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[Latest Research] Cost of Living and Changing Consumer Behavior

How has consumer behavior changed in 2022, and what does this mean for brands?

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Published June 8th 2021

The Big Fashion Industry Trends for 2022

Brandwatch research reveals some of the biggest trends for the fashion industry as we head further into 2022. Explore the latest data here.

The pandemic gave us social proof that fashion doesn’t rest. We may have been locked at home but that didn’t mean we stopped shopping. Whether it was the revival of Crocs or the emergence of Zoom wear, fashion carried on despite the chaos surrounding us.

As we embark on our journey into 2022, what trends have we seen pick up speed? And what does that say about the coming year?

1. Retail leaders capitalize on nostalgia

As we entered year two of the pandemic, we were once again reminded that we are living through unprecedented times. It’s not massively surprising that people yearned for simpler times in 2021 and brands took notice.

Nostalgia marketing became a big part of every marketer’s playbook. The mention volume of the words “nostalgia” and “nostalgic” is much higher now than compared to pre-pandemic times.

People are clearly craving the comfort of the familiar in these tumultuous times, and it shows. Here are just a few nostalgic moves we’ve seen this year: 

  • Steve from Blue's Clues returned to our TVs.
  • ABBA dusted off their dancing shoes and announced a studio album
  • Tamagotchis saw a renewed interest.

And the list goes on. This nostalgic trend also translated to the fashion world. Looks reminiscent of Princess Diana ruled Pinterest—think biker shorts, huge sweatshirt, and some ankle socks for good measure. Heck, mullets are even having a resurgence this year. We expect to continue to see retro fashion take hold as consumers fondly look back on pre-pandemic days.

2. Aesthetics trends suggest need for escapism

Over the last few years an increasing number of people are using the word ‘aesthetic’ in a similar way they might use ‘subculture’. In this sense, aesthetics mainly refer to online trends based on an amalgamation of fashion, hobbies, music, and other interests into a single concept.

These trends tend to invoke their own kind of atmosphere or ‘mood’ that’s imparted into content posted on platforms like Tumblr and TikTok. Importantly, they’re both a basis for a personal identity and look. For example, someone could refer to themselves by an aesthetic, or produce art that falls under an aesthetic.

We don’t have time to run through every aesthetic on the internet but we can focus in on one type of niche: the -cores.

These blended words combine the ‘core’ from ‘hardcore’ with something that is associted with the aesthetic. Love cauldrons and black cats? Let me induct you into the coven of withcore. More interested in the surreal? Weirdcore is for you. Prefer a grubbier approach to life? Have a look at goblincore.

The volume of mentions of these -cores has been on the up since 2016, eventually skyrocketing in 2020. Numbers then decreased in 2021, but not by much, remaining far above pre-2020 levels.

The communities that surround these aesthetics are usually very dedicated to the cause. Fashion leaders would be wise to tap into these groups and find inspiration in whatever -core suits their audiences.

3. Cottage-Core tops the aesthetics once more

Speaking of -cores, the most popular aesthetic in 2021 was definitely cottage-core. This subset of the -cores has led the way in terms of awareness, influence, and interest.

It gets mentioned far more than any other aesthetic we could find. In fact, cottage-core gained so much traction that the trend fascinatingly culminated in influencing Taylor Swift’s Folklore album.

Mentions of cottagecore remain high and we can’t help but wonder if part of the rise in popularity has to do with people needing a bit of an escape from reality. Whether it’s wanting to run away to the countryside, live in the future, or have a mushroom-shaped house, many of these trends speak to a more complicated desire to step out of reality for a while.

4. Consumers seek the perfect balance between sustainable and affordable

The fashion market social chatter in 2021 was split more or less evenly between:

  • Luxury fashion (37%)
  • Fast fashion (31%)
  • Haute couture (28%)

This is a shift from 2020 where haute couture had the largest share at 34%, followed by luxury fashion with 32%, and fast fashion with 30%.

It can be hard to shop for sustainably-minded clothing on a budget. At the end of the day, your budget usually wins that battle. Fast fashion is a major contributor to pollution yet the cheap price tags can be hard to resist.

Meanwhile, one notable trend seen within online conversations about fashion was related to practicality. Descriptors often included somewhat opposing ideas:

  • “look both couture and sporty”,
  • “hands-on sensibility and ready-to-wear”

The fashion industry has a way to go when it comes to creating affordable, ethical and practical clothes. Leaders in this space will be on the lookout for innovations that can help accomplish this trifecta in 2022.

5. Work from home meant office-wear moved to casual

During the pandemic, stuck-at-home consumers started prioritizing comfortable clothes, thus began a shift toward more casual fashion.

Using Buzzsumo, we pinpointed some of the top headlines in fashion. One of the most popular posts talked about how the rise of streetwear is potentially bringing back cargo pants for men.

We were all asked to re-imagine what a professional wardrobe should look like when 100% of our work was being done in our homes. But that doesn’t mean casual clothes are the only way forward.

The conversation around office wear has gone up 67% last year when compared to the volume of mentions in 2019. This Guardian article has received a lot of engagement for discussing the “domestic goddess 2.0”. The piece describes how the WFH environment doesn’t mean you have to settle for a pair of sweatpants and call it a day. Instead, the idea is to power-dress even when you are at home to inspire positive emotions, spark creativity, and also, to simply feel good!

Bottom-line? People want to look good AND feel good. While remote or hybrid working is an option, comfort is in, and back-breaking styles are out. Industry leaders will hopefully play to this new category of style, showcasing a more elevated version of WFH-wear. We can’t wait.

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