The better part of this year has been spent inside homes, hoping for a miracle and a turn of events so that we can step outside our homes without the fear of catching the novel coronavirus. As the year progresses, most brands and labels have had to sell their summer collections at huge markdowns so as to reduce the accumulated inventory. Some even had to forgo the fall or pre-fall collections as demand fell considerably. Come winter and the festive/holiday season, things might be looking up for retailers reckoning to make up for all the lost months of sales.
Winter wasn’t considered a very fashion forward season until the dawn of modish outerwear. With each year getting colder than the previous (a fact that has been corroborated by scientists), shoppers are moving beyond the North Face jackets and home-made pullovers to embrace the cold with their most fashionable foot forward. According to Statista, the market for outerwear which is estimated to reach US $ 94.50 billion globally by 2021, has given rise to new competition from a flurry of emerging labels offering innovative designs that are stylish and practical, which means keeping yourself warm no longer has to be drab.
As with any other market, outerwear is also driven by newness. Brands, both big and small, are all looking to bring their A-game to this segment that traditionally required heavier expenditure on the part of the shopper. The warmth and textural intricacies to technical influences such as new and improved fills for extra warmth, special coatings and technical fabrics are all part of this new era of outerwear. Nivindya Sharma, Director – Retail Strategy and Insights, WGSN, told Business of Fashion, “Outerwear is one of those areas that a consumer would be willing to spend money on, because they think they can get cost-per-wear out of it, like handbags or leather goods. However, unlike the handbag market, which has seen a lot of innovation from big and smaller brands, we (didn’t see) this earlier in the outerwear market.”
In fact, the trend forecasting website has noticed an upswing in brands’ offerings of jackets and coats over the last couple of years. Net-a-Porter and MatchesFashion.com increased their selection of outerwear year-on-year by 35 per cent and 48 per cent, respectively, during the Autumn/Winter 2018 period of July to December, while Boohoo, Debenhams and Forever 21 became top investors in faux fur during the last winter season.
Drivers of the market
Every segment has its day in the sun and it would seem that outerwear has made it to the list for shoppers, both elite and mass. During the NYFW Autumn/Winter 2017 shows in February, a wave of editors, buyers and influencers, wearing Canada Goose ‘Chateau’ parkas, quilted shell-down Moncler ‘Armoise’ jackets and Yves Salomon’s fur-lined army coats, flooded the icy streets of New York. It was then that outerwear garnered for itself the ‘it’ status in luxury; after all, when you’re wearing a Canada Goose jacket, people know you’ve had to shell out big bucks for it. What’s more is that the women of today want versatility. A coat can pull the whole outfit together and you don’t have to bear freezing temperatures for the sake of looking glamorous. Post the discover, it was a swift move from there to the Zaras of the world where one could pop in and buy the most fashionable jackets to be sported in the winter. And as it goes with other categories, the more the market was infused with outerwear, the more people wanted to experiment and show off winter styles. According to Euromonitor, the global luxury outerwear market hit US $ 11 billion last year, up from US $ 8.75 billion in 2011. This figure includes a wide spectrum of sub-categories ranging from puffer jackets, heavy shearlings and technical performance outerwear to lightweight bombers, denim jackets and trench coats.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in brands specialising in one particular department. This was originally across bags and shoes, but (brands) have since ventured into ready-to-wear, with new designers focusing on perfecting one type of style or product all year round, rather than a full collection across all categories,” said Tiffany Hsu, Fashion Buying Director at luxury fashion e-shopping destination, MyTheresa. “The growth of new outerwear-only labels fills this bridge between luxury and practical pieces and gives the customer an additional option.”
Consumption across the board for fashion has undeniably catapulted in the last decade and more so in the past couple of years. With demand skyrocketing, the fashion industry has bent over backwards trying to provide clothing spanning hundreds of categories now. As for outerwear, Europe is one of the most prominent destinations with most countries experiencing jacket-worthy temperatures for more months than not in a year. But the catch here lies in the fact that Europe’s demand for outerwear is higher than its production, as per data gathered by Netherlands-based CBI – the Centre for Promotion of Imports from developing countries.
Growing at an average annual rate of 3.8 per cent till 2017, Germany posts the highest demand for outerwear followed by the United Kingdom and France. While Italy takes the onus for producing 35 per cent of European outerwear, China remains one of the largest suppliers followed by Vietnam and Bangladesh which have cleverly tapped the burgeoning opportunity by providing low cost production. Another noteworthy fact is that Italian production reduced slightly between 2013 and 2017 at an average annual growth rate of (-) 0.5 per cent, giving other players and countries all the more reason to consider this segment worth investing.
An undeniable driver for this clothing has to be its transitionality. As consumers are investing in these pieces, they want to be able to wear them in the dead of winter as well as the cooler parts of spring and that’s where layering comes in. The concept of layering seemed to be shaking things up last winter and according to Macy’s Senior Fashion Director Matt Sebra, it is here to stay. “Consumers are increasingly grabbing lightweight jackets and vests for fall, then layering them when temperatures drop. System jackets also offer versatility and lighter weight leather jackets are a cool alternative. This season’s hit, the chore or shirt jacket, is also expected to trend in 2020. Clearly, even guys today are thinking about a wardrobe of outerwear as opposed to one coat for an entire season. It’s helping move the category forward and encouraging us to develop outerwear as both a fashion opportunity and a solution for daily life.”
From traditional down jackets, wool topcoats, faux fur coats and parkas to the new gene of designs like fishermen coats, down-filled blazers and light weight leather jackets, brands have a gamut of offerings for all looking to class up this winter.
To put the growth of outerwear into perspective, the revenue of Italian luxury outerwear label Mr and Mrs Italy, known for its military-inspired parkas, grew 250 per cent to 37 million euros (about US $ 40.5 million) between 2015 and 2016, and it now sells in over 30 countries at globally influential stockists including Barneys, MatchesFashion and Lane Crawford. While this makes it evident that there is undisputable scope, the market belongs to those that keep the consumer wanting for more designs and innovations. Everybody is aware of the giants who have served this industry for long like Moncler, Patagonia, the North Face and Marmot, but its recent popularity has given way to newer labels that are proving to be tough competition.
One quirky look at the category was brought by Amsterdam-based label Kassl Editions. Launched by Bart Ramakers who saw his friend wearing a vintage fisherman’s coat and was immediately “attracted by its shape, lightness and attitude”. The brand now sells a range of slick, minimally embellished, water-repellent unisex coats, each with a unique number and stamp on the inside. For Spring/Summer 2019, Kassl attracted 35 leading stockists worldwide, including La Garconne, Harvey Nichols, Totokaelo, Forty Five Ten and The Modist. The label then doubled its number of stocking locations for the following season, starting with a pre-launch for Autumn/Winter 2019 at Net-a-Porter and MatchesFashion.com.
Pushing the boundaries of fur-free designs is Common Leisure, a contemporary label coveted for its ethical shearling coats. Antalya-born sisters Seda and Hafize Celikturk launched the Istanbul-based brand in 2015 after failing to find anything in the market that was “fluid with regards to gender and age”. The brand launched globally in 2018 and has since attracted a handful of the world’s MBOs including Net-a-Porter, MyTheresa.com, Antonioli, The Icon and Tom Greyhound, to name a few. The industry was so taken by the sisters’ designs that the brand has since been championed by industry insiders like Moda Operandi’s Lisa Aiken, 032c’s Marc Goehring and MyTheresa’s Hsu.
Similarly, Kiev-based outerwear label IenkiIenki (pronounced YenkiYenki) is also carving a niche for itself in the market. In its first season, the brand’s one-of-a-kind colourful goose-down puffer jackets which retail at about US $ 1,080 to US $ 1,425, have been picked up by over 80 stockists including the biggest names like Barneys, Le Bon Marche and Boon the SHOP.
Sustainability is the way ahead
Sustainability can no longer just be called a buzzword for fashion and apparel categories. It is a need that is more pertinent than perhaps people acknowledge or want to acknowledge. Hence, with every fashion segment that makes its way into the hearts of shoppers, there should be ethical options for the socially-conscious audience.
The sad part is that whether you’re a straight size or plus, finding accessible outerwear brands that also incorporate sustainability into their production and design process can be tough. But after years of pressure and demand, a handful of designers are expanding into sustainable outerwear options. While this can be a costly move, it is a vital step in working toward a future that prioritizes ethical fashion.
Thanks to the rising awareness in both clothing makers and owners, sustainability has permeated to the realms of outerwear with brands like Ecoalf, Choiss, Save the Duck, Reformation, Patagonia and Amour Vert doing their best to give people smart options to keep their wardrobes up-to-date.
In fact, outerwear is not to be viewed only from style perspectives but it gives a minimalistic yet chic boost to consumers’ outfits ready for both office house and a day out. With the way trends go, consumers are definitely ready to consume the sustainable options retailers are providing them and if we pay any heed to the environment around us, sustainability and innovation is the only way forward for outerwear too.