The cold wave has been hitting a lot stronger than before since the past few seasons with its full force, but it is definitely firing up the outerwear business. Gone is the time when blacks and greys dotted the wardrobes, and layers were the only protectors against the chill because fashion runways and global retailers have reimagined winter dressing to be ‘in vogue’ quite literally so. Fashion in winters usually meant furs and heavy leather coats, a trend that experienced a mild dip when brands were slammed with the upholders of sustainable, cruelty-free fashion, but this gave way to a major trend this year: the faux fur and leather.
Zara, which increased assortments of faux leather by 36 per cent, Y-o-Y was one of the biggest cashiers of the benefits of the faux fur trend. However, with sustainability at the forefront of the apparel industry, alternative fabrics that mimic leather and fur without high plastic content are bound to be more successful than their non-biodegradable parts. With Boohoo (UK), Debenhams (UK) and Forever 21 (US) being the top three investors of faux fur, many other retailers too have their eyes set on this material for the coming season.
Just like any other apparel category, outerwear flourished and thrived this year in several colours, silhouettes and forms. Patterned outerwear giving a sculpted look to the wearer made up 16 per cent of the total outerwear offering Y-o-Y, being a bold design detail. The runway trend of animal skin patterns crossed over to this side with diverse animal prints such as cow, zebra and jungle popularising from runway to retail. All in all, instead of buying the go-to plain overcoats, consumer groups opted for unconventional silhouettes, innovative temperature regulating materials, bright colour palette and bolder aesthetics.
As per Liam O’Connell of Statista, the fashion data engine, “The global premium outerwear market was valued at around US $ 13 billion in 2019. This represented an increase of US $ 1 billion over the previous year’s market value, which was US $ 12 billion. The global jacket and coat market was forecast to generate around US $ 94.5 billion in retail sales by 2021, up from around US $ 81 billion in 2016. Jackets and coats are becoming the most popular segment within the overall apparel market. As the global apparel market grows, it is unsurprising that sales of coats and jackets will also rise.”
From a macro trend in the ugly fashion breeze emerged the gender, size and age-defying trend of puffer jackets, and this outerwear trend was expressed in ways like never before. The biggest instance of the multi-faceted use of puffer and quilted materials was the dramatic Fall ’19 collection by Moncler Genius, which beautifully championed the luxury brand’s motto of breaking all norms of the puffer and down jacket category. Inspired by the iconic Moncler down jacket, the first set of ‘geniuses’ under the Moncler Genius design collective, such as Pierpaolo Piccioli and Liya Kebede, Simone Rocha, Matthew Williams, and Richard Quinn – presented their collections, where Rocha added romantic bursts of floral motifs to the brand’s signature outerwear, with details like lining coat hoods with delicate pearl embellishment; Quinn delivered bright floral print jackets and zebra print footwear; and Matthew Williams of Alyx debuted shiny raincoats and puffer jackets featuring metal and nylon hardware detailing. The biggest head turners of the lot were Piccioli and Kebede who launched a collection that effortlessly amalgamated ballroom gown silhouettes with Moncler’s signature down material.
“Puffer jackets are very commercial yet expressive silhouettes for the streetwear enthusiasts. They give a huge canvas for an arena of quirky prints, and streetwear is all about expressing yourself. So why not add a touch of comfort to it and make it unique, while sending a strong message across,” said Avni Aneja, Founder of the streetwear label Six5Six Street. Her brother and Co-founder of the label, Ambar Aneja, talking about their own assortment of puffers in the upcoming collection, said, “One of our additions to the next collection is an extremely print-bold over-sized puffer with recurrent slogan, ‘Boring People Wear This’, printed throughout the jacket in AOP format.” The paradoxical nature of the unconventional aesthetics and the slogan make this jacket stand out. In the retail market as well, the puffer jacket is now being sold as a lighter, yet more insulating form of an overcoat, with longer lengths and sculpted silhouettes.
Exporters established in the embroidered goods segment were quick to include quilting operations to the memo to match its demand, with contemporary surface design on light summer down jackets bidding well for the buyers. Akshay Jain, Director of Ludhiana-based knitwear exporter, Top Gear Garments, recalls quilted garments having a good presence in the kidswear category for boys. “We included the embroidery operations to have a monopoly over the quality of embroidery we are imbibing in our garments. It also helps in cost-saving. We deal in the kidswear (boys) segment, where basic motifs such as monogram logos, patches with felt, etc., are usually done. But for jackets, we go for in-house quilting. Trending fabrics for this are nylon and polyester blends along with N.S. Fabric, with main pattern in demand being diamond quilting. Other options are stripes and honeycomb structure quilting as well. Playing with stitch directions adds dimension and depth,” evoked Akshay.
Revamping the traditional
Embroidery has been a major part when it comes to heavy knits, but previously, it was only done in the form of patches. Talking about the way the use of traditional embroidery over outerwear has evolved, Aahan Bhasin, Director of embroidery focused Gurgaon-based export house J.G. Brands expressed, “Nowadays we see pullovers and jackets that not only use embroidery for logos and slogans but also high-end motifs using heavy sequins and beads. We saw one trend emerge out in a big way this festive season: the trend of two-way embroidered motifs, using sequins that create different designs when the sequins are brushed towards different directions. For example, a red sequined circle that shows Santa in one direction, and once brushed over towards the upper direction, shows a Christmas tree in green.”
He also added that the festive season influences the international demands in a big way. “Puffer jackets with prints and patterns taking cues from the ugly sweater trend that always gets popular during Christmas are definitely in right now; in fact heavy needs in the form of overcoats to celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving are also taking centre stage. It sort of revamps the idea of traditional ugly festive sweater trend to make it more fun, fashion-forward, and the customers love it,” Aahan said. The fact that nearly the entire stock of one of Target’s cheeky heavy holiday sweaters, that said ‘Naughty’ in one direction and ‘Nice’ towards the other, got sold out overnight after a video of it in action broke the internet, talks about the way consumers are embracing outerwear that is quirky yet takes cues from the traditional. This was a debut to such kinds of sweaters by the affordable vale chain, released under the umbrella of the brand Well Worn.
Silhouettes and fabrics
Analysing the top choices for unconventional outerwear found globally, the trench coat emerged out to be one of the most popular silhouettes on the trend’s radar for the next season. The retailer chain Chico’s adopted the raincoat version of trenches, scaling up its assortment by 250 per cent Y-o-Y, with Talbots following the same. Affordable high-fashion stores such as Loft and Anthropologie spotlighted the classic biker jacket silhouette in suede and faux leather. On the other hand, Massimo Dutti adopted the leather trench coat, as showcased at Junya Watanabe’s Spring 2020 collection. Another classic silhouette showing promising results are the loose-knit, chunky sweaters with balloon sleeves as a high-fashion design detail.
On the fabrics front, the manufacturers are swearing by knits that are lighter in nature but provide warmth in adverse conditions. Akshay avers, “Garments encompassing slubs, poly-acrylic, suede and Chinese cotton knits are going to be in great demand for the next season. People want comfort with ease of movement.” In fact, synthetic down material is rapidly replacing traditional goose feathers to make these jackets a big head turner in 2020. Technologies such as Patagonia’s PlumaFill Macro Puff, Polartec’s Alpha Fiber, developed for military use, or Columbia’s proprietary TurboDown, a mix of synthetic materials and goose down, are making adoption of this material easy for other products as well being warmer, better ventilated, lighter and more durable than ever.
A blend of technology, nonchalant design inclination and unconventional aesthetics are what the coming season is going to be all about when it comes to outerwear.