NEW YORK — A “highly pressurized moment” in the lives of Americans, one dubbed the “Armageddon sensation” by futurist Faith Popcorn, is likely to influence the way we shop and the kinds of fashion we prefer, among other things.
This period, which Popcorn expects to last for another five years or so, is marked by high levels of stress experienced by people living in a world that’s “getting tougher and faster.” It’s a climate that will likely breed a desire to take more control of one’s environment and, in the realm of fashion, acquire apparel that is eco-friendly, low maintenance, and can comfortably remain in a person’s wardrobe for many years, Popcorn predicted in a broad-ranging interview at her marketing consultancy Brain Reserve.
“What’s the hybrid vehicle of fashion?” Popcorn asked. “Apparel that has an environmental component,” she said, answering her own question. “Things that are easy to get into, things that are expandable or contractible, depending on how one’s feeling in a given day.”
In this pressurized period, as resources grow more expensive and possibly more scarce, people may be seeking classic, basic styles they can wear for 10 years, said Popcorn, who was joined for the interview by Todd A. Myers, a senior consultant at Brain Reserve, and John Fischer, a trend researcher at the consultancy.
A desire to conserve resources — and create unique designs — may also play out via various items recycled and refabricated into new ones. For example, Fischer said, old T-shirts are being fashioned into bags and soda cans are being made into change purses at Cronick Valentine, a store that opened here this year in the East Village, while Maxfield in Los Angeles has offered Adidas/Nike hybrid sneakers and jackets, created by D.R. Romanelli by combining parts of existing items.
At the same time, the gradual adoption of personalized fashion pieces, as well as the resurgent interest in vintage fashion since 9/11, may be among the ways people will be enhancing their sense of security and stability, both by taking more control of their environment and anchoring themselves with familiar reference points from the past, Fischer and Popcorn posited.
Such values may also play out, said Paco Underhill, managing director at consultant Envirosell, in “people’s [changing] attitudes towards the concept of used goods, whether an item auctioned on eBay or a preowned Mercedes-Benz.” At a time when many of the products at department stores, as well as those at discounters, look much the same, older, used goods can afford a greater means for individual expression, Underhill contended.
Individuality could also be expressed in the growing no-logo, antibrand movement among youths, noted futurist Ryan Mathews, chief executive officer of trend analyst Black Monk. “For teens, that message resonates — that branding is manipulation by adult industry and a co-opting of individuality.”
Increasingly, Mathews said, people of all age groups are expressing their values through the things with which they surround themselves, say, an iPod or a cell phone ring-tone as style statement.
Further, the customization of entertainment afforded by technologies such as MP3 players like iPods and digital video recorders like TiVo may well inspire people to seek out more custom takes on apparel, Mathews added. In a sense, the use of digital technologies dovetails with the antibrand mentality, he reasoned, as they both give people greater control over the way in which they experience things.
The search for personal security in a country which, in the past five years, has experienced large-scale terrorist attacks, corporate scandals, and bouts of job insecurity, has taken form in the choice by some to spend more time at home. “People are saying they’re happy living and working at home, and not going out a lot,” Popcorn said of a contingent she thinks is growing.
Given the increasing sense of disquieting conditions, rising energy prices among them, Mathews projected, “If you’re a consumer, you start feeling the bottom may fall out on you. What do you do as a consumer? You stop shopping, or you start shopping in different ways,” he said. This could mean doing more shopping at home, online and via catalogues; attaching a greater value to feel-good, retro products, from chenille to macaroni and cheese, or simply shopping in fewer, more concentrated periods of time.
While stopping short of portraying a siege mentality, Popcorn noted sales of protective products such as guard doors are up and more people are growing their own food. “Companies that give people more control will win,” Brain Reserve’s Myers forecast, ranging from content that can be experienced on more than one technology, to apparel that can be rented — and reused.