To think consumers will embrace the Spring/Summer 2022 fashion season like it’s 2019 would overlook the toll that dressing for home, safety and comfort for more than a year has taken on their lifestyles.
In a recent webinar hosted by Informa Markets, Sara Maggioni, WGSN head of women’s wear, described some of the key shifts in the women’s wear market and how retailers can prepare for consumers’ new wants and demands.
“Essentially, what we’re looking at is how the post-pandemic lifestyle shifts are going to have an effect on the product that we want to buy,” Maggioni said about the S/S ’22 season.
What does this all mean for fashion? “There is this duality of emotions with risk, fear and uncertainty on one side, but also there is a lot of optimism and desire to wanting to go out again. And this will be reflected in products,” she said.
Dopamine dressing through bright color, tactile fabrics and bold patterns share the stage with hybrid garments that can be dressed up and down and the return of high-low dressing. Cost-per-wear, she added, will be a factor that consumers will increasingly scrutinize going forward.
A sentiment found across apparel, she said, is an “ode to nature.” Even though rediscovering the joy in a slower pace of life and connecting to nature has predominantly been driven by the pandemic, Maggioni said the qualities are “very much here to stay because the consumer has truly realized the physical and mental benefits of being in nature.”
“We appreciate nature even more now, and that’s reflected in the higher demand for planet-friendly fabrics and natural dyes,” she said. “Sustainability remains a priority for the consumer.”
Another imperative message for the season is comfort. “It’s not going to go away—we’ve grown so used to [comfort], it’s crucial now,” she said. “Particularly key is that our lives are a lot more flexible now. Work, home and leisure time is increasingly [blurring] and this is resulting in a more flexible approach to dressing.”
Comfort, however, is no longer about hoodies and joggers only. The next phase of comfort is “embedded” into more polished looks like an elastic waist dress or trouser and more relaxed silhouettes. And the demand for comfort, Maggioni added, is tied to a giant driver in the apparel industry: nostalgia. “We know that in times of uncertainty, we tend to go back to the familiar,” she said.
One category that will look and feel a little different is office wear. “The career wear market, the way we knew it, is not going to be the same as before,” Maggioni said. “It’s all about hybridization and [adding comfort to] categories such as the suit jackets, trousers and underwire bras.”
The balancing act between the casualization of tailoring and the smartening of loungewear will be the sweet spot, she added, and it will be executed in low-maintenance materials, oversized blazers and easy clogs.
Texture and a mixture of mid-tone bright colors will be another theme to watch in a post-pandemic world, serving as a type of therapy to consumers. “It’s an important story to explore botanical dyes, but also think about lush surfaces that add a sense of comfort and protection,” she said, noting that linen, bamboo and lyocell offer antimicrobial benefits.
These qualities will likely appeal to “Freedom Chasers,” a moniker WGSN uses to describe the consumer demographic in the mood to go out and embrace the spirit of summer. Maxi dresses, artisanal textures, joyful prints and bright checks live here. Another wanderlust group, the “Seaside Traveler,” serves up commercial trends, nautical updates and lightweight layers. “It’s about introducing more rustic fabrics, raw textures, braided [details] and fisherman sandals,” Maggioni said.
While lifestyles have been shaken up, there’s still a desire to dress up in extravagant fashion. A “go big or go home” mentality is bubbling up in women’s wear. The sequins, cutouts and bodycon silhouettes that populated F/W 21-22 collections will evolve into voluminous silhouettes, statement accessories and lots of textural interest.
Occasion wear, however, is no longer the volume category as it once was, Maggioni said. Though it’s wise for retailers to pepper in those piece that drive emotion and happiness, she said the real focus for S/S ’22 is back on the versatile lifestyle staples and pieces that evoke uplifting vacation vibes. “Casual glamour,” she added, is the way to go.