17 Sept 2019
Recommerce Now in Fashion at Rebranded One Magic Apparel Expo
With the Summer Magic event all under one roof for the very first time, this year the focus was very much on shifting business models in order to meet the wholly different expectations of younger, more sustainably-minded consumers.
Iridescent signage, white carpets and DJs spinning records all formed part of the unmistakable vibe of the most recent edition of the biannual Magic fashion trade show. This year, for the first time, the massive event – now rejoicing in its new One Magic identity – took place under one roof as it expanded across the Las Vegas Convention Center, fostering a sense of community and eliminating any need for buyers to shuffle between venues.
For many, it seemed only fitting that the show should finally allow all exhibitors to huddle together a little more, with the fashion industry as a whole having been dragged into embracing the shared economy and forced to accept that "buy better, buy less" is now the mantra for many consumers. Indeed, at the event, it was widely acknowledged that the marketplace is changing. with the rise of the resale and renting culture obliging fashion retailers and manufacturers to review their business models.
This year, concern over the environmental impact of fast fashion and its implications for the working conditions of those in the garment industry – issues that have been bubbling under for some time now – finally went centre stage due to a seismic shift in consumer sentiment. This saw buyers less preoccupied with the possibilities opening up from emerging materials – such as pineapple leaf fibre or mushroom root structures – and far more conspicuously concerned about sourcing responsibly and looking at the whole life cycle of the garments on offer. Indeed, from keynotes to product descriptions, from stand displays to take-home packs, sustainability and accountability were pretty much everywhere.
Taking this very subject – The Circular Economy and Circularity in Fashion – as his theme, Quentin Humphrey, Youth Culture Editor for WGSN, the New York-headquartered trend-forecasting company, hosted one of the event's most well-attended presentations. Maintaining that these are concepts that brands really need to get behind, he said: "Sustainability has social currency. While Gen Z consumers – a demographic particularly in tune with this concept – may not currently have sufficient disposable income to shift the market, they will in the near future. It's a long game and they will align with the brands that embody their concerns once they have money to spend."
Given the predilections of the consumer group waiting in the wings, the fashion industry doesn't have long to get its house in order. The sector is currently responsible for 20% of the world's wastewater, as well as 10% of carbon emissions, according to a recent UN report. On top of that, some US$500 billion of value is lost annually on account of clothing underutilisation and a lack of recycling.
Following the publication of the report, last year saw the launch of the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, a global body with a mission to promote sustainable development goals. Clearly taking this as its cue, this year, Informa Exhibitions, the organiser of Magic, partnered with a related organisation – the UN-backed Conscious Fashion Campaign – and launched Good4Fashion, a sustainability initiative that supports responsible manufacturing and fair-trade practices.
Commenting on the move, Tom Nastos, Chief Commercial Officer of Informa's fashion division, said: "Our customers are making decisions based on sustainability and we have to support that."
Trends for 2020
According to another member of the WGSN team – Senior Consultant Rachel Dimit – who was presenting the event's 2020 Buyers' Briefing, a change in the decision-making process is well underway across several demographics. Expanding upon this, she said: "We're seeing a higher value being placed on better basics in sustainable options. This has seen growing approval of new apparel containing recycled fabrics and increased support for the removal of all virgin plastics from fibres.
"Essentially, people want to invest in elegantly tailored foundation pieces and then hold on to them longer. This has led to a number of basic collections being ethically updated and several surprising collaborations, such as the Japanese casualwear brand, working with Alexander Wang, the award-wining US urban-wear designer."
Looking to other trends, she also noted that streetwear is now "all grown up", saying: "The popularity of track pants and distressed looks has dropped sharply, while tailored details and futuristic commuter looks are on the ascent, with urban greys now being paired with bright fluorescents, botanical greens and heated pinks. At the same time 'mellow yellow' is persevering from previous seasons, while lilac is being deployed to complement denim blues, yellows and tobacco. Mushroom, as well as multiple shades of beige, are also among this season's favourites.
"The key pieces here include anoraks made from recycled polyester and updated with futuristic looks, elevated t-shirts in refined fabrics, a volume shirt that works with relaxed jeans and a reworked city shirt with contrasting colour and materials. Overall, the '80s are serving as reference points when it comes to boxy jackets and generously cut 'dad' jeans."
Rise of Recommerce
According to Syama Meagher, Chief Executive of Scaling Retail, a New York-headquartered retail consultancy, there is just one consideration driving the rise of the resale / recommerce sector across the US: "How can I have what I want and not be committed?"
Speaking during her own well-attended presentation, she noted that sales of used merchandise generated $18.4 billion in the US last year, according to the Commerce Department. This was up from $11.2 billion just 10 years ago and is tipped to reach $23 billion by 2023.
Explaining this rapid turnaround, she said: "In just a few years, thrifting – buying used goods – has gone from taboo to status symbol, with shoppers in the 17-37 age bracket now very much at home with the 'fractional ownership' concept and famously valuing experience far more than objects. Despite this, they still want new outfits – they just don't want to be stuck with them. As a result, they have taken to adopting a 'what's new to me is new' approach, which has ushered in a fundamental change to the marketplace. In fact, some 26% of luxury store shoppers also buy second hand – and some of them are millionaires."
Essentially, Meagher highlighted the very trend behind the rise and rise of thredUP, the San Francisco-based online thrift store, and such well-known luxury used merchandise re-sellers as The RealReal and Poshmark. It has also played a key role in the success of StockX, the online auction platform specialising in vintage / retro sneakers and streetwear.
In terms of more recent developments, Macy's and J.C. Penney – two of the leading US department-store chains – recently announced partnerships with thredUp that will see them selling used clothes and accessories in selected outlets. In the same vein, Patagonia, a California-based outdoor brand, plans to open a temporary store this autumn selling pre-owned goods, while a number of other retailers – including Pennsylvania's Urban Outfitters and Ohio's Ann Taylor – are letting customers rent clothes as an alternative to buying them.
Confident of the longevity of this particular development, Meagher said: "Some brands are now going as far as curating vintage goods instead of launching new collections. There's so much to explore in this space and this is one trend that is clearly not going to go away any time soon."
One Magic took place from 11-14 August at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Anna Huddleston, Special Correspondent, Las Vegas