Vicki: There is a LOT going on in the world and the way we are living is changing as a result of some very big disruptions. Advances in technology – for example, are making everything faster and our lives a lot more complex.
Jessica: But, just like the Pantone color of the year, specific themes can be identified as trends and by being in front of them you can find the perfect concept to enhance your brand.
Vicki: Jessica and I have four big ideas to share that we’ve identified as significant enough to translate easily into soft or hard goods for any collection.
The Future is… FLEXIBLE
Consumers are continuing to require functionality in every product they consider. Items need to be able to work for multiple purposes and they need to perform in a multitude of ways.
Vicki: In apparel “flexible” is transitional and transseasonal. This is clothing that can take you from home to work to working out to hanging out. It is individual styles and color palettes that are less tied to specific seasons than they ever have been.
Jessica: We can see that as items have added functionality, there is a strong movement toward simplicity in design. Bags are a perfect example of this. They look increasingly sleek on the outside just as the interiors are more complex. There is also an interesting trend toward technology that is minimal in design and blends seamlessly into our home décor or outfits. The services they provide are incredibly complex but we don’t want to see how it happens. Our tech must be able to not only charge and have power but now it needs to incorporate audio as we move to verbal commands over tactile connection.
This FLEXIBLE Product is…
- Transitional and transseasonal = comfortable+professional+performance driven+seasonless
- Multi-functional = wrinkle free, wrinkle resistant, odor resistant, stain resistant, UV protect, insect resistant/repellent, etc.
- Minimal on the outside but maximal on the inside
A great example of a flexible product is the Origaudio backpack, which has tons of functionality on the inside, but appears sleek and simple on the outside.
The Future is… NEW LUXURY
A luxury is something that has a high value. That can be either a value to us personally or in context of what society holds as valuable. Today a new definition of luxury is being created by view of the GenZ and Millennial generations. For them, luxury means eco-consciousness and an emphasis on experiences over ownership. For these influential generations, luxury is judged by personal value system over monetary value.
Vicki: Technology is allowing new products to be developed that are more environmentally conscious. The Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial features a company that can 3D print algae, making it look like delicate glass but that performs as an alternative to plastic. Other companies are recycling pre-consumer fabric scraps and post-consumer plastics into new items, saving waste from landfills. Now and in the future, these product ideas are what we mean by new luxury. This is the basis of what values over value represents.
Jessica: Hand-crafted is also a new luxury. Something individually made is valuable to many consumers. At the same time that we want our technology to be sleek and streamlined, an item that appears to have been made thoughtfully by human hands holds high value, so much so that brands are often making items look handmade, giving them a quality of “homespun” or “handcrafted” even if they are not. That’s definitely OK as long as the brand isn’t claiming it to be handcrafted if it isn’t.
Vicki: The reasons people are choosing products have shifted. They want to indicate by their purchase that they have experienced something, lived through something, enjoyed being somewhere or put their money into a cause they care about. They are using product as proof of participation, showing what they hold as valuable. These are NEW LUXURY items.
This NEW LUXURY Product Is…
- Eco-Friendly, manufactured in a way that uses sustainable methods of production
- Circular–recyclable or biodegradable-part of the resale market after the primary impression
- Made in a smaller run, with artisanal qualities or limited editions
- Objects that show proof of participation such as a T-shirt from a music festival or a sticker from a unique location
By January, allmade and District from SanMar will have tees that fit into this category. An example within retail include Everlane, who touts "RADICAL TRANSPARENCY" as what they believe in and have been leading the industry in many ways. Batch is making a big impact in the space by collecting artisans to bring to the promo world, being recognized in the 2019 Counselor Hot List.
The Future is… CONTENTMENT
Vicki: The New York Times asked recently, “are we in a post-happiness world?” Social media and the speed of life is creating anxiety and unrealistic expectations of what it means to be happy. They highlighted researchers and authors who have studied this phenomena and arrived at the conclusion that just because we aren’t happy ALL OF THE TIME doesn’t mean we aren’t happy. One researcher concluded, “Contentment is the next growth industry.”
Jessica: We want to feel comforted and cozy as things are becoming harder to understand about the world. What we are seeing in products is that part of the answer to finding comfort is nostalgia and part is the actual texture of a product itself. This holiday season the classic plaids that made a resurgence were in all kinds of materials and colors reminiscent of soft fabrics and classic patterns we had as children or even those of our parents or grandparents.
Does this item bring you joy? This is the trending question of the moment rather than happiness. With the movement of removing items from your world that don’t bring you joy, brands need to create an extra level of comfort or contentment within their product offering.
This CONTENTMENT Product is…
- Textured, tactile and cozy - soft tri-blends or snuggly fleeces and felt
- Retro or vintage plaids and patterns
- Apparel that has retro and nostalgic references – like collegiate stripes or silhouettes that recall specific decades, such as cropped tops or dropped shoulders from the ‘90s
The Future is… GRAPHIC
Jessica: Many items in retail are immersed in pattern or have statement graphics. Drinkware especially features bold, full color all-over prints, and the branding is actually very subtle. It is more about showcasing the beauty of the design rather than shouting a brand logo.
With the evolution of social media we are seeing statement graphics coming from every direction. “Be Bold”, “Like a Boss”, “Living Joy” and many others are on every product from T-shirts to mugs to journals. Consumers want to express clearly who they are in a statement and they want to post it for everyone to see.
Vicki: We are also seeing the need to personalize continue. Consumers are looking for patterns to mix and match that fit their personality rather than strictly adhering to what is trending at the moment. There is much more originality in self-expression than there has been in past years. Brands like Gucci and Prada have shown strong examples of how to style looks like this.
Jessica: Stickers, patches and pins from favorite brands broadcast your personality showing what you chose to support. For example, brands that carry true eco-friendly credentials are sought after by not just the youth market, but increasingly by GenX and Boomers as well.
Vicki: They give an outfit or item a story of lived experience. That exactly relates to the driving force behind the popular and lucrative vintage and resale markets.
The GRAPHIC product is…
- Focused on the pattern or the graphic design with the emphasis on beauty, with branding as a secondary message
- Statement driven, especially featuring messages of empowerment, support or well-being
- Offering an opportunity for personalization, furthering a personal story
This graphic trend is seen in unique and thoughtful ways from the multi-color confetti Starbucks Holiday tumblers to the bold patterns of Vera Bradley to a variety of statement graphics and photoreal designs in apparel.
Thanks for your time! We loved sharing our thoughts on trends for 2020 and beyond with you. Keep in mind the Future is Flexible, New Luxury, Contentment and Graphic and you’ll be recommending just the right product to your customers.
About Vicki Ostrom
Vicki began her career in theatrical costume design before moving into design in the retail and promotional products industries. Traveling the globe with design positions at companies such as Tommy Bahama, Eddie Bauer and JCPenney, curiosity and a keen eye led to a love for social anthropology and exploring the “why” of design. This combination of international travel and living in Seattle, Austin and New York City has provided first-hand exposure to the rich variety of culture and style that makes the world so fascinating. Besides working as a full-time trend translator in the promotional products world, Vicki is also in the process of launching her own website trendependent.com. There she is exploring trends, how they are expressed in many different industries and how they translate to products.
About Jessica Gibbons-Rauch
With 15 years of experience in the industry at several promotional products distributors, Jessica brings a bizarre love of product and curiosity for WHY. Easily able to talk about the breadth of products both available and created she always asks the tough questions to figure out the purpose behind the campaign. This and her love of marketing create a passion that comes through on each project. Recently she has expanded her expertise with the creation of Trend on Brand, a strategic and digital marketing agency geared towards the promotional products industry.
For more information, please visit the Trend on Brand website.
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