The world of sourcing is in a state of transition.
Tried-and-true economic models began to transform in 2018 as world superpowers like the U.S. and China became entangled in a trade war.
Meanwhile, technology continued to change the way brands and retailers think about their businesses—and each new day brought Industry 4.0 closer to the present.
Throughout the year, Sourcing Journal reported on the most important news in apparel sourcing. Here’s a list of the top 20 most-read stories of 2018.
Our most-read piece in 2018 covered Industry 4.0 and its potential to bring global value chains closer to consumers. A.T. Kearney released a study called “Competing in the Age of Multi-Localism” in September that revealed how Industry 4.0 technologies like A.I., robotics, augmented and virtual reality and 3-D printing will begin to change the way complex supply chains function in the future.
New York’s Fashion Week is always big news at Sourcing Journal and 2018 was no exception. We looked to fashion analytics firm, Edited, to help decode the biggest trends seen during the event. Some of the more notable trends featured “weird” denim, cargo pants, animal prints, square necklines and sustainability-conscious natural materials.
This runway roundup covered the biggest trends from top designers leading up to Spring ’19. Chunky sneakers don’t appear to be going away anytime soon but luxury designers—along with chunky sneaker specialist, Fila—tried their hands at designing stilettos for the upcoming spring season on fall runways. Other brands, like Marc Jacobs and Chanel, added transparent elements to their footwear collections and Louis Vuitton, Richard Quinn and Alexander McQueen decked high-heels with metal spurs, steel capped toes and witchy buckles.
The year was dominated by streetwear and athleisure trends, and its safe to say, as the executive VP of TOBE, Leslie J. Ghize, did in this feature, that the trends are a “movement, not a moment.” 2018 was the year venerated design houses like Gucci, Balenciaga and Chanel began embracing hip-hop and streetwear influences, even going so far as to release highly-desired sneaker drops like their counterparts at Adidas and Nike. Collaborations between luxury houses and streetwear brands also became commonplace over the last 12 months.
Fashion Snoops told Sourcing Journal what we might see in upcoming Spring/Summer 2020 collections, and it turns out some of the top trends might already be thousands of years old. Defined as carrying a “prehistoric steampunk vibe” the Genesis trend story from Fashion Snoops was defined by “primitive aesthetics, fossilized textures” and “a renewed focus on invention and exploration.”
In an editorial by Sourcing Journal president, Edward Hertzman, tries to find answers for a fashion industry that has been hit hard by online sales from Amazon and other digitally-native retailers. He writes of changes in the luxury sector, the “Wayfair effect” (i.e.. the tendency for new brands to flame out after explosive, yet unsustainable, growth) and older retailers that skirt profitability due to store closures and downsizing without updating a failing business model.
One of the biggest stories in trade throughout 2018 was the trade war between the U.S. and China, which injected a great deal of uncertainty into world markets, and in the apparel industry. It was a year of developments on the tariff front and the initial announcement received quite a bit of fanfair. Although a 90-day trade war truce is currently in effect, uncertainty is still expected it.
The top footwear brands have a habit of perpetually suing each other for the innovations and advancements that eventually become commonplace in the footwear world. Nike’s Flyknit, for example, was copied early and often and that is one of the technologies Nike took issue with when it sued Puma in May.
ZeroTie specializes in a “hand’s free” experience when it comes to putting on shoes. A patented mechanism in ZeroTie footwear allows users to put the shoe on and activate a wheel installed in the heel to tighten the “laces.” The founder of ZeroTie came up with the idea when he witnessed his mother struggle to lace up her shoes due to chronic arthritis, and the rest is history.
The whole world was put on notice when the #MeToo movement took hold, and apparel makers were not exempt. One of the primary casualties in retail was Victoria’s Secret, long known for marketing its intimates with dreamy, but perhaps unrealistic, portrayals of women. This article explores the depth of the movement’s effect on the retailer, in particular, the loss of mindshare among young women.
Using technology to solve sizing issues was among the top trends in tech in 2018 and Amazon would not be left out. This year, the company started using facilities acquired from Body Labs in 2017 to create a 3-D scanning operation that collects data on the human body using volunteers. As returns pile high, businesses have begun to look for new answers and sizing technology could play a large role for apparel companies in the future.
In another story involving the retail giant from Seattle, Amazon might have given some clues to the industry regarding the future of production by registering multiple patents in the field of on-demand apparel production technologies. Sourcing Journal spoke to several brands in the field to find out what that means for the industry, going forward, and what to expect from the technology once it gets here.
Nat-2 is a high-end German sneaker brand that prides itself in creating the most sustainable shoes around. It took it up another notch in 2018 when it released a collection of sustainable shoes made from coffee grounds, grass clippings, recovered wood and fabric created from stone. The company also won Peta’s Vegan Fashion Award in 2018 for its innovative product design.
To prepare for its 2020 footwear show in Milan, MICAM released a very early list of trends to watch. It used three stories to make its point, “Purpose Full,” “Freestyle” and “Light Magic.” The first story, “Purpose Full,” combines nostalgia with comfort for a deadly mix of emotional and physical appeal while “Freestyle” capitalizes on the world’s thirst for newness and innovation. Finally, “Light Magic” takes cues from the rise of spiritual wellness to create a trend full of romance and embellishment.
In April, before the trade war had fully blossomed, the U.S. released a list of the products it said would be targeted by Chinese tariffs once the country retaliated. The list of 1,300 products that would be slapped with up to 25 percent in tariffs was one of the first developments in a year full of protectionist policies in trade.
Teens may be the most important demographic to look to when it comes to the future of footwear, and this year Piper Jaffray took note of that in its “Taking Stock with Teens” survey. The survey found that once-discarded brands like Vans and Crocs saw a mindshare resurgence among Generation Z in 2018. Additionally, the survey found that young people increasingly prefer athletic footwear, despite Nike losing ground to streetwear brands.
Since 2016 and the election of Donald Trump, bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. has been a common talking point. However, McKinsey & Company makes a case in its report, titled “Is Apparel Manufacturing Coming Home?” that automation and other technologies that increase efficiency may end up bringing manufacturing back home anyway. The report was released during the Sourcing Journal Summit in New York this October.
Sourcing Journal got an early look at Nike’s new flagship on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The brand-new flagship takes retail to a new level, thanks to a personalized shopping experience and a cashier-less checkout system that lets customers scan barcodes using Nike’s SNKR app to purchase products on the fly. Nike also designed one of its floors to function as a sneaker production “museum,” with exhibits that show fans how their favorite footwear gets made.
In Fashion Snoops’ second appearance on this list, Sourcing Journal takes a look at their Spring/Summer 2020 trend story, “Flash.” The premise is simple, “What if we took all of the terrible ideas out of ’80s fashion nostalgia and just kept the good ones?” The result is a trend story that focuses on dressed-up glam outfits, dreamy home interiors and opulent styles for both men and women.
Millennials are supposed to be the generation most concerned with sustainability and conservation—but it turns out the numbers don’t exactly back that up. A report from LIM College, authored by professors Robert Conrad and Dr. Kenneth M. Kambara, titled “Shopping Trends Among 18-37 Year-Olds,” found that millennials tend to prefer brand name and uniqueness over sustainability.