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Cotton Activewear Trends Pull from Nature, Futurism for 2020 Season

Anthropocene: a word not often used, and certainly not in conjunction with cotton activewear.

But it was the word of the day at Cotton Incorporated’s Activewear Trend Forecast for 2020-2021, which took place at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market on Tuesday.

Speaking about the trends quietly percolating in the space, senior trend forecaster Jenna Caccavo described two disparate aesthetic worlds that will be making their way to mainstream retail.

The first trend, deemed “Faux Real,” explores the relationship between man, technology and nature.

At the heart of the trend is the word anthropocene, which by definition is “the current geological era that we live in today,” Caccavo told Sourcing Journal. Humans have become a dominant force over the climate and the environment, she said, and our impact on the world is making its way into the way we dress.

“It’s the way these relationships between man and nature and design are formulating a new aesthetic,” she explained. The trend manifests in the manipulation of colors, textures and patterns found in the natural world, giving them a futuristic or bio-engineered spin. In addition to dusty neutrals, the trend also incorporates stunning brights and pastels.

It’s as if designers have hacked nature, taking organic effects like marbling and irregular textures and infusing them with saturated, manufactured colors.

Textile designers will also play with the way cotton fabrics behave, experimenting with uneven slubs and serrated surfaces that are reminiscent of jagged rocks, sandy beaches and pebbled or degraded textures. Inconsistent, primitive-looking patterns will dominate the trend, incorporating ombre effects, pleated weaves and watercolor motifs.

According to Caccavo, the other trend dominating cotton activewear plays to the other end of the spectrum.

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Manifesting in a more relaxed, minimalist aesthetic, “On the Mend” is inspired by the movement championing self-care and recovery on both an emotional and physical level.

The trend is like apparel’s take on hygge: comfy, cozy fabrics that encourage relaxation and provide a respite from exercise or stress. Fabrics are soft and supple, with clean lines and subtle, elegant details like quilting (often in unexpected shapes or patterns) and corseting on activewear, highlighting the body’s curves and contours.

Far from sleepy, however, “On the Mend” pulls in whimsical aesthetic elements, like slightly iridescent finishes and unexpected textural treatments.

Caccavo showcased cotton fabrics that were brushed to feel like “peach skin” or cashmere, and pastel fabrics with an “effervescent undertone that really changes the language that you see them in.”