Top 9 fashion and apparel industry trends for 2021

Alibaba.com JANUARY 21, 202112 MIN READ
Top 9 fashion and apparel industry trends for 2021

The fashion and apparel industry has taken some interesting directions over the past year. Some of these trends were triggered by the pandemic and cultural shifts that may have lasting impacts for years to come.

As a seller in the industry, staying aware of these trends is an absolute must. In this post, we’re going to break down 9 of the top trends in fashion and apparel before we dive into some 2021 predictions for the industry. We will wrap things up by discussing some of the best tips for selling clothing on Alibaba.com.

Let’s take a look at some quick industry stats to get started.

The fashion industry at a Glance

Before we dive into the top trends in the fashion and apparel industry, let’s take a quick look at a snapshot of the industry on a global level.

  • The global fast fashion industry is on pace to be worth 44 billion USD by the year 2028.
  • Online shopping in the fashion industry is expected to reach 27% by the year 2023 as more shoppers buy clothing online.
  • The United States is a leader in global market shares, with a market valued at 349,555 million USD. China is a close second at 326,736 million USD.
  • 50% of B2B buyers turn to the internet when looking for fashion and apparel products.
apparel industry reportIndustry Report 2021
Fashion and Apparel Industry
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Top 9 trends in the fashion and apparel industry

As we mentioned, the global fashion and apparel industry has seen some major shifts over the past year. Let’s take a look at the top 9 trends in this industry.

1. eCommerce continues to grow

Online shopping has been popular among consumers for a few years, but with COVID-related lockdowns, stores were forced to close for many months. Unfortunately, many temporary closures became permanent since these stores were unable to absorb the losses and bounce back.

Luckily, eCommerce was already becoming the norm before the pandemic, so some businesses were able to survive by shifting towards eCommerce almost exclusively. Currently, there are not many advantages for businesses to revert back to selling in brick and mortar storefronts, so it is likely that eCommerce will continue to grow.

2. Clothes become genderless

The idea of gender and the “norms” surrounding these constructs are evolving. For centuries, society has placed men and women in two distinct boxes. However, many cultures are blurring the lines and people are beginning to wear clothing that they feel comfortable in rather than what has been designated to them based on their sex.

This has sparked the creation of more genderless clothing. At this point, there are only a few entirely genderless brands, but many brands are incorporating unisex “Basics” lines. Some of the most popular genderless brands include Blindness, One DNA, and Muttonhead.

Of course, the majority of the fashion industry is separated into “men’s,” “women’s,” “boy’s” and “girls,” but unisex options are giving people to shy away from those labels if they prefer.

3. Increase in sales of comfortable clothing

COVID-19 has changed the way that many people live. With many adults shifting to remote work, children shifting to distance learning, and many public places being closed, people have been spending more time at home. Since people have been stuck at home, there is been a significant increase in sales of athleisure1 and loungewear.

In March of 2020, there was a 143% increase2 in pajama sales coupled with a 13% decrease in bra sales. People began to prioritize comfort right off the bat.

By the last quarter of 2020, many fashion retailers began to recognize that comfort had become key. They arranged their campaigns to emphasize the most comfortable items available.

Since many businesses are continuing to allow people to work from home, it is possible that this trend could be around for a while longer.

4. Ethical and sustainable buying behavior

In recent years, more public figures have brought attention to social issues that are related to the fashion industry, specifically when it comes to fast fashion.

For starters, textile waste3 is at an all-time high because of consumers’ spending habits. People buy more clothes than they need, and billions of tons end up in the trash every year. To combat this waste, some people are leaning towards brands that either make high-quality products that are meant to last for a long time or those that use recycled materials to create their clothing.

Another ethical issue that often arises is the use of sweatshops. The idea of factory workers being paid pennies to work in very poor conditions does not sit well with many. As more awareness is being brought to these issues, more consumers are favoring brands that use fair trade practices4.

As people continue to make lifestyle shifts towards sustainability and the like, these trends could likely carry on for years to come.

5. The growth of “ReCommerce”

Over the past year, “ReCommerce” has become more popular. This refers to buying used clothes from a thrift store, consignment shop, or directly from a seller on the internet. Consumer to consumer marketplaces like LetGo, DePop, OfferUp, and Facebook marketplaces have certainly facilitated the “ReCommerce” trend.

Part of this trend has to do with the shift towards eco-friendly buying and reducing waste, but “upcycling” and repurposing vintage pieces have also been on the rise. Upcycling is basically when somebody takes an article of clothing and revamps it to match their style. Sometimes, this involves dying, cutting, and sewing clothes to make something new.

Another major appeal of ReCommerce for consumers is that they can get gently used clothing for a fraction of the retail price.

6. Slow fashion takes over

People have begun to look down on fast fashion because of its ethical implications in regards to sustainability and human rights. Naturally, slow fashion is becoming a popular alternative, and brands with authority in the fashion industry are stepping up for change.

Part of this involves “seasonless” fashion. Major players in the fashion space have made a point to break away from the regular seasonal releases of new styles since that approach naturally led to fast fashion.

There have been intentional releases of styles that were traditionally used in other seasons. For example, floral prints and pastels have commonly been associated with spring fashion lines, but some brands have incorporated these prints in their fall releases.

The goal of creating seasonless fashions and going against seasonal trends is to urge consumers and other designers to allow pieces to remain in style for more than a couple of months. This allows brands to create higher-quality pieces with higher price tags that are meant to last multiple seasons.

It will be interesting to see how this trend plays out going forward because many fashion brands have yet to adopt these practices. However, since leaders in the industry have taken the initiative, more businesses may follow the lead.

7. Online shopping evolves

Online shopping has become more and more popular in recent years, however, many consumers hesitate to buy clothing online since they want to be able to see how the item fits them. In the past year, we’ve seen the emergence of technology that solves this problem.

eCommerce retailers are improving the online shopping experience with the help of virtual reality and augmented reality technology. Both of these technologies give shoppers the ability to use a virtual fitting room to see how the item would look in real life.

There are a few apps that support this type of demonstration. This technology is still being perfected, so it is likely that more and more retailers will implement them in their online stores in the coming years.

8. Inclusivity prevails

For many years, plus size women have had a hard time finding much variety in clothes that suited their body types. Many brands overlooked these women and failed to create styles that fit people that did not wear a standard small, medium, large or extra-large.

Body positivity is a growing trend that appreciates bodies of all shapes and sizes. This has led to more inclusivity in fashion in terms of sizes and styles available.

As per studies conducted by Alibaba.com, the plus-size-women’s-clothing market is expected to be valued at 46.6 billion USD by the end of this year which is double what it was valued at just three years earlier. This means that plus-size women have more clothing options than ever.

The inclusivity doesn’t end here. Brands like SKIMS are creating “nude” and “neutral” pieces that work for more than just people with fair skin tones.

Other brands are creating inclusive clothing lines that accommodate different medical conditions that require permanent hardware, like catheters and insulin pumps.

In addition to creating styles that work for more types of people, the fashion industry adds more representation into their campaigns. More progressive brands are hiring models of different races with different body types so that more consumers can see people that look like them in magazines, on billboards, and in other advertisements.

9. Payment plans become available

Many retailers are giving consumers the ability to make after-purchase payments. For example, a buyer could place a $400 order and only pay $100 at the time of purchase then pay the remaining balance in equal payments over the next three months.

This “Buy Now, Pay Later” (BNPL) approach allows consumers to spend money that they do not necessarily have. This started among lower-end fashion brands, and it is creeping into the designer and luxury space.

This is still such a new thing that there is little information on how this will affect the industry in the long run.

2021 fashion and apparel industry forecasts

It is very difficult to predict how the fashion and apparel industry will look in 2021 since we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. There are still a lot of uncertainties and many people are still not living as they normally would, so it is difficult to say if or when consumer behavior will return to the way it was before5.

However, there is a good chance that the trends related to new and improved technology and social consciousness will carry on for a while. Technology will likely continue to improve, and people will appreciate social consciousness more as they become more aware and educated on complex global issues.

fashion trends 2021

Tips for selling clothing on Alibaba.com

Alibaba.com facilitates transactions between many buyers and sellers in the fashion industry. If you are planning to sell clothing on Alibaba.com, there are a few things that you can do to increase exposure to your products and make more sales.

Let’s take a look at a few of the top tips for selling on our platform.

1. Pay attention to the trends

The fashion industry is always changing and evolving, but some of the trends that we’ve seen in the past year could be setting the tone for years to come.

Inclusivity and the preference towards sustainable fashion, for example, are two trends that generally shine a positive light on a brand. You cannot go wrong with incorporating some socially conscious practices into your business.

Additionally, the incorporation of virtual reality and augmented reality could help you stay up to speed with other businesses in the industry.

You don’t have to change your entire mission or shift your operations to perfectly align with trends, but keeping up with what’s new in the industry can give you a leg up on your competition that is neglecting to do so.

2. Use professional photos

One of the best ways to make your clothing listings stand out from the rest is to use professional photos. Take the time to photograph your clothing on different models and at different angles.

This looks much more appealing than clothing that is staged on a mannequin or photoshopped onto a picture of a model.

When you take close-up photos of the seams and fabric at different angles, that gives users a better idea of how the clothing will look in real life.

3. Optimize products and descriptions

Alibaba.com is a marketplace that uses a search engine to help buyers find the items that they are looking for. That means that you can optimize your products and descriptions with keywords that your target audience is searching for.

4. Offer customizations

Many buyers look for customized pieces, whether it comes down to choosing colors or adding logos. Be willing to accommodate if you have the resources to do so. Indicate on your profile and product listing pages that you offer OEM services or have ODM capabilities.

5. Send samples

Since there is such a wide range of qualities of garments available (and desired) in the fashion industry, your customers will likely appreciate samples so that they can be sure that they are buying what they are looking for. That way they can feel the fabric for themselves and see the articles in real-life.

Many sellers use minimum order quantities to prevent consumers from trying to buy individual articles of clothing at a wholesale rate. You can get around this by sending samples at the retail price.

6. Plan ahead

Prepare for influxes in seasonal garment sales ahead of time. If you sell coats to businesses that are located in a place where winter weather starts in December, make sure your buyers have stock in September or October.

Even if buyers are trending towards “seasonless” fashion, there is still the need for these articles of clothing as the weather changes throughout the year.

Final Thoughts

The fashion and apparel industry has had some interesting developments and shifts over the past year. The biggest driving force behind these trends is the emergence of new technology, a shift towards ethical consumption and the global pandemic.

As a seller, keeping up with industry trends is a wise idea, because you don’t want to fall behind.

If you’re looking to grow your wholesale clothing business or break into foreign markets, Alibaba.com is the perfect place to make that happen. Our platform has over 14 million active buyers, so you should have no trouble finding people who are ready to order your garments.

Getting started on our platform is quite simple. Just create an Alibaba.com seller account and activate your Gold Supplier membership. Once you’re verified as a seller, you can customize your online storefront and start connecting with buyers right away.

References:
1. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/26/holidays-2020-the-athleisure-market-heats-up-as-shoppers-want-comfort.html
2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2020/08/24/the-future-of-fashion-caters-to-the-home-bound-customer/
3. https://www.roadrunnerwm.com/blog/textile-waste-environmental-crisis
4. https://goodonyou.eco/what-is-fair-trade/
5. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/a-global-view-of-how-consumer-behavior-is-changing-amid-covid-19