Predicting the themes that will influence fashion in a time when new covid variants and related safety protocols put work, school, travel and fun in a constant state of flux may seem like a fruitless endeavor. Trends, however, continue to guide not only the way consumers shop but the things they shop for, too.
What is certain is that celebrities and entertainment continue to be unstoppable forces of style inspiration, retailers are willing to try almost anything to reignite their businesses and social media is breeding trends—and killing them off—at lightning speed.
Combined, it should make for an interesting and exciting year in fashion. Here’s our 22 trends to know for 2022.
Fashion and pop culture are in full Y2K mode. From headlines rhapsodizing over Paris Hilton’s weekend-long wedding and Britney Spears regaining her freedom, to Hulu’s documentary on 2000s ‘It’ brand Ed Hardy, the past year has schooled Gen Z in the personalities and styles that rocketed to fame in the early aughts. Though the era’s fashion is already popular with trendy consumers, expect to see Y2K influences enter mainstream fashion for the masses in 2022. Psychedelic prints, tiny backpacks, platform footwear and a sprinkle of rhinestones are coming to a store near you.
Merriam-Webster defines the word “aesthetic” as “of or relating to art or beauty.” Gen Z TikTok users, however, have adopted the word as their new go-to way to describe a winning look or style, as in “that is so aesthetic.” With young consumers subscribing to styles, color palettes and eras that influences their choices for fashion, beauty and home, the narrative is shifting away from singular trend-driven items to creating complete essences, or aesthetics, that can be visually expressed on social media.
Carrie (and Emily) effect
From music videos to TV shows, the entertainment world regained its influence on fashion when consumers were confined to their homes in 2020, and it hasn’t let up. With the second season of Netflix’s rom-com “Emily in Paris” and hotly anticipated “Sex and the City” reboot “And Just Like That” finally hitting streaming services, expect the patterns, designers and eclectic styling seen on both shows to be discussed, dissected and duped well into the new year, no matter how unrelatable the plot lines may be.
The content that makes up a pair of jeans has become a mosaic of cellulosic, regenerated, and synthetic fibers in recent years, with ingredients serving up stretch, recovery, durability and more. But with demand for circular products growing, and consumers increasingly aware of the issues that come with recycling blended fabrics, denim mills are ramping up their promotion of fabrics made with a singular traceable and recyclable fiber.
Collaborations will go down in fashion history as a hallmark of the new millennium—a result of the era’s fondness for ironic and high-low designs that blur category lines. Two decades in, and fashion is still birthing surprise partnerships—some nonsensical (here’s looking at you, Pepperidge Farm and JNCO) while others are blatant attempts to cash in on clout (Fendi x Skims). Following the buzzy 2021 debut of Fendi and Versace’s “Fendace,” and Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele’s Balenciaga “hack,” expect to see more fashion houses lend their logos to their brethren—all in the name of collaboration.
Though it’s popular to blame Gen Z as the cause of every cringe-worthy trend cycling back into style, rises on jeans are dropping for the simple fact that they have nowhere else to go. With brands like Good American, Reformation and Everlane adding the adjectives “super,” “extra” and “ultra” to the names of their high-waisted jeans, the pendulum was bound to swing back in the opposite direction. But with 12-inch rises (and higher) now the ho-hum norm in the women’s category, brands may first need to recalibrate what they deem a mid-rise and low-rise to help consumers assimilate to the new styles.
From gardening and knitting and backyard games, to revisiting book, film and television series from their childhoods, months-long quarantines freed up time for people to rediscover the long-lost allure of hobbies and fandom. Expect to see fashion emerge as one way for consumers to flaunt these interests through licensed apparel, accessories and thoughtful details like patches, pins and charms.
Now that Y2K is once again a full-blown commercialized trend, it’s prime time to re-examine what came after that era of glitzy, celebrity-inspired fashion to understand where the industry might go next. Enter the Tumblr-meets-hipster aesthetic of the early 2010s, characterized by Doc Marten boots, American Apparel basics, slouchy beanie hats and cutoff jean shorts styled with black tights. The 2022 revival, however, will center on “indie sleaze,” the trend’s provocative, smudged makeup, party-going side, with celebrities like Olivia Rodrigo, Bella Hadid and Machine Gun Kelly serving as the new icons.
Outdoor activities like gardening and hiking provided a much-needed respite from quarantine in 2020, and outside—be it a park or a restaurant’s sidewalk dining—became the go-to safer setting for reuniting with friends and family in 2021. And consumers are not in a hurry to give up the fresh air. Though retailers like Candiani Vision in Milan have used plant life to tell sustainable product stories, expect to see retailers incorporate more trees, natural elements and outdoor spaces like a back patio into their store design.
If you’re not mixing a curated range of pre-owned and vintage products in with your new merchandise, you are missing a big retail opportunity. According to a recent report from research firm McKinsey & Company, the luxury resale market is projected to see an annual growth rate of 10-15 percent over the next decade. Denim retailers are leading the way in this new mode of retail. Through a partnership with online reseller ThredUp, Madewell Forever incentivizes consumers to bring in their pre-owned denim to Madewell stores to earn Madewell shopping credit. Levi’s and Diesel have their own secondhand programs as well. Expect to see more brands and retailers introduced a thrifted component to their store floors in 2022.
This time last year, the fashion world and its critics were in a tizzy over Harry Styles wearing a Gucci dress on the cover of Vogue. Cut to the present day and Kid Cudi, Pete Davidson, ‘Satan Shoes’ collaborator Lil Nas X and more have since graced the red carpet in designer dresses. Meanwhile, Thom Browne’s “men’s skirt” was one of the most-searched fashion items of 2021. The narrative around gender lines in fashion continues to progress with forecasting firms like Fashion Snoops discussing “humanwear” as fashion’s future and brands offering non-gender-specific sizing for products beyond unisex-friendly sweats and tees.
Tranquil, soothing blue and aquatic motifs are a perfect fit with the denim category. Mainstream fashion continues to reference Versace’s influential Spring 2021 collection, which featured under-the-sea prints and scuba-like fabrics, while the 2023 release of Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid” is bound to inspire consumers to channel their inner mermaid or merman. Expect to find denim statement pieces with lasered wave and ripple effects, as well as shimmery trims and coatings. Tie the marine-inspired story together by swapping recycled ocean plastic for virgin polyester and using water-saving dyeing and finishing techniques.
Celebrity ‘It’ couple Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker are not only a nostalgic match made in millennial pop-culture heaven—but the duo’s coordinating dark and edgy style is also responsible for igniting a goth fashion revival. One-part Hot Topic and one-part designer-led (by names like Rick Owens and Vivienne Westwood), the latex, leather, spikes and skull-laden looks might be a welcome contrast to the cozy and conservative cottagecore and cabincore trends that have blanketed fashion of late. Look for denim brands to get into the game with leather coatings, subversive patches and aggressive metal hardware.
Touted as a quick-growing, carbon-absorbing fiber, hemp is becoming a common ingredient in jeans brands’ capsule collections. The last year alone saw companies like Wrangler parent company Kontoor Brands and AGI Denim ink deals with Panda Biotech, a leading company in the U.S. industrial hemp fiber industry, and brands like Ganni, Levi’s, Unspun and Madewell expand their use of the fiber in cottonized form. Couple these investments with the rising cost of cotton, and hemp may have its strong year in denim yet.
Though embroidery had a strong run in the early 2010s, decorating everything from ankle boots to jean jackets, the technique disappeared as a wave of basic and logo-driven streetwear washed over fashion. That could change in 2022. As handcrafted details like patchwork, crochet and mending become symbols of high-quality, heirloom-worthy pieces, fashion brands will be turning to artisanal techniques like embroidery to spruce up their denim offerings. But beware of cultural appropriation. Brands like Bode have set the tone with embroidery designs bearing personal, storytelling elements.
Fast-fashion’s grip on the consumer wallet is loosening as millennials and Gen Z-ers come to terms with the damaging impact their disposable purchases have on the environment. With more consumers paying closer attention to how products are made, expect to see brands deliver stronger messages about the durability of their jeans by highlighting fabric weights and compositions and implementing strategic details from workwear like reinforced knees and Cordura fibers.
The dress category had a stronghold on the women’s market prior to the pandemic. The prevalence of “Zoom” dressing, however, has shifted the sartorial narrative back to tops. But with more consumers unplugging to attend meetings, parties and brunches in real life, expect to see tops take on a more theatrical and celebratory flair with mesh, ruching, sequins, feathers and cutouts. Denim will be the go-to companion to help dress down and balance these statement-making pieces.
Consumers’ lives are increasingly taking place online, surfacing new financial and creative opportunities for fashion brands to explore nonfungible tokens (NFTs), virtual fashion and gaming. From releasing NFTs to mark the launch of a new product, to creating designer wardrobes for digital avatars, these online concepts are ways for brands to connect with younger demographics most likely to spearhead the shift to the digital community. And companies are investing deeply in the virtual world. Most recently, Diesel’s parent company OTB announced the launch of Brave Virtual Xperience, a new business unit dedicated to developing products for the metaverse.
The face of custom jeans is changing, shifting away from being a service provided only by men’s heritage-focused brands and into one geared toward the women’s market and younger eco-minded consumers. From Candiani Denim’s microfactory in Milan to E.L.V. Denim’s bespoke service in London to digital-first brands like Sene and Unspun widening their audience through collaborations, custom jeans are becoming more accessible and fashionable with a myriad of fits, washes and trims to choose from.
Supply chain issues
Though they have long kept apparel executives awake at night, supply chain issues have entered the zeitgeist. By wreaking havoc on deliveries and costs of everything from apparel, footwear and furniture to paper products, Christmas trees and chicken nuggets, “supply chain issues” have become the meme-worthy scapegoat for all problems as of late, including dating and career growth. Content creators have found a way to poke fun at the crisis, but the issues will continue to influence retail. In fact, Edited described “restocks” as the new “drop” when it comes to new merchandise.
Between traditional, online, social and secondhand retail, consumers are spoiled for choice when it comes to snagging their next purchase, meaning rewards and loyalty programs are bound to become critical tools for retention. Madewell, Levi’s and American Eagle reported success with their programs in 2021, upping the ante with special promotions and access to exclusive products. What constitutes a reward, however, is evolving. Crypto rewards, WGSN reported, are bridging the gap between traditional loyalty systems and the booming cryptocurrency market.
Designer children’s fashion peaked in the 2010s thanks to stylish celebrity parents stepping out with their spawn dressed in “mini-me” looks from labels like Burberry, Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney. Sized-down adult fashion for kids is making a comeback with Off-White, Thom Browne, Frame, Batsheva and more co-signing the trend. Children’s apparel remains the focus for this revival but also expect to see “fur babies” get the designer treatment, if millennial pet parents have their way. Diesel, Fendi, Versace and Moncler already have dog apparel lines covered.