Expect cultural values to shape fashion trends this spring.
That’s according to Elissa Bloom, the executive director of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Center City, who said what consumers look to spend and what they look for in their clothing has changed.
“The market is so oversaturated, and people aren’t shopping the way that they used to,” she said. “People are spending their money in other areas, like on electronics and travel and experiences. It’s just a whole different paradigm or mindset, the way that people are shopping today.”
She said the result of spending less money on clothes means that people are pickier about what they buy. They want clothing that’s made to last and allows them to express themselves. Environmentalism, inclusivity and diversity are also values that impact choices, for both consumers and designers. And spring fashion this year includes beaded and glittery clothing and lots of colors and layers.
Paul Virilli, owner of Jan’s Boutique in Cherry Hill, N.J., said customers at his store, which stocks more than 10,000 gowns in sizes 00 to 32, want dresses with sparkles and beads.
“The sparkly fabric, which is literally all over the place, is being gobbled up by our prom girls, our pageant girls and our guests going to any wedding,” Virilli said.
Mermaid dresses are popular with those groups, too, as well as for mother-of-the-bride dresses. A-line dresses and dresses with clean lines have also taken off this spring, in addition to anything that’s off-the-shoulder or cold shoulder.
Compared to previous seasons, Virilli noted, there are more options for consumers to choose from.
“Now, it’s more diversified,” he said. “With the diversification, first of all, it’s more exciting to see all the different looks. There’s really not one category, in regards to the fabric, taking over another category. You have the beads, you have the sparkly fabric, you have the clean fabric, you have the lace. It’s a little bit of everything.”
One way this diversity shows up is in colors. Virilli said customers want dresses in lots of different colors, though emerald green, hunter green, wine burgundy and yellow are especially popular right now.
Yvette Kornfield, owner of the Sweater Mill in Hatboro, has noticed the variety of colors as well.
She said colors are the biggest trend this spring.
“The spring colors are probably the most important thing,” she said. “Everybody wants colors — brights, pastels — it doesn’t matter, just lots of color.”
This emphasis on color is the biggest difference Kornfield has noticed between this season and previous ones.
Meanwhile, the popularity of skinny jeans, scarves and the cold shoulder persist from prior seasons.
Even though winter is over, hats remain popular because of concerns over skin cancer, Kornfield said. In fact, the Sweater Mill sells more hats in spring than in winter. Baseball caps and smaller-brimmed hats are in, and wide-brimmed hats are out.
Other trends this season include silk fabric, bomber jackets, gaucho pants and prints. Customers want versatility in their clothing, she said, as evidenced by this season’s trend of T-shirt dresses, which can be dressed up or down, and can be worn for a variety of occasions.
“You can take a dress anywhere and change its look with a different shoe and different jewelry,” Kornfield said. “Spring is so much more casual.”
Cardigans are in right now, as a popular substitute for jackets. This is true even for men, for whom celebrity Adam Levine popularized this particular look. Other trends in men’s fashion include conversation socks and lots of color.
“What else can a man do to make their outfit look different? Color,” Kornfield said. “Lots of cotton sweaters and lots of color, same thing for women. … Color just makes everyone feel good after winter.”
Kornfield noted that layering is a trend as well.
Bloom said layering is popular because it allows customers more versatility in expressing themselves, as well as more flexibility in dealing with unpredictable weather. Environmental concerns have modified fashion trends, she said.
One of these ways revolves around recycling, or “upcycling,” where textiles are repurposed into new pieces. Bloom noted one of the incubator’s designers, Sara Keel, who takes vintage scarves and remakes them into new pieces.
Another trend Bloom has noticed is an emphasis on designing clothes that target demographics who have traditionally been excluded by mainstream fashion. This includes designers like Dana Donofree of AnaOno, who creates lingerie for women who have breast cancer, and Mary Alice Duff of Alice Alexander, who designs pieces for women sizes 12 to 28.
In a similar vein, gender-neutral clothing has become more popular as well, and not only in street clothing. For example, one brand, Mitz Kids, offers a line of children’s clothing with gender-neutral prints.
“It’s interesting to see the niche, targeted groups that haven’t been served for a very long time, that the designers are really being able to use their creativity and use their marketing, branding savvy on social media to attract those customers,” Bloom said.
One example of this versatility is a necklace by Jessica Joy London, which allows the wearer to insert different colored and patterned “tiles,” giving her the ability to match the necklace with different outfits.
“It’s all about making women feel special and that they have something that is unique and something that has a story,” Bloom said.
Consumers have healthier lifestyles now, and that has led to a growth in comfortable clothing and activewear, like sneakers and backpacks.
The interest in adopting a healthier lifestyle, such as eating local and sustainable foods, has bled into fashion. This has led, for example, to more of an emphasis on locally sourced clothing, rather than imports that more negatively impact the environment. Designers also want to be able to form more personal relationships with their clients.
“Just as people are becoming much more conscious and aware, and it’s becoming a priority for them to know what chemicals they’re putting in their bodies, it is also in clothing that they’re starting to look at labels,” Bloom said. “They’re starting to get educated about what is sustainability and what the effects are of mass production and fast fashion that’s having a negative effect on our environment.”
The biggest difference, Bloom said, between fashion this spring and previous springs is how discerning the consumer has become.
“They’re not making as many impulse purchases,” she said. “They’re informed customers. They’re doing their research online. They’re looking for specific items. It’s about what our local designers have to offer them, which is their unique, original products that you’re not going to see on everybody else at events.”