Within the fashion industry, 2017 brought with it plenty of surprises: Calvin Klein signed an exclusive contract with Amazon, Céline went all in on digital, Supreme became a billion-dollar brand and New York Fashion Week was announced as a joint his-and-hers venture.

With digitally native brands now migrating to physical spaces and Amazon going to great lengths to cozy up to high fashion, the industry is as unpredictable as ever; what happens next is anyone’s guess — still, we asked eight fashion professionals to try.

Here, editors, designers and other insiders share their bold calls for the year ahead.

Adam Pritzker, chairman and CEO, Assembled Brands:
I predict the formation of numerous small brands, which engage niche audiences through social media and specialty retail, and “drop” exclusive products off of the traditional, seasonal cycle. The social benefit of the continued acceleration of the digital revolution will be that emerging designers can finally break out of obscurity and communicate directly with their customers; the most discomforting effect of the digital revolution will be Facebook, Google and Amazon’s continuous and pervasive surveillance of the consumer, which will spur governments to investigate and regulate the largest of them.

Christian Siriano, designer:
I think 2018 will be all about celebrating customer service and giving your client what they want, and stop listening to the noise of the industry. I think it’s time for each brand to really do what they do best, and it’s not going to be for everyone, which is OK. If you please the women you are trying to dress, that is what matters. That’s why we are opening a new flagship store in New York, a few blocks away from Bergdorf [Goodman], that will carry our full collection of clothing, accessories, jewelry and home — and it will not be dictated. Our  team that makes the clothes every day and works directly with the customer will be choosing what goes in the store, and what we should be selling.

Cheryl Kaplan, co-founder and president, M.Gemi:
Data is not a new buzzword or trend, but 2018 will be the year that successful brands take it to the next level.  It’s not just about analysis, but about being predictive. With transactional commerce being so dominant in 2017, consumers will be hungry for experiential brands that go beyond being purely a point of sale. We will need to utilize the wealth of data at our disposal to learn and be predictive through data science. Most importantly, we need to execute upon the data creatively to deliver on the customer’s wishes for everything from the product we design to the way in which we sell it.  

Marina Larroude, fashion director, Barneys:
In the coming year, fashion and retail will get even closer to the consumer; it’s all about making the shopping experience unique and special. In today’s environment, we are really in the entertainment business, and as retailers, we need to entertain and capture our clients’ attention. That means not only providing a great edit and shopping experience, but also providing exclusive services, ranging from beauty to food. Fashion retail is going through a very creative moment, and there are so many new ways to reach both existing and a new generation of customers. It’s going to be an exciting year ahead!

Jennie Baik, co-founder and CEO, Orchard Mile:
2018 will continue to see women’s fashion as supporting the cultural feelings of the day; as women’s voices become more confident and assertive, fashion will reflect that it is “for me,” as opposed to “for anyone else.” Styles that emphasize comfort, ease and a fast-paced lifestyle (lower heel heights/flats; versatile, travel-ready looks; and more modest fashions) will reign supreme. This doesn’t mean a resurgence of suits of armor like in the past; feminine details will still be coveted, but why a woman chooses a feminine style will be more about who she is, rather than how she is seen. She will want fashion to fit into her lifestyle and her value set, not adjust her fit into what’s in fashion.

From a retail perspective, the focus has been shining brightly on being “consumer-centric” for a few years now, and what’s new about 2018 will be that retailers will start looking deeper into the psychological desires of consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z, who are shopping differently — not because of a desire to be different, but because their definition of “great service” is different. Tantamount to value creation won’t just be two-day delivery or having the largest assortment, but instead, dependent on a company intrinsically understanding that sometimes the problem to be solved is reducing choices. More is not always more.

Katie Hobbs, executive director, ShopBazaar:
With the e-commerce landscape becoming increasingly cluttered and newness being harder to achieve, I think an emphasis on exclusive product, collaborations and hyper-edits will continue to keep retail fresh. At ShopBazaar, we have found success with our “hero” franchise, featuring a single, beautifully shot and often exclusive product on our homepage.  We have put the blinders on our customers and used our powerful editorial point of view to convert customers.

Seth Weisser, co-founder and CEO, What Goes Around Comes Around:
The industry will continue to refocus on the businesses that differentiate, and provide the most unique experiences to, the consumer.

Matt Scanlan, co-founder and CEO, Naadam Cashmere:
I think we’re going to see a lot of the vertically integrated, direct-to-consumer brands pivot to an omni-channel strategy, experimenting with pop-ups, shop-in-shops and wholesale. E-commerce is giving brands with a meaningful message an opportunity to acquire new customers and scale, but the economics for a sustainable apparel business online are very difficult to manufacture, and the growth potential that exists in other channels will always be appealing. So, rather than suggest that retail is dead, I believe what we are seeing is a changing of the guards, where new, right-sized, mission-based brands with strong digital chops are reinvigorating the retail/brand landscape across all channels. And we will see more millennial brands experiment with their own retail and wholesale.

Jenn Im, fashion and beauty influencer:
I think the fashion space will entail a lot more collaborations and businesses built or founded by digital content creators. As the space gets more and more saturated, we start to see that consumers no longer just want to buy a quality product; they also want to feel a genuine connection to it or to be told a certain story about it. In this way, creators have built platforms full of authentic connections globally, even more than some magazine publications and fashion houses. So, ultimately, I feel this alliance and new direction makes sense.

Ken Downing, svp and fashion director, Neiman Marcus:
The rebellious voices of the street will continue to inspire the runways for 2018, with a punk rock/new wave attitude. Empowerment, respect and the creating of confidence will be the tantamount trend, more important than hemlines and heel heights. And we as an industry will continue to value the importance of inclusivity by further embracing diversity of not only color and creed, but also body type, which will become the new normal for fashion shows and media.

Mara Hoffman, designer:
There will be more brands that voice messages extending beyond their product. I think this messaging will stem from the cyclical and political nature of 2017, but will be more grounded, better developed, and will continue with an inherent sense of care. It will manifest by these brands focusing attention on their internal processes, manufacturing, how the clothes are made and how all of this can be done in a more sustainable way. On the wholesale side, I hope that more retailers are conscious of the brands they’re featuring and pushing forward. I’ve been part of such a strong and growing community that cares about our environment, and I hope we can continue to fold more people in, that more people see it in its natural and ever -changing state, and want to be a part of it, too. On the consumer side, there’s a growing movement of people who buy consciously and are aware of who they’re buying from. People vote with their dollar, and I hope that another year brings even more awareness of who they’re supporting. 2018 needs us. It needs love, care, and a collective ethical consciousness, just as badly as 2017 did.

Sarah Flint: CEO and creative director, Sarah Flint:
In 2018, I see consumers becoming more involved with the full experience of their favorite brands. Consumers are smart, and they are looking for authentic narratives to guide their purchasing decisions. They want their relationship with the brands they wear to be more than just transactional, and I feel that direct interaction between brands, their customers and their product will continue to become more important. Personally, I have always responded to brands that inspire me and encourage me to think — from their social media to their brand message, to their thoughtfulness around original design and their approach to manufacturing. 

Christian Siriano spring 2018 runway image via usatoday.com