Consumers in the U.S. and U.K. are bidding adieu to their couches and pandemic sweats.
While comfort continues to be a factor in fashion purchases, retail analytics firm Edited’s report on the bestselling trends of Q2 reveals how consumers were preparing to dress for major lifestyle changes prior to the Delta variant touching down. Compared to the top trends of Q2 2020, which centered around color and pattern, Q2 2021’s bestselling trends and product categories were geared toward dressing for work, school, travel and other occasions.
Whether U.S. consumers will have an opportunity to wear these trends in social environments remains to be seen as states and cities begin to establish new health and safety precautions. It does, however, shed light on the types of products consumers are itching to wear.
Here’s a look at the items that carried the apparel market during the past quarter.
Who would have thought that the demise of skinny jeans, arguably the most popular style for the past decade, would be positive for the denim sector, let alone at a time when it was deeply depressed by the loungewear boom? Following Gen Z’s TikTok takedown of millennials’ favorite “cheugy” staple, and word from category heavyweights at Levi’s and American Eagle that consumers are showing interest in looser fits, denim is coming out of lockdown with a new look and vibe.
The numbers back up the buzz. “Denim has officially usurped loungewear,” Edited stated. “New styles landing across the U.S. and U.K. market online are [up] 60 percent with sell outs rising 15 percent year-over-year.”
The category’s new look is rooted in nostalgia. Vintage blue washes and knee rips were prevalent on top selling styles. “This will remain an overarching theme in denim’s future, with acid washes appearing both on the Fall 2021 women’s runway and the recent men’s Spring 2022 shows,” Edited stated.
In women’s, more relaxed fits outsold skinnies by 65 percent, and wide-leg and flares all moved well, despite lower investment, Edited said. Denim shorts are also seeing an upswing, with investment in the summer-ready item up 97 percent during the quarter.
But don’t count skinny jeans out just yet. Edited reported that investment in women’s skinny and straight leg styles for Q2 remain consistent, and skinny “reigned supreme” in men’s wear, equaling over half of new jean styles and emerging as the top-performing fit.
While there’s no denying the impact Gen Z is having on the denim’s future, the cohort’s vote for low-rise jeans may be premature. Though brands like PrettyLittleThing and &OtherStories introduced the Y2K trend to their assortments in Q2, low-rise jeans accounted for a scant 1 percent of jeans arrivals, while high-rise jeans dominated at 86 percent. “Waistlines aren’t budging,” Edited stated.
Surf and sand are beckoning consumers. As travel reopens, men and women are refreshing their vacay wardrobes. The number of new swimwear styles selling out the majority of SKUs year-over-year elevated 194 percent for men’s wear and 56 percent for women’s wear, Edited reported.
The Coconut Girl aesthetic that bubbled up in the spring, the social media-born trend for Hawaiian prints and boardshorts, alluded to the pent-up demand for beachwear. Printed swim shorts, bikinis with strappy waist ties, one-pieces with tie fronts, high-cut silhouettes and citrus hues continue to perform well, Edited stated.
This nostalgic/touristic theme is a leap away from the stylized jet-set aesthetic forged by millennial-centric brands like Cult Gaia in the years prior to the pandemic. But consumers, in general, have a more domestic outlook on vacation wear. A recent report from Money.co.uk that analyzed Pinterest board data found that Florida is the U.S. destination serving the most style inspiration.
Momentum for swimwear and accoutrements is unlikely to wane after the summer. “Consumers will also be wanting to chase the winter sun and extend vacations to make up for having been robbed of travel in 2020,” Edited stated. “This will make swim and resort wear a particularly lucrative category and create a longer selling season.”
For Q2, men’s vacation shirts saw a 109 percent increase year-over-year in majority SKU sell outs while kaftans had a 41 percent increase in investment.
The house dress—the puff sleeve, poplin, smocked bodice, tiered skirt cottagecore confection—was not just a pandemic anomaly born out of dressing for comfort or Zoom meetings but instead spoke to consumers’ pent-up desire to dress up and feel feminine again. Though casual day dresses rose in popularity in 2020, retailers’ overall SKU count of formal and occasion wear pieces plummeted “in an attempt to limit inefficient stock liabilities,” Edited stated.
The category, however, is rebounding just as quickly as social calendars are filling up. Interest in dresses for Q2 bounced back, with the number of new arrivals selling out up 37 percent year-over-year, according to Edited data.
The resurgence of dresses is also having a positive impact on footwear. “While comfort remains a driving factor in footwear, the resurgence of dresses propelled sell outs of high heels up 85 percent versus last year, “Edited stated.
Flowy Scandi cool-girl dresses continue to be popular choices for hot summer days, but consumers are looking to pack some heat into their look. Bodycon silhouettes, ruching, ties, keyhole details and ’90s-style slip dresses from influencer-beloved brands like House of Sunny and Princess Polly have gained cult-like followings from Gen Z and millennial consumers. Sell outs for new mini silhouettes were up 88 percent compared to 2020, while dresses with cut-out details surged 453 percent.
What consumers are not going back to though, at least for now, is the LBD. In line with reports from WGSN and Lyst about the rise of “dopamine dressing,” Edited said sell outs for dresses in shades of green—the surprise color of the year—continue to outpace sales of black dresses. The House of Sunny Hockney abstract pattern stretch knit midi dress in “lily pads palm green,” a dress that went viral after Kendall Jenner wore it last year, has helped the retro shade land on consumers’ radar.
Fashion trends are evolving, but how consumers shop is not. With online shopping sticking around, investing in e-commerce is “critical” to post-pandemic survival, Edited stated.
Recent data from Syte, an AI-powered visual product discovery platform, echoes this sentiment, underscoring the importance of mobile shopping. The first six months of 2021 were marked by a “dramatic upswing” in mobile purchases, Syte reported.
Whereas last year, purchases made on mobile devices and tablets accounted for 61.4 percent of total apparel transactions, in 2021, that number shot up to 79.5 percent. And momentum for mobile is likely to grow now that consumers will be shopping on the go.
Traditional desktop shopping, however, offers retailers more financial rewards. The average order value on desktop ($94) is 17.5 percent higher than purchases made through mobile ($80), and average revenue per session is 82.6 percent higher for desktop ($4.06) versus mobile ($2.23).
“Despite the vast majority of transactions now taking place on mobile, it’s clear that shoppers still feel more comfortable spending in larger amounts when using their desktop computers,” Syte stated.