Fashion trends come and go, but the zeitgeist of savvy consumers who see the clothes they wear as an expression of their lives and values is here to stay.
It’s also bound to change the face of the industry, as gone are the days when a consumer’s choice of clothes is shaped purely by fads or the desire to look good. In contrast, today’s consumers feel an affinity with brands that embody the things they believe in and complement their lifestyles.
And those lifestyles increasingly include spending more time at home, which means consumers are opting more and more for comfort.
The rise of comfort
Four billion people around the world are now connected to the internet, and many of them use it for more than just browsing. The convenience of online shopping has heralded a sizeable increase in online retail, with web-based shopping platforms from Amazon to Zalora accounting for 12.1% of retail sales in the Asia-Pacific region in 2017. The global e-commerce market is estimated to be worth $2.3 trillion.
With online stores delivering everything from furniture to clothing to groceries, consumers have fewer reasons to step outside their houses. According to entrepreneur.com, 51 percent of all Americans and 67 percent of millennials prefer online to offline shopping.
It may not be a coincidence that, at the same time, sales of comfortable yet chic home clothes, or luxury loungewear, have grown.
“It’s a lifestyle choice: a statement that consumers are practical and busy, but want to be beautiful and extravagant at the same time,” says British knitwear designer Madeleine Thompson.
The rise of luxury loungewear is also seen as a response to the varied lifestyles of modern consumers who expect clothing to be comfortable and versatile enough to accommodate their hectic schedules without compromising on style.
In 2017, cashmere joggers continued to be best-sellers at the luxury department store, Harrods. At MatchesFashion.com, sales of sweatpants are up more than 300 percent year-on-year. British retailer Selfridges has seen sales of premium loungewear grow 30 percent year-on-year, while sales of cashmere loungewear pieces have doubled.
Marrying style with comfort, clothes that are made using Tencel Lyocell are known for looking and feeling luxurious. They up the style factor by exhibiting a sleek, sumptuous sheen and deeper, richer color compared to other fabrics. More absorbent than cotton, softer than silk and cooler than linen, Tencel Lyocell also feels good, providing long-lasting softness to help skin stay pleasantly cool and dry through the day and night.
Consumers crave functional, ethical fashion
Fashion is becoming next-level functional, with consumers seeking comfortable, fuss-free styles that adapt to the moment and can travel anywhere with them.
Consumers today live in busier cities, travel more and have increasingly varied and flexible work lives.
As the clothing industry innovates and consumers become more informed on health and wellness, it’s a natural progression to expect consumers will require even more from the apparel industry, just as the versatility of activewear has grown in response to demands from the athleisure fashion consumer.
And with more consumers becoming eco-conscious, shoppers no longer just buy a product—they buy its entire history and everything it represents. Still, they can feel limited by choice in a clothing industry that produces some 100 million tons of fibers each year, of which synthetics are expected to be more than 98 percent of future fiber production, according to petrochemical analytics firm, Tecnon Orbichem.
With the war on plastics today, consumers who seek style and comfort that don’t come at the expense of the environment can feel good about buying clothing made from fibers with less environmental impact. As a fiber of botanic origin, Tencel is extracted from the cellulose found in wood pulp, and its production process is more eco-friendly than other fibers in terms of water, land and chemical output. Using a special ‘closed-loop system’ that was recognized by the European Union with an European Award for the Environment, 99.7 percent of the chemicals and solvents used to make Tencel fibers are recovered and recycled with minimal waste and very low emissions.
Just like the busy and aspirational lives they lead, consumers want clothes that work as hard as they do and are durable, comfortable, timeless and eco-friendly. Increasingly, the apparel industry is offering up sustainable options to help satisfy that demand.
Based in Lenzing’s Taiwan office, Judy Chen has been with Lenzing for 18 years. She spent the first 10 years as marketing manager until moving into her role as head of the Innerwear segment, developing key relationships between the supply chain and brands.