From ‘organic’ to ‘clean’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘free trade’, these are just a few of the trends that have blown up across the consumer sector in recent years – and the fashion, beauty and cosmetics industry is no different. Consumers have become more aware of sustainability issues and their environmental footprint, and more conscious of what they put on, as well as, in their bodies. As such, there has been a rise in demand for sustainable products in the fashion and beauty categories.
Consumers now want to know everything about the production process of their products. From what was used in their making, where those elements were sourced; where the product was made and by whom; whether those people were paid fairly; and if their product is recyclable. The trend is also catching on in the UAE, where the region’s major fashion platform, Fashion Forward, has been increasingly showcasing sustainable collections; and beauty and cosmetics categories such as natural and organic, for example, have been growing at an estimated 12- 15% annually, equating to a total projected industry value of $4 – $5 billion by 2022. These trends are being supported by the UAE government’s own National Sustainable Consumption and Production Plan Framework, which is encouraging the uptake of green products across the entire consumer sector.
With that in mind, what trends can we expect in the coming years, and how will this impact the fashion, beauty and wellness sector? Here are the top trends anticipated to create the most significant waves in the UAE and the wider GCC region.
Curbing Excessive Consumption
The No. 1 trend on the list is the desire to curb excessive consumption. Role models such as David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg have had an enormous impact on environmental awareness. People are now more conscious than ever of the non-biodegradable plastic that ends up in our oceans, the old clothes that end up in our landfills, and all-around issues of sustainability, that highlight the need for us as a planet to stop consuming at the rate which we are – current figures show we are consuming 1.6 times the earth’s capacity. As a result, consumers are increasingly considering the necessity of their purchases and turning to more sustainable brands. This is demonstrated in trends such as the move toward second-hand fashion goods sold by retailers such as RETOLD, and the simplification of beauty routines, removing unnecessary products that are no longer seen as providing any value, trends that are expected to grow in popularity over the coming years. For brands, it means they will face a much more competitive landscape and will need to cater to new consumer demands, increasingly embracing principles such as the circular economy.
How many times have you gone out to purchase a new outfit for a one-off occasion, only to then store it away in the back of your wardrobe where it collects mothballs and dust? Those days may be over, as more businesses offer a rental model for special garments, in light of the earlier mentioned trend to move toward less consumption. Across the UAE, there are now plenty of places offering this service, including Designer-24 and SW ONE, which not only rent any clothing but provide customers with access to affordable luxury.
Dedicated Clean Beauty
From dedicated clean beauty sections in retail outlets and e-commerce websites to dedicated clean beauty brands, there is likely to be much more variety across the product category in the coming years. From a desire to avoid harsh and toxic chemicals to a greater demand for organic ingredients that are good enough to eat, consumers are demonstrating a preference for such products despite them being more costly. Among the most prominent trends in this category is the rise of ingredients such as CBD, thanks to its medicinal, anti-inflammatory effects (ideal for problematic skin), and the increasing popularity of Korean beauty, which prioritises effective skincare over make-up. Local, popular clean beauty brands include Khadi Natural, Gwyneth Paltrow’s NEOM Organics, and Hoiisa.
Transparent Cosmetic Labels
In line with the move toward ‘clean’, ‘natural’, ‘organic’ and ‘vegan’ beauty, consumers are increasingly seeking clear and transparent labeling to determine what they are buying into when they spend their hard-earned dollars on beauty products. Sadly, many brands make such claims, which, while true regarding some ingredients, do not necessarily refer to all of them. As such, they might contain an organic ingredient say, while the remaining components do not meet the same criteria. A 2017 campaign, Come Clean About Beauty, conducted by the Soil Association, showed how widespread the practice was. Sadly, as a result of greenwashing, the term used for such practices, consumer trust in corporations at an unsurprising all-time low. Consumers now want access to key information that drives their purchasing decisions to be featured on product labels. These include testing practices, ingredient sourcing, and environmental impact. In the future, we are likely to see an increasing number of certifications from industry-wide bodies that can back-up brand claims.
Transparent Fashion Labels
The transparent labeling trend is not exclusive to the beauty industry and is now extending to fashion. Across the sector, consumers similarly want to know about the quality of materials used in their garment production, and the labour practices adhered to in their making. This is particularly the case after events such as the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh, in which over 1,100 people died, which was providing garments to major fashion retailers. Industry stakeholders are increasingly pushing major fashion retailers to disclose more information about their supply chains, with tools such as The Fashion Transparency Index, which addresses social and environmental policies, practices, and impacts. This drive is seeing more fashion lines launch dedicated sustainable lines, which focus on the reduction of their ecological impact. However, there is still much to be done in terms of transparency of the supply chain when it comes to workers’ rights, fair labour, and health and safety. For too long fashion brands have avoided addressing such issues due to the complexity of global supply chains. However, consumers are mounting pressure on them, and it is hoped that transparent labeling in this regard will become more widely adopted in the future.
Alternative Eco-Friendly Materials
With the rise in concerns over sustainability, manufacturers are seeking alternative materials that can be used to produce garments with a lower carbon footprint, including being less water and fertiliser intensive. Among the most innovative alternative materials being used are algae, pineapple leaves, and Koba. Algae, used to make fibres and dyes, is drawing particular attention from the sports industry for athleisure garments and has also attracted the attention of H&M. It is entirely bio-degradable, as well as having multiple environmental benefits. Pineapple leaves meanwhile, once a widely used material, can be used to make fibres, as one company, Piñatex, is doing. (The leaves which it is made from would otherwise be discarded as waste.) As bioengineering benefits from more research, we will likely be seeing newer alternatives to traditional materials in the near future.