Consumer products, style, technology and the environment are intricately connected and never more so than during a pandemic, a period that continues to put people and businesses in a state of flux.
Themes in consumer behavior and product development, however, are emerging for 2022, according to trend forecasting firm WGSN. Informed by WGSN’s unique methodology, the top trends that span transportation and food to beauty and textiles provide a glimpse into the future.
“WGSN’s research methodology allows us to identify the signals of change and evaluate, verify and forecast the trends that will impact the immediate and long-term future of industries,” said Lisa White, WGSN creative director and director of interiors. “We don’t just track the past and extrapolate it into the future, we actively forecast future influences on the consumer, product design and trading, all through a sustainable lens.”
Here’s a look at the themes brands and retailers need to know for 2022.
The forecast shows an increasingly digital world.
Avatars, the graphical online representation of a person, will have sharper wardrobes. “The age of the avatar has begun, and our avatars need something to wear,” WGSN said. Expect to see direct-to-avatar commerce (or D2A), a new retail model that offers brands an additional revenue stream by selling and designing directly for the avatar, pick up steam in 2022.
The category is already gaining high-profile attention. The British Fashion Council launched this year a new award for metaverse design, while brands like Vans, Moschino, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Burberry have all created digital fashion for various gaming platforms. OTB, the parent company of Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Jil Sander, Viktor & Rolf and Amiri, recently debuted Brave Virtual Xperience (BVX), a new business unit dedicated to developing products for the metaverse. The venture will reportedly help the company generate new business opportunities and connect with younger demographics most likely to spearhead the shift to the digital community.
While loyalty programs have proven successful for denim brands like Madewell and Gap, the rewards are evolving. Crypto rewards, WGSN reported, are bridging the gap between traditional loyalty systems and the booming cryptocurrency market.
How consumers get to retailers may change as well. Flying taxis, or more commonly known as autonomous urban air mobility (UAM), are emerging thanks to advancements in technology, WGSN stated. Ongoing traffic congestion in urban areas and Covid-19 disruptions in travel will drive this trend as travelers seek more private forms of transportation.
One quality that will not go out of style in 2022 is comfort.
In home, expect to see plusher and more tufted product. “The crafting boom has seen an explosion of tufted textures, a technique generally used in quilting or upholstery where fabric is secured to some sort of backing by either pulling threads through at regular intervals or attaching buttons,” WGSN stated. “The trend links to the unique, expressive design statements that Millennials and Gen Z consumers are looking for.”
The technique is mimicked by fashion houses as well. Acne Studios, Akris and Balmain are among the labels that have added the cushy element to their Spring/Summer 2022 collections.
Though cotton has long been the go-to fiber for comfortable products, WGSN said bast fiber crops are set to grow as the fashion industry looks to diversify away from the fiber. This fiber group, which includes, flax (or linen), hemp and jute, supports renewable agricultural practices that can help the soil capture carbon. The traditionally cotton-rich denim category has been an early adopter of these fibers. In 2021 alone, Unspun, Pangaia, Madewell, Levi’s and AG have introduced hemp, or expanded their use of the fiber, in their jean collections.
Interest in natural fibers, however, doesn’t negate buzz building in performance-driven apparel, especially designs that enhance the wearer’s comfort. WGSN sees designers integrating technology, such as climate control, into everyday items. “For performance and athletics, brands are designing products that reduce body heat so that wearers can maintain comfortable temperatures while exercising,” WGSN stated.
Protecting the environment and conserving water resources will be top of mind for product developers.
The denim industry knows this well, churning out solutions to reduce water usage from fiber to finishing. The urgency to embrace new waterless technologies will be felt across industries in 2022, including hygiene products.
“Product innovations will help reduce water usage and offer hygiene solutions to the one in 10 people worldwide unable to access clean water,” WGSN stated. “An evolution of waterless beauty and BYOW (bring your own water) products, waterless washing products need no water and are part of the new hygiene approach.”
The beauty category stands for a natural update as well. Driven by Korean and Japanese markets, WGSN said the “desire for potent ingredients that last longer” is driving interest in fermented beauty, or kombucha, for the skin. With naturally occurring bacterias that prolong the shelf life of formulas, fermented beauty products appeal to both the sustainably minded and value-focused consumer.
Another popular ingredient from Japan, koji, will step into the spotlight in 2022. As Japan’s “national fungus,” WGSN said the “highly versatile ingredient” has been popular with chefs food and drinks. Koji often serves as a sodium replacement in plant-based meat.
While outdoor activities like gardening became a quarantine hobby in 2020, WGSN expects to see consumers go a step further by bring more outdoor elements like plants into their homes. “Taking plant parenting and biophilic design to the next level, in 2022 more people will want to bring nature indoors by growing a tree in their homes, or at least on their balcony,” WGSN stated.
Consumers will still spend time outside, and for this they will be looking for versatile layering pieces. “The rush to embrace outdoor lifestyles, aka the outdoor boom, means consumers are extending their ventures across seasons, with warmer performance layers for surf, beach and bike days becoming essential,” WGSN stated.