Following “years of rapid industry, technological and social acceleration,” consumers are looking to embrace ethically and ecologically sound production practices, a recent WGSN survey found. In fact, 46 percent of consumers somewhat agree and 38 percent strongly agree that their purchasing patterns impact climate change.
“This is in a backdrop of extreme uncertainty, and there’s a lot of economic and global and political drivers that could slow sustainability down,” WGSN head of materials, knits and textiles Helen Palmer said at a webinar on Thursday. Despite those headwinds, consumers continue to demonstrate an interest in making more environmentally friendly choices.
“Consumers really do expect brands to put forward solutions to help them do better, such as initiating take-back schemes for end-of-life recycling, as well as repair,” Palmer added. “We are starting to see the industry really galvanize around this,” with programs that lengthen a product’s life cycle taking shape across the sector, she said. “Getting the consumer activated in this is a really important step forward as a part of circularity.”
WGSN’s social data also showed consumers’ burgeoning interest in materials and sourcing. Searches for organic cotton, for example, have increased 113 percent year over year. Meanwhile, queries for deadstock fabric increased 117 percent, according to insights from Lyst. Fall 2023-2024 could usher in a phenomenon that WGSN calls the “Caring Economy,” which sees consumers deeply integrating their social and environmental values into their purchasing decisions, Palmer said.
Brands will be expected to offer adaptive, inclusive and versatile clothing while ethically working with artisans and suppliers. “We’re also tracking the fact that younger generations of consumers particularly expect brands they buy from to champion social causes, avoid cultural appropriation and work with makers transparently and fairly,” she said. Data taken from a Vogue survey showed that 68 percent of Gen Z shoppers would like the brands they buy from to support social causes, and 69 percent encourage brands to work more with local artisans.
Changes in values may also prompt brands and designers to shift their own product development strategies, Palmer said. WGSN pinpointed about 25 key color ways—a departure from its usual lineup of 50—with some that it believes will remain in the core palette for a number of seasons. “We’re developing quite a lot of trans-seasonal, transitional colors, which can carry from one season to the next,” she said. “The reason why we’re doing this is to really protect our supply chains to make sure that colors have some longevity, so we’re not just inviting constant newness.”
Some colors with staying power include “warm, neutral tones” like Italian clay, oat milk and chalk, which “can be very adaptable across different fibers and different materials and textiles,” and can serve as a base for seasonal additions.
The cross-seasonal focus on earthy neutrals will give way to one of the year’s top styling trends, “natural craft”—a focus on crochet knits, homespun weaves and embroideries and vintage styling filtering across separates, shirting, loungewear and accessories, WGSN said. “Cozy surfaces” like brushed fleece, crepe wools, felted flannel and boucle will be seen throughout the fall season on knits, outerwear and accessories.
Spring styling will see a reimagined version of “sartorial tailoring,” with a new focus on comfort and ease-of-wear that blends business with leisure. WGSN data shows that consumer chatter around checked patterns has grown by 31 percent year over year. “Relaxed stripes” could become a trend all their own, it said, in a breezy summer story that incorporates softly laundered finishes with sun-faded colors. Meanwhile, the influence of the ‘90s and early aughts continues on with the “everyday sheen” trend of silky, shiny apparel and accessories made from satins and sateens. In the winter season, brands may add drama to their silhouettes with “padded volume”—hyper-padded coats, jackets and activewear with exaggerated quilting.