This year, direct-to-consumer brands teamed up with wholesale partners, digitally native brands rolled out physical stores, Supreme won CFDA’s Menswear Designer of the Year award, and Hedi Slimane took the reins at Celine. As in recent years, it was hard to keep up with the breakneck pace of fashion’s evolution. The industry shape-shifted in unexpected ways, altering consumer expectations and forcing brands and retailers across categories to change course.

It’s safe to assume fashion and retail will see just as many curveballs and shake-ups in 2019. Even so, we asked industry insiders to take a stab at what’s to come in the year ahead.

Giles Deacon, design director, Aspinal of London:
“From a design perspective, 2019 will highlight the exploration of the exceptional. The design narrative is ultimately what attracts consumers to a brand. Today, consumers are informed and will demand transparency, requesting details on the manufacturing process, the execution of the quality and the authenticity involved in the design at every level. In 2019, brands will be facing what makes you quintessentially you and what makes your voice unique, and able to be recognized globally. This will make for an engaging environment in 2019 for both consumers and brands who are moving away from the ‘land of the generic,’ toward the special. Genuine, considered stories will be told.”

Mike Smith, president & COO, Stitch Fix:
“The best retailers will remove the burden of search (both online and in-store) from consumers, and instead offer an incredibly relevant, emotional and curated experience. Second, consumers will continue to discover brands, styles and looks they love from increasingly myriad sources, including social media. Third, the retailers who will stay relevant and succeed in 2019 will create more opportunities for consumers to actively participate in improving their own experiences through data, driving engagement and loyalty. Fourth, brands and retailers will use client data and feedback to create better fitting product and merchandise. Finally, clients are now involved in the production process, and we expect this trend to continue next year. A model based on listening, understanding and improving for your clients creates consumer trust. In 2019 and beyond, trust will become a business’s most valuable currency. Building truly client-centric, empathetic, and trusted experiences is where companies can differentiate themselves and build client relationships for the long-term.”

Matt Scanlan, co-founder and CEO, Naadam:
“I think we are going to continually see fashion brands that launched online build out physical brand spaces across a variety of retail platforms. Customers are connecting with the offline and online brand formula, we just don’t yet understand what retail alternative is the most valuable (multi-brand retail pop-ups, standalone, Main Street versus malls). 2018 felt like the apex of the ‘affordable prices and great quality’ trend, and in 2019, I suspect that the customer will be looking for ‘affordable pricing for quality design.’ I get the sense that as millennials get older, they are going to demand quality in the design they purchase, and not just low prices and good materials. I think we have a long way to go within sustainability. I don’t believe it’s a trend; I think it’s a generational shift pioneered by the generation leading next-gen brand development.”  

Clare Vivier, founder and creative director, Clare Vivier:
“I think the year ahead will continue to be full of the twists and turns we’ve all been witness to these last couple of years. While our web store is our biggest revenue channel, I love our brick-and-mortar retail shops for so many reasons that web will never replace: We get to physically tell our story, meet our customers face-to-face and gain real-time feedback. I love being a part of some of our favorite local communities, adding to the retail heartbeat of each one. So while the bulk of business dollars still come through web, our stores are still so important to us, and I hope to be adding more soon in more walking neighborhoods around the country. I think brands can benefit from both online and offline presences. It’s about finding that perfect balance that’s going to be the elusive goal.”

Tracy DiNunzio, founder and CEO, Tradesy:
“The fastest growing segment of fashion in 2019 will be fractional ownership: rental, resale and related models that give shoppers access to high-quality fashion without the commitment and cost of ownership. This trend is driven by the lifestyles and values of millennials and Gen Zs, which continue to dramatically shift the fashion landscape. These young , tech-savvy consumers want access to frequent wardrobe updates to showcase on social media. At the same time, they care deeply about minimizing their fashion footprint, value access to designer and luxury brands, and demand smart fashion solutions that fit their budgets. Fractional ownership models sit at the intersection of these consumer trends, delivering access to a limitless, revolving wardrobe of designer fashion to a new generation of fashion consumer. As fractional ownership takes off with consumers in 2019, luxury brands and retailers will embrace these models. This is the year you can expect to see industry giants incorporate rental, resale and leasing options into their in-store and online experiences.”

Brooke Taylor Corcia, co-founder and CEO, The Dreslyn:
“I think 2019 will link purchasing with personal identity more closely than ever before. Product availability, convenience and transparency are at an all-time high, and shoppers are defining value in a new way. Our culture already embraces the idea that one’s purchases represent a larger lifestyle or worldview, and I think the public’s taste will become even more discerning in 2019, emphasizing brand ethics on par with quality and aesthetics. Care for the people and processes behind products will continue to rise. This brings to life the idea that fashion can meaningfully communicate identity and is why we’re hyper-focused on delivering a distinct point-of-view.”

Ramy Brook Sharp, president and creative director, Ramy Brook:
“Continuing the trend that we saw in 2018, retailers are developing programs and initiatives that entice the customer. Whether it is newly revamped departments, interesting pop-up shops, exclusive product on the floor or experiential marketing efforts, the department stores and smaller boutiques are really devoting time and effort to their brick-and-mortar properties. We think that 2019 will be a strong, successful year for brick-and-mortar. We have a tremendous amount of confidence in retail, both from a sales and marketing perspective, and are looking to invest further in the space.”

Kevin McKenzie, evp and chief digital officer, BrandBox/Macerich:
“Brands successful ‘in real life’ will create engaging, experiential, truly immersive storefronts for consumers to not only touch and feel product and try-on, but to learn more about what the brand stands for. In-store events that support a brand’s mission, passionate sales people, Instagrammable activations and social influencer marketing are a few elements key to physical retail success today. Customers should almost feel like a proud brand ambassador when they walk out of your store.”

Cheryl Kaplan, co-founder and president, M.Gemi:
“The rise of the DTC business model and digitally native retail means that it is easier than ever to launch a business, but it remains difficult to build a brand. In the current landscape, founders can easily fall into the trap of creating a company that simply capitalizes on current consumer shopping trends, instead of developing a brand with the longevity to stand on its own. In 2019, start-ups will begin to realize that a brand cannot be built on the strength of its business model alone, and that lasting success comes from putting equal care into the development of your brand identity.”