Skip links

Trends Shaping The Future of the Apparel Technology Industry in 2021

Like all industries, the apparel industry experiences challenging cycles and trends that make success for key companies all but certain. Some subsidiary markets of the apparel industry, including shoes, are resilient against digital changes that the internet causes because shoes must be tried on. However, retailers in the apparel industry that focus on items that are largely buy and wear, must adapt to the ability for shoppers to get their gear straight from the manufacturer or from larger online retail sites.

In addition to the digital changes the internet demands from all apparel businesses, the pandemic has made in-person shopping nearly impossible for a variety of health reasons. As such, the trends for 2021 include such challenges as drops in demand and shifts in the market that are just now being understood.

Top 10 trends

1. Tourism

Tourism-related apparel, which includes t-shirts and sweatshirts, will continue to see a slump throughout 2021 as travel restrictions continue and sporadic quarantine measures are put into place. Consequently, the emerging strategies to help overcome such slumps are involving a focus on reaching local traffic. That said, ROI for local marketing will seem sluggish as multiple factors impede local markets from spending money on clothing even as they enjoy tourism-related events or activities.

2. Market shifts

Many casualties throughout the apparel industry have created product and service gaps that successful companies are pivoting to exploit. To capitalize on underserved markets or complete market segments left with little or no attention, companies are increasing budgets for marketing campaigns and increasingly implementing a variety of advertising campaigns. Additionally, apparel companies are broadening their product lines in ways that will ultimately help redefine the primary goals of established companies.

3. 3D printing

The manufacturing process is becoming intimately tied to 3D printing. For instance, 3D printing processes are increasingly being used for such things as shoe soles, which can be customized for a wearer. Additionally, knitted products are increasingly customized per order and printed on a 3D printer once the order is complete.

Moreover, 3D printing is being used to provide a streamlined product-development process in that prototypes are developed cheaply and either adopted or discarded without involving the waste so often associated with the prototypes of yesteryear. This reliance on 3D printing, especially for customized clothes, is essential for companies because it speeds up order processing for a growing market base that is accustomed to accelerated demand fulfillment.

4. Increased demand for footwear

One of the most interesting trends is the increasing need for fitness-related footwear as more people attempt to remain healthy and fit while confined to their home gym. This reality with which millions of people are faced has resulted in an ongoing demand for precision footwear as people take up the treadmill to burn off calories from stress burgers, stress ice cream, and stress alcohol. Moreover, as people stray away from the home in vacations to the relative safety of rural America, people are purchasing a wide array of hiking shoes.

5. Ethical

Ethical business practices are becoming more important as a growing market sector demands that companies engage in sustainable business practices that neither harm the environment nor exploit local human resources. Additionally, even the idea of intellectual property is being curtailed as more and more fashion brands are producing products that do not contain a logo.

In terms of ethical production processes, the increased focus is increasingly on child labor in third-world countries. However, it also is beginning to focus on the usage of water during the manufacturing process.

6. Activewear

One of the most profitable areas in the struggling apparel industry is that of activewear, which includes such things as yoga pants, t-shirts, and footwear. Although the drive for this type of clothing is the result of people quarantined at home, a lot of the growth is also due to people adopting this type of clothing for everyday attire. In terms of everyday attire, the best companies are creating hybrid products. For instance, pleated jogging pants are increasingly popular as they provide the style of activewear with a functional style for more general occasions.

7. Virtual

One of the most invasive trends to hit the apparel world is that of virtual technology. Virtual reality, for instance, allows for 3D fitting rooms with overlays that give the user an amazingly interesting idea of how a shirt or other garment will fit and look in different lighting. Additionally, augmented reality does the same thing, but the overlay is increasingly becoming as large as life.

For instance, full-size mirrors paired with smart glasses or viewing areas can allow someone to try on clothes without removing their own. You can even try hats on with your phone. Finally, for someone on the move, you can simply have someone take a photo of you, and the final snapshot will create an overlay of the clothes for your frame. The end result is a snapshot of what you will look like in the clothes.

8. Demand

As a result of temporary and permanent employment interruptions that took place throughout 2020 and continue into 2021, people obviously have much less money. Consequently, the resulting decrease in demand for apparel that stems from less buying power as people focus on survival essentials is projected to span 2021 and into 2022 and beyond. This trend will cull businesses unable to recognize that previous high-profit departments are now their life jackets to be exploited.

9. Artificial intelligence

Virtual assistants will help a lot of customers find the clothes they need, and they will also help customers with such things as customer service and returns. Although most people still prefer chatting with a live person, an increasing number of customers do not mind chatting with a bot. As AI becomes more adept at speech, the focus on allowing digital representatives to handle a variety of service requests will become more profitable and scalable.

Artificial intelligence is also helping with manufacturing and with product development. For instance, AI is increasingly helping to identify the best and potentially most profitable areas of focus. Finally, companies equipped with AI are becoming nimbler because AI can almost immediately identify shifting trends in customer behavior and shopping habits.

10. Pandemic

The trend toward streamlined policy implementation will serve companies as a variety of traditional business practices and strategies have been overturned by the pandemic.
Consequently, businesses must be more innovative as they seek to adopt business practices that follow a pandemic-first approach. The pandemic is also increasingly requiring companies to find ways to help workers work at home or maintain a worker base even when there is no work. Finally, in order to remain viable, many companies are filing for bankruptcy in order to eradicate debt.

In order to compete, companies must be able to employ workers, and the trend toward some type of home-based work arrangement or some type of hybrid arrangement that allows workers to work at home a portion of the time will become increasingly common.

Apparel Technology Industry Stats and Growth Projections in 2021

  1. The new billion – At some point in the previous decade, a billion dollars became the standard by which a company or startup was deemed successful. It is now becoming trillions. In 2021, the apparel industry is now worth $1,004,600,000,000, which represents a 20-percent increase over the past five years.
  2. A small slice – Of the trillion dollars in the apparel industry, female fashion represents a whopping thirty percent of all revenue generated. Specifically, female apparel is worth an annual amount of $316,613,000,000.
  3. Shirts and more shirts – In terms of overall revenue, the largest segment in female fashion is top wear, which is comprised of shirts, t-shirts, and jackets. Total, this segment represents 35 percent of all female purchases, generating over $100,000,000,000 annually.
  4. Textile mills – Textile mills are the source of just about any fabric for clothing, and the overall industry for 2021 is projected to be valued at $961,000,000.
  5. Jeans – In order to make one pair of jeans, it takes over 1,800 gallons of water. Of course, this is an exaggeration in that no company makes just one pair. Although the same water can be used for multiple pairs, companies must make a minimum number of jeans in order to break-even, which means it costs as much to make one pair as it does thousands of pairs.
  6. Recycling – Although many people recycle paper and plastic, jeans are an uncommon item for people to actually recycle. In fact, only 15 percent of people who wear jeans actually make it to the recycling bin.
  7. Hybrid model of employment – Due to the pandemic, 89 percent of apparel employers will offer some sort of work arrangement that involves both remote and on-location work.
  8. Decreased production – To survive, many companies are decreasing production of products. In fact, 61 percent of apparel companies will have a significantly lower number of individual products, increasing the chance that what you will be wearing is exactly what your neighbor is wearing.
  9. Environment – Just over 60 percent of young-adult buyers as well as a significant segment of older buyers report that sustainable practices and the perception of how a company’s production processes impact the environment determine whether a purchase is made.
  10. Online spending – One of the best ways to ensure success as a business is to increase per-purchase totals, and the average per-purchase total for the average apparel customer is over $1,000 for five different countries. For the United States, the total tops out at a whopping $1,804. Coming in last place is Germany apparel shoppers who are more frugal, spending only $1,064 per purchase on average.