Fashion media is rife with headlines about the roaring return of dressing up and going out. The Fall/Winter 21-22 catwalk would have anyone believe that mini-skirts, sequins, and sexy cutouts will be par for the course in women’s wear, and retailers are pushing vacation essentials to the forefront of their stores and email campaigns as Americans pack up and head out this summer.
Gen Z women, however, may have another side to this story to tell.
Despite streetwear figureheads like Virgil Abloh, the Off-White founder turned Louis Vuitton designer, declaring the category on its last legs just months before the global shutdown of 2020, a new report by retail analytics firm Edited finds untapped opportunities in women’s streetwear. The category’s “unflinching resilience in the face of a global pandemic has reinforced its evergreen success,” Edited said.
In the past three months, new online arrivals of streetwear increased 30 percent year-over-year, outpacing 2019’s levels by 3 percent.
The $185 billion category’s innate casualness and roomy fits helped maintained its place in the closets of comfort-obsessed consumers during the pandemic, but there’s more to streetwear than oversized silhouettes that have served as a blanket solution to fashion’s size- and gender-inclusivity issues.
Though women’s streetwear is becoming more accessible—with more products dropping (24 percent compared to last year) and selling out than ever before—Edited said the category is still dominated by men’s wear. Data shows that retailers stocking iconic streetwear brands and luxury designers are dedicating 59 percent and 50 percent more of their assortments to men.
There are variations in the type of products available for men versus women, too. Edited reported that footwear made up 30 percent of new women’s streetwear arrivals and 28 percent of men’s. T-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts as the most invested new arrivals for men, while newness in the women’s segment is being driven by tank tops. Even the number of accessories marketed toward men is outpacing women’s, 8.3 percent versus 6.4 percent, Edited stated.
Retailers prioritizing men’s streetwear over women’s isn’t necessarily a strategic move based on what’s selling. Edited reported that new women’s streetwear products selling out of the majority SKUs are up 47 percent compared to 2019.
From this, key trends in women’s streetwear are bubbling up to the surface.
Influencers are stepping away from the tech-y greens that once dominated streetwear, in favor of joy-inducing shades of orange. Orange soles on sneakers, slides and bucket hats are an “ideal entry-level product to emulate street style,” Edited stated. The color makes a bigger impact on oversized silhouettes or matching lounge sets. In keeping with this dopamine dressing trend, retro ’90s smiley face prints are popping up across streetwear staples like hoodies and bucket hats as well.
In general, the next streetwear trends are intrinsically linked with Gen Z’s fondness for ’90s style. The aforementioned bucket hat, Edited said, has been “renewed for another season following its presence on the runway and the viral success of Prada’s nylon bucket hat.” Slouchy and relaxed jeans also make up this throwback look, with high-waisted, vintage blue washes and ripped knees being among some of the styles with the most commercial success. Puffer coats, backed by ‘It’ labels like Givenchy and Ottolinger, are not going anywhere either.
The recent spike in searches for tennis skirts is indicative of the emerging “tenniscore” trend, which Edited said is “being hailed as the new athleisure.” Retailers can offer the look with tennis whites, polo shirts and pleated skirts. But don’t trade in loungewear just yet. Matching sets, be it track suits or knit coordinates, continue to resonate with comfort-seeking consumers, in addition to fleece and garments with fuzzy textures.
Women’s is just one opportunity awaiting the streetwear category.
“Retailers also can’t ignore the demand from the non-binary demographic and commit to landing styles that translate to all consumers,” Edited said.
Data shows that items described as “gender-neutral,” “genderless” or “unisex” continue to arrive at stores. New arrivals in this market are up 23 percent compared to 2019. However, it’s probably making an even more significant contribution with several labels such as Telfar, Cold Laundry and Rastah creating streetwear that is not categorized by gender, Edited noted.
“The spending power of non-binary consumers in this space combined with 56 percent of Gen Z shopping outside of their assigned gendered area further underscores the importance of this demographic in streetwear,” Edited said.