saturation: Skinny jeans. -40% sell outs YoY, 16% of newness.
Not all trends will follow this bell-shaped pattern. With TikTok’s role as an incubator for the mass production of micro-trends, some aesthetics, such as Angelcore, will emerge as an innovation or reach the early adoption stage before fizzling out prior to reaching the masses, too niche or directional for commercial uptake. Others, like Clowncore, will experience tweaks to be more palatable before being commercially adapted.
Normcore, Goblincore and loungewear are examples of trends that have emerged in response to a lifestyle shift or as a stance against the influx of trends being pushed or created by consumers. Additionally, the climate crisis has underscored minimalist capsule wardrobes and seasonless pieces that can be worn without an impending expiration date.
How Long Does a Trend Last Now?
Consumers’ “see now, buy now” mindset and retailers’ weekly product drops mean trends no longer have a six-month lifespan. Some experience season-on-season investment. This section investigates two longstanding macro trends – looking at why they continue to resonate and what’s next.
Paco Rabanne Pre-Spring 2023, Blumarine Spring 2022 & Givenchy Spring 2021 - Images via IMAXtree
Balmain Spring 2020, Iceberg Spring 2019 & Versace Spring 2018 - Images via IMAXtree
EDITED data proves complimentary Y2K products, like popcorn textures, bandannas and bodycon, have a short shelf life in retail. Yet, more popular elements are already trickling in for Spring 2023, with Paco Rabanne presenting a Paris Hilton-esque silver mini dress for Resort. The trend is at its peak, so should start to lessen by Fall 2023. However, as with previous eras like the 70s, 80s and 90s, it will continue to weave in and out of fashion as retailers reference archival styles to inform future looks.
EDITED data can pinpoint when new products launch, revealing when demand for a trend goes up or down. Using this information, retailers can understand the best time to ease off backing a trend based on historical patterns. For example, animal print arrivals noted an upwards trajectory from 2016, peaking in 2019. Retailers then knew to avoid investing as heavily with the trend experiencing saturation.
Arrivals for dopamine dressing hues, which gained popularity during the pandemic, reached a four-year high in 2021. Will the trend continue in 2022 or follow a similar path to animal print?
Dopamine dressing progressed for an unseasonably bright Fall 2022, with fuchsia and tangerine shades dominating. However, darker trends have come into play with influencers like Julia Fox and Kourtney Kardashian at the vanguard of Fetishcore and the Hot Goth Girlfriend aesthetic. Avant Apocalypse has also emerged in response to the bleak and gritty yet accurate depiction of the current state of the world.
This trend serves as an extension of several already successful trends, taking elements of streetwear styling and Gorpcore functionality to create a survivalist uniform. Black apparel is seeing a swing back in favor with consumers, equaling 67% of sell outs out of key shades vs. 59% a year ago. Meanwhile, Balenciaga has been pioneering dystopian dressing on the runway in its post-apocalyptic Fall 2022 show and its fetish Garde Robe for Pre-Spring.
Though, like the 70s and Y2K, contrasting trends can coexist appealing to different consumers and tastes. While fashion embraces its dark side, dopamine styling continues at Gucci Pre-Spring through mood-boosting colors and overblown shapes.
TikTok Micro Trends
The overarching events of 2020 and the disruption to the traditional runway format led to trends emerging from more unconventional avenues. Fashion started taking TikTok seriously. Since then, there has been mass adoption of retailers leveraging the platform to connect with customers and respond with their own interpretations of these subcultures. Some micro aesthetics have significantly impacted consumers, becoming fully blown trends, while others have emerged rapidly and then faded into the background. For example, Twee search results swelled in January, then dropped off. While Indie Sleaze hasn’t seen as much interest in search volume, it is more consistent, suggesting hype is still bubbling away.
EDITED defines a product as going viral when it receives widespread public attention through both new and traditional forms of media, making TikTok essential for trends to reach their dedicated audience. Trend virality results in an influx of new arrivals and instant and/or multiple sell outs and replenishments that cement its demand by consumers. Often products can be controversial and divisive, such as low-rise jeans. Though this style is not as commonplace as other denim fits, it has seen a 460% uptick in newness since the start of the year, with the majority SKU sell outs up 347% YoY. Meanwhile, new arrivals in the safer, higher silhouettes have fallen by 14% YoY.
The Netflix Effect
The aesthetics from viral series are often reimagined on TikTok, helping create supply and demand for trends or items. The launch of Bridgerton on Netflix at the end of 2020 propelled Regencycore into the spotlight, with Victorian dressing resonating with consumers yearning for escapism. The mass market noted new arrivals and sell outs of corsets, with the demand shooting up again after the second season aired.
Which Market do Trends Hit First?
While products are going viral in some regions, they are cooling off in others, with global customers adopting trends at various rates. For example, at the start of 2021, the French market led with mini skirt sell outs before the trend resonated with US customers. In 2022, the UK experienced mass adoption, followed by Australia, which has traditionally lagged due to reverse seasonality.
A similar pattern is evident when analyzing the success of platform shoes. It sees greater adoption in France ahead of the UK and US. Retailers need to take a global approach to trend forecasting, especially when catering to multiple markets. Consider local labels and tastemakers impacting fashion and look at how trends translate across borders.
When Trends Become Core
Not all trends fade into obscurity. Some get so popular that their status transitions to a core piece achieving seasonless appeal. These items may see fewer new iterations, but their stock position in a retailer’s assortment increases and replenishment rates rise. Sneakers within the mass market are the perfect example. The athleisure boom in 2012/13 saw fashion brands fight for market share from sporting retailers, expanding ranges to be more comfort-driven. Sneakers more than doubled in US and UK assortments between 2013 – 2017 and now equal 19% of footwear styles. Replenishment rates also grew from 9% in 2013 to 18% in 2017 to 37% today.
Cores styles are still at risk of experiencing saturation. This is where replenishment rates drop and discounting rises, as the once assortment staple skinny jeans have experienced. Restocks are at 39% in 2022, down from 46% in 2021. The proportion of styles discounted increased from 55% in 2021 to 61%, and the average advertised discount rose from 36% to 40%.