The fashion world treasures newness above all else. But predicting the next big thing is not as simple or as arbitrary as declaring that, next season, red frocks are in and acid-washed jeans are out. The prominent and enduring trends – as opposed to fads – often tally with wider societal shifts. Designers don’t design and shoppers don’t shop without reference to the world they inhabit. The behemoth of recent years, the trainers and “athleisure” movement, is fashion’s answer to our era of healthy living: we eat ethically sourced food, drink green juices and wear fashionable running tops and trainers to the yoga studio (oh, and the pub too). But will this movement power across the next 12 months and beyond or will another trend take its mantle?
Athleisure has saturated the market and certain tastemakers may be ready to move on. But wearing trainers and tailored tracksuit bottoms is about more than how we look. These comfortable and functional clothes save us time and effort. We will not see trainers disappearing any time soon (just look at how the stuffiest luxury shoe brands are adding trainer lines) because we will not readily give up a style of dress that aligns with our active modern lifestyles.
Yet this “healthy living” movement is evolving beyond athleisure. Customers are increasingly concerned with the sustainable sourcing of materials and transparency of production. We want to know where the food we eat comes from and the same goes for what we put on our bodies. The new h&m brand Arket uses recycled wool and each item bears a tag naming the factory where it was sewn; independent brands such as Paris’s De Bonne Facture do the latter too. Mentioning a country of production won’t cut it anymore; we want specifics.
More conspicuously, Gucci recently declared that it was going fur-free. The decision – made in response to its customers’ demands – will have a definitive impact. It is a statement from the world’s most talked-about brand signalling that consumers and the younger generation (Gucci has a huge Millennial fanbase) want ethically sourced products. Other labels will have no choice but to hew to this narrative.
At the same time it is likely that we will see some sort of riposte to athleisure. Fashions yo-yo: historically, periods of casual dress have been followed by ultra-formal stretches. (The hippie bellbottoms of the 1970s were followed by the 1980s obsession with big shoulder pads.) Industry figureheads such as Pitti Uomo’s Raffaello Napoleone have observed that in Italy, twenty-somethings are dressing more smartly than their parents. Even if men are not ready to embrace three-piece suits just yet, the agenda-setters will be smartening up at least one aspect of their wardrobe: a double-breasted blazer from Raf Simons’ collection for Calvin Klein, say, or perhaps a pair of pleated Ami trousers.
In Japan, Hirofumi Kurino, co-founder and creative adviser of United Arrows, is noticing signs of a rebuke not to athleisure but the flashy streetwear phenomenon championed by Balenciaga and others. “Street luxury is on its way out in Japan,” he says, adding that he looks at what 22-year-old kids are wearing on the streets of Tokyo. “Young people have seen this style on too many celebrities in the US so they want to find something else. They are fed up of big logos.” Their solution is a return to the mix-and-match style of the 1990s: distressed jeans and vintage blazers are being donned as a tonic to the glut of skater sweaters splashed with luxury logos. This “post-brand” phase, as Kurino calls it, takes its cues from the city’s music scene. “In Tokyo there is currently a revival of early-1990s hip-hop. Music and fashion always come together here.”
According to Kurino contemporary designers who lend themselves to mix-and-match dressing are Japanese labels Undercover and Takahiromiyashita TheSoloist and UK brand JW Anderson. Each has a distinctive yet fairly low-key aesthetic, whether it’s TheSoloist’s rock’n’roll leather jackets or the “preppy British” feel of Anderson’s new collection, with its striped bags and chunky Aran knitwear.
As one of the key people at United Arrows, Kurino’s prediction that this trend will catch on is almost a certainty. According to Tokyo-based journalist W David Marx, “In Japan the directionality of trends is top-down: they go from the shops and magazines to the streets. So if a retailer such as United Arrows says a trend will happen, it will. They have huge power to direct consumers to items.” This power is easily explained: in London or New York the most influential retailer might be an individual department store or boutique, whereas United Arrows owns 88 shops in Tokyo. It is an omnipresent force.
Japan may have its idiosyncrasies but buyers in other markets share Kurino’s view about the defining look for the year ahead. Mehmet Deniz, menswear buyer at German department-store group Kadewe, also notes that 1990s-style clothing will be a major movement. However, he sees other shifts on the horizon too. As China’s growth picks up again and the country’s middle class prospers, designers and retailers will quickly respond. “There are more Chinese-style designs for the forthcoming season,” he says. “Some [European] designers have changed the length of the trousers or fits; they’ve adapted their pieces for this market.” On a recent tour of designer showrooms in Paris we noticed that certain rails were dedicated to Chinese buyers. Often they were signposted by big fur coats and ornate prints and were a marked aesthetic departure from the rest of a brand’s collection.
China’s renewed spending power is an opportunity for everyone. “We are already starting to see more Chinese customers coming to Kadewe,” says Deniz, adding that there are specific items in his collection that will appeal to Chinese shoppers in the year ahead, such as a scarlet Valentino bag.
Fashion trends have a certain arc. They start with individuals who are usually in their twenties, work in music or art rather than as hardcore fashion bloggers and have a knack for adopting a style before anyone else. Their look trickles down to the fashion crowd and then, after a period of time, hits mainstream audiences. If it chimes with something bigger – such as aligning with a popular type of music or responding to market forces – it will have legs.
Laugh all you want at claims that the next big thing will be 1990s grunge but there will come a time when, consciously or not, you will be filling your wardrobe with stonewashed jeans and flannel overshirts. By then the bright young trailblazers will have had their sights set on something else for some time.
What the experts say you’ll see in 2018
1. Rhyton trainers by Gucci
2. Short-sleeved camp shirt by Gitman Vintage
3. “Cowboy-style” boots by Calvin Klein
4. Plaid overshirt by Undercover
5. Black jeans by Takahiro Miyashita TheSoloist
What we think you should buy in 2018
1. Olive-green rugby shirt by Magill
2. Constructed blazer by Atelier Saman Amel
3. Chunky knit jumper by JW Anderson