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The latest | Clothing | TrendsFor the past 20 years a group of designers from different countries and cultures have been meeting annually as the IDEAS design group to produce a fashion trend and colour forecast book.
March 2016

Technology, sport style, and

gender blurring set the trends

Athleisure styles now also rule the high fashion catwalks, wearable technologies built into clothes and shoes, and baby pink colours worn by rugged men, are just a few of the trends spotted at recent fashion and industry shows, or in the style books of trend forecasters

Less consumer spending on clothing, customers demanding customised products at faster speeds, pricing pressures and production inflation are a few of the challenges the global clothing industry can expect in 2016, Leonie Barrie, editor of online news site, identified in an article titled Outlook 2016 — Apparel industry challenges and opportunities.

She asked a dozen global industry experts from companies like VF Corp, the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel, the chairman of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, general secretary of the International Apparel Federation, etc. for their views.

Most of them agreed that economic factors — especially volatile currency fluctuations against a strong dollar and unpredictable commodity costs — will result in pressure on pricing, which could be a major challenge for the industry across the world.

They also advise that retailers should keep an eye on the shift to online shopping and manufacturers on new sourcing destinations opening through various free trade agreements. Sustainability, fair labour and social compliance will continue to be standards consumers will expect from manufacturers.

Sports and outdoor brands can, however, expect a bit of a reprieve from the economic gloom as one of the main fashion trends seen on catwalks across the world is a fusion of sport and high fashion. For the past few years athleisure clothing and footwear have been on a roll as more and more consumers wear performance brands as office- and leisurewear. Now, high fashion brands are turning to traditional sports and outdoor design elements for inspiration.

New York Fashion Week

Any doubt that athleisure is the new high fashion was dispelled by the dominance of sportswear on the catwalk at this year’s New York Fashion Week — whether the ranges were called streetwear, athleisure or sportswear, reports trend forecaster WSGN’s Sarah Owen.

Open toe slides from Fila and Kanye West’s compression leggings for adidas were teamed with high fashion velvet pants or boots. Rihanna showed her collaborative designs for PUMA. “We can take the direction of Rihanna and she can lead us from a fashion point of view,” commented PUMA CEO Björn Gulden. “Then we can come behind that with technology and performance and merge them together. From there the consumer decides if she’s wearing it for performance or if she’s wearing it for leisure.”

Athleisure at Magic

The organisers of Magic Vegas, one of America’s biggest footwear and apparel trade shows held in February each year, also identified sports-inspired fashion as one of the biggest trends across all categories. Several fashion brands showed the athleisure influence with ranges inspired by active performance lifestyle and urban looks.

“Utility and function turn modern and minimalist through the use of pure, soft and padded fabrics,” Magic officials described the Sports Luxe women’s apparel theme. “As well as offering a comfortable yet protective framework, tailoring and sportswear are also fused together for a soft, cozy approach to athleisure style.”

Colours like Midnight Blue, Winter Wine, Salmon Pink and Herb Green, were identified as Fall 16/17 staples for this category. Street Sport was a prominent theme for men, described as functional meets the fantastical, with performance fabrics used in urban fashion styles. Traditional outdoor styles like puffy jackets blurred the distinction between outdoor wear and fashion in the Street Sharp theme, which also featured sporty stripes on tracksuits, shirts and sweatshirts. Gym Sophisticate was another sport-inspired theme for spring/summer menswear, with the suit in tracksuit given a new meaning by the Performance Suit — a tailored suit inspired by a tracksuit.

The use of materials like neoprene and nylon, and activewear style elements like basketball jacket sleeves, zippered cuffs and elastic waists on pants, further blur the differences between fashion and athleisure.

Fashion meets sportsfield was also evident in the new footwear ranges identified with themes like Retro Athletic, Future Sport, and Element Protection.

Smart clothing

Another big trend in apparel is fitness trackers in garments, smart fibres and 3D printed garments. This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in in Las Vegas in January, showed that wearable technologies that track fitness are moving from the wrist to clothing and footwear.

Among the smart apparel that intrigued visitors were athletic clothing like shirts, leggings, socks and even a sports bra with built-in sensors for tracking daily activity and heart rates. Yoga tights with wireless sensors that detect movement and offer coaching through an app, and technology that can be added to any sports bra that offers suggestions for improving the wearer’s fitness performance, took the technology even further.

New Balance’s 3D printed midsole and running shoes from Under Armour that track performance without a phone, were two tech-savvy footwear developments on show.

In addition, travel clothing that stores items as large as laptops, belts that give various notifications and a meditation headband were smart apparel items exhibited.

Outdoor clothing is also becoming smart: a fabric that is able to think for itself was introduced by the insulation brand Thermore at OutDoor Friedrichshafen. The intelligent bulk fibre adapts to different temperatures to provide the desired insulation for every activity.

See more about the cutting edge wearable technologies that were awarded at the Wearble Technologies Conference this year on p35.

Sustainable outdoor clothing

An outdoor jacket made of molasses, an athletic shoe made of plastic marine debris, or a cycling shoe made of eco-leather — manufacturers brought plenty of sustainable innovations to this year’s ISPO Munich show.

Sustainable apparel is becoming increasingly more popular. Demand for eco-friendly and socially sustainable apparel has been on the rise since 2000, increasing by 5% per year on average, according to the International Association of the National Textile Industry.

In addition, fair manufacturing conditions in the textile industry are important to 86% of Germans, as shown by a poll performed by YouGov Institute on behalf of the dpa news agency.

Adidas showed a shoe made of recycled plastic marine debris as a joint project with the NGO Parley for the Oceans. Other brands have introduced cycling and outdoor sports footwear made with eco-friendly leather and have used water-repellant and breathable membranes instead of chemical coatings, which can be harmful to the environment.

A well-known brand like Bergans of Norway (not locally available) made wind- and waterproof jackets with a 30% plant-based (molasses) polyester, a sustainable by-product of sugar production. This received positive feedback from the 30 consumers who were asked to pre-test them as part of the independent ISPO Open Innovation platform.

According to a report delivered by the European Outdoor Group (EOG) at ISPO Munich this year, consumers are willing to pay more for innovative products. One important driver of sales is said to be the sexy lumberjack look — earthy men’s clothing for lumberjack types.

Gender blurring

The colour experts at Pantone say that Rose Quartz, a warm rose tone, and Serenity, a cool and tranquil blue, will be the colours of the year for 2016. “Consumers are trying to balance their fast-paced lives with some calm,” explains Laurie Pressman, vice-president of the Pantone Color Institute. “This is a harmonious pairing of inviting shades that embody a mindset of tranquility and peace.”

It also challenges some of the more traditional perceptions around colour associations.(e.g. soft pink is for girls and baby blue for boys). “In many parts of the world we are experiencing a gender blur as it relates to fashion, which has in turn impacted on colour trends throughout all other areas of design,” says Leatrice Eiseman, Pantone executive director.

“This more unilateral approach to colour is coinciding with societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity. The consumers’ increased comfort with using colour as a form of expression, which includes a generation that has less concern about being typecast or judged, and an open exchange of digital information, has opened our eyes to different approaches to colour usage.”

Pressman pointed out that today’s gender blur is a little different from previous years — instead of the masculinization of womenswear, we’re seeing the feminization of menswear, not just in terms of silhouettes but also in the colour story.

“It’s not necessarily about trying to make a man look like a woman or a woman look like a man. It’s really about creating a canvas that can be adapted to any style.”

Activewear colour predictions

In autumn/winter 2017/18 technology will become more seamless, sustainability more imperative, and old social signifiers are eroded, add trend forecasters WGSN.

“Colours take their cue from sustainable design, appearing as though they have been altered through time, or recycled with a palette of smudged grey-toned pastels and mid-tones,” they say.

“In active-specific clothing bright bold lilac and chartreuse are introduced to create versatility and dynamism, ensuring the palette works from outdoor to wellbeing to performance and active all-day. A sense of calm is created through the use of layered mid-tones and the introduction of core neutrals.”

Their new colour palette is built around core colours, for example:

  • Bold Lilac, specific in activewear, is the alternative new pink for the season, but with the colour values dramatically increased. An adaptable shade, it translates well within the neutrals and soft and calm mid-tones. Alternatively, it pairs with turquoise and bright chartreuse (lime-green) for a graphic, active clash.
  • Turquoise is a key colour, adaptable across the palette, as a standalone shade or paired with other hues.
  • Mid-tones work cohesively with the bright, dark and core neutral colours.

Other colours to expect

The IDEAS Active Sports Design Network, consisting of twelve international colleagues from different cultures, annually present a colour palette for outdoor and activewear at the OutDoor Friedrichshafen and ISPO Munich shows.

The colour palette for outdoor clothing in summer 2017 will be brighter and more vibrant and will remain inspired by nature, says Nora Kuehner, the group’s Munich-based design consultant. Classic blue, white and red are reinterpreted by fabrics with interesting structures.

"Through the interplay of light and shade, colours appear richer on new more textured outer surfaces than they did on previous smoother fabrics,” explains the fashion design consultant.

In women’s apparel, berry tones continue to trend. They will also be joined by chalky colours, such as aqua, sand and vanilla. The new trend colour for 2017 might be chartreuse — a fresh yellow-green, the IDEAS group agree with WGSN.

When it comes to men’s outdoor clothing, the designers recommend classic blue and also brown with khaki nuances.

Modern consumers are not just looking for functionality and protective characteristics, but also for fashion aspects, such as a good fit, pleasant fabrics and colourways suitable for everyday use, they say.

According to the IDEAS active sports Color Trend Book for autumn/winter 2017/18 the winter will be characterised by a Revolution of Light, with glowing metallic colours mixing with earthy greens, browns, oranges and blues. Alternatively, there will be the risk takers who can’t wait to make it happen with bold red, turqoise, orange and green plaids and colour combinations.

The new IDEAS activewear trend book is aptly named R´evolution“ 2017/18.

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