Fashion forward: 6 overseas brands to watch

In a year in which results are predicted to be mixed, retailers are exploring new ways to align with the changing needs and expectations of customers, and inventive ways to reconcile online and in-store experiences. 

Established global brands are likely to continue increasing in value, and will be closely managed in 2020. It’s often those on the cusp that are the most provocative and interesting to watch, so let’s take a look at the fashion forward thinkers that are showing early promise across sales, customer growth, scalability, community and diversity. 

Fabricant

Why it’s one to watch: Pioneers in the digital-only clothing sector.

Origin: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Last year, The Fabricant, in collaboration with Dapper Labs and artist Johanna Jaskowska, sold the world’s first piece of bespoke digital couture, ‘Iridescence’, for $9500 as a blockchain digital asset. The dress wasn’t made of silk or wool. Instead, it was a computer-generated image, made of pixels and superimposed on a photograph of its wearer. 

‘Iridescence’ generated global hype but, more importantly, it legitimised the concept of virtual fashion and digital houses. By designing clothes that exist solely online, digital fashion offers newness and diversity for social media feeds without the need to create physical garments – providing a powerful and more sustainable alternative to fast fashion.

Summersalt

Why it’s one to watch: Data-backed, size-inclusive travel-wear.

Origin: St. Louis, Missouri

With sales reportedly exploding by 610 per cent over the last two years and $17.3 million under their belt following Series B funding, this direct-to-consumer, eco-friendly brand is making waves in the lucrative, rising travel wear market. Created for a mindset, not a demographic, Summersault appeals to curious women who love to explore with fashion that’s designed for both culture and convenience. The best part? It’s all available at an affordable price point from $25 to $125. 

Summersault’s strategic expansion into travel-focused apparel comes at a prime moment. In recent years, the travel trend has skyrocketed among high-end consumers, with annual spend on travel increasing by 6 per cent. The rise of travel wear is also fuelled in part by Instagram: 97 per cent of millennial travellers post on social networks when holidaying, according to research from Chase Bank.

A crucial part of Summersault’s success lies in its eco-friendly design ethos. Ninety per cent of the collection is made with recycled materials and its packaging is entirely compostable. On top of this, the retailer has a rapid development cycle, quick-response supply chain, design library of over 10,000 shapes, and a patent for recommending garments based on body shape and customer preferences. 

Summersault also brings data to fashion: the brand took over 1.5 million body measurements from women around the world to design the perfect swimsuit. A smash hit, the swimsuit sold out 25 times in one year and catapulted Summersault into the global fashion arena.

For Days

Why it’s one to watch: An innovative circular T-shirt company.

Origin: Los Angeles, California

At first glance, For Days looks like a simple subscription-based T-shirt company. But every single purchase goes towards addressing the waste problem created by fast fashion. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 15 million tons of textile waste is generated annually in the US, with Americans throwing away about 36kg of used clothing per person each year. For Days aims to answer this problem by making permanent changes in the customer’s consumption pattern. 

Founder Kristy Caylor has developed a unique closed-loop system that’s empowering customers to be more responsible with purchasing. Instead of throwing away a T-shirt once it’s worn out, it’s taken back to For Days where it’s broken down into pulp and upcycled into another T-shirt – zero-waste genius. 

In addition, For Days gamifies sustainability with a rewards system, where customers are encouraged to buy and swap as much as they want. For Days tracks the water, energy, and landfill waste savings from every purchase and then converts into “impact points” which can be used on future purchases.

Norrøna

Why it’s one to watch: championing the “loaded minimalism” movement

Origin: Lysaker, Norway

One of the most innovative makers of outdoor gear in the world, Norrøna has recently expanded to the US. This family-owned brand pushes the boundaries of functional apparel with a collection of eco-friendly products, designed to meet the diverse needs of outdoor sports enthusiasts and beginners alike. 

Norrøna stands out in today’s fashion world for its unique approach to manufacturing. Every product is sold with a 100per cent guarantee, and Norrøna retail stores double down as repair centres for customers to bring their damaged apparel. The brand also advocates for transparency and sustainability: the materials and hardware for every product are openly available online, along with the factories they were manufactured in.

Ninety Percent

Why it’s one to watch: a sustainable, contemporary agent of change.

Origin: London, UK

Another key player in the sustainable fashion space, Ninety Percent is dedicated to giving back to the environment and society. This luxury brand is a driver in the #DressBetter movement, encouraging their customers and other companies in the fashion industry to embrace a sustainable, forward-thinking mindset.

All of Ninety Percent’s materials are responsibly sourced and built to last. But what makes this company different is its dedication to supporting causes they believe in. Reflecting its namesake, 90 per cent of the brand’s profits are donated to charity. Once a customer orders a piece of clothing, they can choose an organisation to donate to from a list of charities that tackle various social and environmental causes.

Jacquemus

Why it’s one to watch: Filter-free fashion that’s Instagrammable beyond doubt.

Origin: Paris, France

If anyone knows how to sell clothes in a 1080-pixel square, it’s fashion’s favourite Instagram brand Jacquemus. Last year, brand creator Simon Porte Jacquemus shared a photo of Emily Ratajkowski wearing little more than a straw sunhat with the circumference of a 44-gallon drum — and had so much demand that his hat manufacturer ran out of straw. 

As one of the newest brands making headlines around the world, Jacquemus is living proof that self-made fashion brands can survive and thrive, and embodies fashion in the Instagram era. The brand reportedly expects to bring in close to $40 million in sales in 2020 and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 

As more disruptive brands enter the fashion industry, the list of visionary fashion retailers will only pick up in the future. Some other more well-known fashion brands to watch in 2020 include Aday, Fenty, Rimowa, Mejuri, Ganni, Outdoor Voices, M.Gemi and Veja. Unsurprisingly, each of these brands has integrated culture and/or convenience into its approach and brand philosophy, exemplifying how customer aspirations and retail business models are shifting. These brands also demonstrate the importance and constant pace of innovation in the category and cause existing and new brands to make the right bets on what will drive future demand.

Looking closer to home, not all is doom and gloom for Australian fashion businesses. Now is the time to be inspired by the world around us and truly get on the same page as customers. Helping local fashion retailers implement relevant strategies is the new guard in retail: IFAB. 

Founder Saskia Fairfull recommends making 2020 the year to put change in motion. “There’s no innovation too small, and our team bring with them the international expertise to guide the Australian fashion industry and its talent into the digital era.”

Emma Sharley is the director of Sharley Consulting, co-founder of personalised shopping app Shop You, a startup adviser and a board member of Independent Fashion Advisory Board. She is speaking at Inside Retail Live 26-27 February, 2020. 

This article was originally published on Inside Retail here.

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