A look back indicates that 2019 was the year sourcing became fashionable.
The pursuit of transparent, sustainable and ethical sourcing is now par for the course in the fashion industry. Sourcing Journal has covered and analyzed the biggest supply chain, trend and trade stories from around the world.
Here are Sourcing Journal’s top 20 most-read stories of the year.
One of the biggest, most influential trend stories of the year was the rapid resurgence of the ’90s in the fashion cycle. N0stalgia was the rule of the day and brands and retailers scrambled to capitalize on the most popular styles from the era of chunky sneakers, double denim and bold, street-style colorways.
Baggie jeans, neon colors, tie-dye and platform shoes all came back from the dead in 2019 to become the same culture-moving trends they were 20 years ago. One of the most significant trends was the return of subculture fashion from skate and goth brands. What’s more, ’90s nostalgia is showing no signs of slowing down.
At Texworld USA in June, MintModa founder and creative director Sharon Graubard relayed the six trends most likely to influence fashion for Fall/Winter 2020. The biggest takeaway from the presentation was a growing interest in high-quality garments and accessories that could eventually become heirloom pieces worthy of being passed down to future generations. Most importantly, they need to be sustainable and produced with an awareness of their impact on the environment.
“Bougie” living will have an impact in 2020, according to Graubard, and the lines between luxury and streetwear will continue to be blurred as both trend stories mature. Tailored clothing will become more common after years of fast-fashion and standard sizing. Styles taken directly from noir cinema will once again be prevalent (with a twist of femme fatale) and outdoor styles will mix with activewear to become the epitome of versatility, MintModa said.
In June, the Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors to win their first NBA championship, led by superstar forward Kawhi Leonard. The athletic marvel has had an outsize influence in the world of sneakers, as well, thanks to his idiosyncratic personality and maverick decision to move to New Balance after first signing a sneaker sponsorship deal with Jordan Brand. Since then, Leonard has been the perfect spokesperson for the Boston brand, giving New Balance an entry into the world of basketball while staying true to its workman aesthetic.
In May, Puma released the LQD CELL collection, oozing nostalgia, chunkiness and a healthy dash of performance. Puma always looks to put performance first—and this collection was no exception. The release reintroduced the brand’s hexagonal CELL cushioning that is both a visible element of the shoe and a significant element of its OG Superfly II silhouette released decades prior. One of the defining factors of performance footwear in 2019 was the melding of the genre with fashion silhouettes, something the LQD CELL represents well.
Following the retail bloodbath over the past two years, with more than 5,000 locations shuttered in 2017 and 2018 apiece, the carnage continued throughout 2019. This year, Coresight Research predicted store closures would be up by 23 percent over the previous 12 months, indicating the retail landscape was still surviving a period of tumult and change. Not only that, but the nature of closures began to change. Retailers no longer looked to simply close down poorly performing stores; they looked to lower their store count in general, as consumer behaviors continue to bolster online sales.
As the threat of tariffs loomed large throughout 2019, the effects a prolonged trade war and increased duties captivated an paralyzed the fashion industry. No sector was more affected by this uncertainty more than footwear, which already labors under high import duties. In May, the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) indicated that the Trump administration’s tariff proposal at the time would cost the industry about $300 billion more in duties, passing down $7 billion in increased footwear costs to consumers.
In 2017, the legendary White Oak mill in North Carolina announced it would be ceasing production after more than a century producing American-made denim, significantly limiting the already-low production of denim in the United States. However, a deal with local investor Will Dellinger brought Cone Denim’s mill out of retirement in April and back into production.
While the FDRA warned of increasing sourcing costs for footwear brands that produce in China, the world’s largest athletic brand seemed to shrug off any supply chain worries related to tariffs in 2019. Nike has been diversifying and preparing for a diversified global supply chain over the past decade. It helps that China and Southeast Asia are among Nike’s fastest-growing markets and ripe for expansion. Whatever the outside circumstances, Nike always seems to stay one step ahead in the supply chain.
Each generation seems to have a decade of fashion nostalgia it holds in high regard. However, according to some experts, millennials have attached themselves to the trends of the past in a way that previous generations did not. What’s more, some of the biggest millennial fashion trends were significantly influenced by eras that preceded the birth of the generation in the ’80s. One thing is certain—millennials have earned their reputation as the “nostalgia generation.”
One of the most significant casualties in the retail shakeout that took place in 2019 was the culling of Forever 21. While the retailer didn’t shut down until later in the year, rumors began swirling in June that its days were numbered. At the time, one restructuring expert called the retailer “too big to fail” as it looked to negotiate with lenders and landlords to stay afloat. Even though the expert believed Forever 21 held significant leverage to work out deals, the retailer fell nonetheless.
Rumors began to swirl around luxury department store icon Barneys New York in July when Sourcing Journal got the scoop that it was having trouble making payroll—indicating a complete collapse could be imminent. The luxury retailer brushed it off as a technical snafu but eventually filed for bankruptcy and is currently in the throes of closing-down sales.
Throughout the year, the trade war between the United States and China was front-page news for more than just the fashion industry. After decades of building up the relationship between American businesses and Chinese production, it appeared the U.S. government, under the influence of President Trump, was dead set on continuing to escalate the trade war. In August, Trump expressed his desire for U.S. businesses to completely leave the country as China raised retaliatory import duties of its own.
Shortly before China clapped back, President Trump’s administration limited the list of items that would see their duties increase under a Sept. 1 tariff increase. However, unfortunately for the fashion industry, most of the items that remained on the list fell under the apparel and footwear categories. Items like men’s and women’s outerwear, formal suits, footwear and baby clothing remained on the list, despite the fact the administration appeared to be interested in limiting the effect tariffs had on Christmas sales.
Much of the trade war business conducted in 2019 was broadcast on Twitter and in May, it was no different. In a tweet, President Trump said he would be raising tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent. This came after a “tariff freeze” that lasted several months prior to the escalation, with some claiming a deal was close to done. But at this stage in the negotiation, the president expressed his desire to continue trade discussions under higher duties.
One of the defining footwear trends in 2019 was a growing desire to source and produce footwear with a variety of different materials, perhaps none more interesting and unexpected than German brand Nat-2’s spoiled milk sneaker, composed of proteins derived from milk no longer fit for consumption. The silk-like and bacteria-resistant material is tough enough to stand up to the rigors typical of footwear, Nat-2 claims.
There might have been no more significant an influencer than American-born British royalty Meghan Markle in 2019. In February, Lyst found that Veja was one of the top-trending footwear brands as the Duchess of Sussex was frequently spotted wearing the sustainable footwear brand’s eco-friendly sneakers. According to Lyst, searches for the brand rose by 113 percent after she was snapped in the shoes.
For Spring/Summer 2020, MintModa sees an influx of work, travel and sustainable trends as the ones to watch in the early part of the new year. Other trend stories include “Little House on the Prairie” vibes and dream-like trends pulled straight from Memphis movement of the ’70s and ’80s.
Nine West Holdings inc. applied for bankruptcy in 2018 but saw brighter days in 2019 as it exited Chapter 11 as the Premier Brands Group following the sale of assets related to Nine West footwear and handbags to ABG for $340 million the previous year. Premier Brands Group now consists of One Jeanswear Group, The Jewelry Group, Kasper Group and Anne Klein.
In N0vember, after all the twists and turns of the U.S.-China trade war, the two nations agreed to a phased tariff rollback, sparing apparel and footwear from the effects of further duty escalation. The first phase consisted of an agreement to simultaneously remove new import duties on products added to tariff lists throughout the year, to the relief of the fashion industry.
As tariffs became an unavoidable issue, Gap Inc. CEO and president Art Peck (now resigned), said the company would significantly cut Chinese sourcing in June as it looked to capitalize on its split with Old Navy and reduce its vulnerability to the ongoing trade war.