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The Fashion Forecast

What fashion looks like for licensing in 2023 and beyond.

License Global

February 14, 2023

13 Min Read
BLE 2022 catwalk.
BLE 2022 catwalk.

At a Glance

  • License Global's editors highlight the biggest upcoming trends in fashion.
  • What was big in 2022 and what will be big in 2023.
  • Fandom, Web3, Sustainability and more.

This story and more can be found in our February 2023 issue. Read the issue here!

Fashion is many things: personal, subjective, influential. But it’s paramount in licensing. Fashion is the top category for licenses, with apparel and footwear as focus, according to our Top Global Licensors Report in 2022. In this feature, License Global projects what the future of fashion may entail. Sustainability and nostalgia are buzzwords across several industries, but how do they show up in licensed fashion? How does fashion connect categories through licensing? Is Web3 the future of not just fashion, but licensing? Read more to find out.

Outside Influences

The Met x PacSun via Beanstalk

The global apparel market grew from $551.36 billion in 2021 to $606.19 billion in 2022, according to a study from The Business Research Company. According to ShopifyPlus’ analysis, the footwear segment is up to $365.5 billion, and accessories are estimated at $535.60 billion, according to Statista. When added up, this brings fashion revenue to more than $1.5 trillion in 2022.

With that much money being spent globally in the fashion industry, consumers homed in on trends like resale fashion, leisure wear, sustainable fashion and more to inform their buying decisions.

The resale market grew 24% in 2022, according to resale retailer, Thredup. Even fast-fashion retailers like Shein have hopped on the resale trend, opening a resale plat-form on its site. As for new fashion options, Statista says that 42% of consumers purchase eco-friendly clothing specifically. Athleisure, workleisure and comfortable clothing are also in, with 69% of consumers in a Cotton Incorporated survey saying they prefer to wear comfortable clothes more frequently than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further, global events influenced where and how consumers spent their money. Uncertainty from the Russia-Ukraine conflict was one of the most impactful. The Russia-Ukraine conflict not only disrupted the global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in the short term, but it led to an increase in commodity prices, economic sanctions on multiple countries and supply chain disruptions. With these challenges came inflation. The Economist states that global inflation will reach 9% in 2022. According to the Walmart 2022 Holiday Insights Guide, 78% of shoppers say inflation has had some or a great deal of an impact on their 2022 holiday shopping plans. It’s no stretch to say that logic will extend to purchases into 2023, including fashion purchases.

Additionally, Shopify’s Future of Commerce report shows that omnichannel commerce was strong in 2022. 54% of consumers were likely to buy a product in a physical store aft er seeing at it online, and 53% did the opposite. – McKenna Morgan

Footwear: a Step Ahead

PUMA footwear.

Athletic footwear for the masses has been a big business for decades. According to Statista, the segment amounted to $50.91 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow annually by 6.71%. Footwear has a long, profitable relationship with athletes and pop-culture figures – “His Airness,” Michael Jordan, is a tower-ing example. But the past year has seen several scandals from celebrities with ties to footwear, most notably Kanye West (now known as Ye) and Kyrie Irving, who both shot themselves in the financial foot with anti-Semitic scandals. It took a few days for adidas to sever ties with Ye over his public rants. Nike did the same with Irving, announcing it would no longer launch any new Kyrie footwear. An interesting difference is there are no Yeezys offered on the adidas site, instead you find Yeezy, with a “you’ve been canceled” strikethrough along with a page of alternative choices. Nike on the other hand, still offers Kyrie shoes on its site, although most are now selling at a steep discount. These kerfuffles can have a devastating effect on a company’s bottom line. Forbes predicted adidas could lose up to $650 million after the Yeezy flap. Nike did not disclose its revenue numbers from Irving’s shoe line, but with the brand’s profitable relationships with other stars, it’s likely to be a smaller hit overall.

Still, such notoriety may make shoe brands less likely to jump into celebrity deals. Some may opt to combine a bit of sports celebrity with some popular IP. In December, PUMA and Nickelodeon revealed a new collaboration featuring Nick’s globally beloved Slime reimagined on LaMelo Ball’s signature shoe – the MB.02 Slime.

Perhaps this year could see a shift from shoes with celebrity tie-ins to ones licensed to popular characters and brands. We’re already seeing an increase in these deals and their popularity. One example, a PUMA x Coca-Cola collaboration, was one of the Top 5 co-branded fashion offerings in 2022. In the last six months, PUMA has inked collabs with Garfield, “PAW Patrol,” “Pokémon” and Smileyworld. Adidas has partnered with Dr. Seuss for "The Grinch" shoes and with adidas Originals featuring a “Home Alone 2” range. Last summer, frozen treat brand, Popsicle, and Reebok announced a summer footwear collab. More recently, Reebok released a kids-only “Peppa Pig” footwear collection. Footwear company, Ground Up International, has launched offerings featuring IP from “The Mandalorian” to “Minions.” Creating footwear featuring fun, non-controversial IPs like these is a safer bet for the shoe companies and cooler for the consumers. –Jane Neal

Kid-Approved Fashion

Fortune Business Insights valued the global kids’ apparel market at $187.3 billion in 2022, a figure which is projected to grow to $296.8 billion by 2029. This developing market has been growing and diversifying to become one of the global fashion industry’s key drivers. The growth has been rapid, too; License Global’s 2022 Top Global Licensors Report highlighted fashion as the leading brand category held by licensees, with an $11.1 billion growth of licensed goods sold at retail in 2022 from the previous year.

Regarding what to buy, influencers have an increasingly significant role in purchasing decisions and choosing which brands to trust, even for kids, who have ever-increasing access to product discovery through channels such as social media. According to business content provider, Bizibl, 71.2% of parents say their child has requested something.
Business Insider highlighted millennials as “in charge of America” regarding buying power in 2021. With many people in this age bracket having kids and nostalgia being a key trend, it’s no surprise to see some of the properties proving popular.

“One of the trends we continue to see in pre-school is nostalgia and parents buying their childhood favorites for their children," says Karen Hewitt, buying director, Character.com. "Who would have thought that 'Friends' baby-wear would have been a must-have purchase?”
Gaming properties now also play a huge part in fashion apparel.
“Our kidswear offering features a range of characters, TV shows and fandoms to suit children of all ages, from Mickey Mouse, Stitch and 'Spider-Man' to gaming, including PlayStation, Xbox and ‘Minecraft’ and new trending licenses like anime and U.S. sports,” says Gavin Daniels, trading director, kidswear, Primark.
This is backed up by BrandTrends, which pinpoints the likes of LEGO, “Minions,” Mickey Mouse, “Spider-Man,” “PAW Patrol,” Marvel, “Tom and Jerry” and Barbie, as some of the most popular licenses for children aged 0-14 worldwide, while gaming properties such as “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II,” “Fortnite” and “Minecraft” continue to grow. – Ian Hart

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Sustainability

Sustainability (also known as the circular economy) is also coming on strong for 2023 as consumers are facing rising living costs and showing more significant concern about how their products are made. As License Global has previously reported, Retail Economics has researched the topic and found that the most likely demographic making the shift toward the circular economy and buying second-hand are millennials (30%), followed by Gen Z (28%), Gen X (22%) and boomers (16%). Naver, Korea’s largest internet company, acquired U.S. resale app, Poshmark, and has plans to make a global e-commerce community portfolio to capture growth in large untapped markets around the world.

Brands have taken note, and in recent months, online resale retailer, ThreadUp, has partnered with Torrid so consumers can send back items they no longer want and receive a credit to use on the site. Right around the holiday season, ThreadUp released a capsule collection made entirely of previously owned goods. Brands like adidas are creating sustainable materials to be used in various collections, including their tennis collection with Thebe Magugu.Barbara Smith

Looking Back with Love

Altough COVID-19 seems to be slowly fading like a bad dream, some of its aftereffects linger on like a stubborn cough. Along with isolation and a desire to enhance our domiciles, COVID also brought with it a renewed love of all things nostalgic. As we sought comfort in our homes, we all seemed drawn to the things that reminded us of happier days gone by. There’s a charming legacy trend with parents introducing brands and characters they loved to their own kids; one example is “The Smurfs.” It’s been more than 60 years since “The Smurfs” first made the leap from comics to animated series. The series rebooted in 2021 and we continue to see brand-licensed Smurf products in categories from food to hygiene. We even saw “Smurfy” apparel on the catwalk at Brand Licensing Europe last September.

Nostalgia also contributes to reviving brands that might have seemed lost forever. In the November issue of License Global, Marc Setton, chief executive officer, Hang Ten North America, spoke with License Global about bringing back the Hang Ten brand. Setton acknowledged that having a “nostalgia” brand is a big plus.

Countless boomers and millennials feared Toys“R”Us stores were gone forever until WHP Global partnered with Macy’s to bring back the toy retailer with in-store installations at all Macy’s U.S. locations. In the License Global December issue, Yehuda Shmidman, chairman and chief executive officer, WHP Global and Toys“R”Us, spoke to License Global about the return of the beloved toy store. Shmidman says the company was drawing deep from the nostalgia well to meet an obvious demand.

And as Ian Hart, digital editor at License Global, wrote in this issue, numerous brands and IPs will be celebrating anniversaries in 2023, further feeding those sentimental feelings. Now that we’ve discovered the comfort that brands from the past can bring, we’re not likely to let them go anytime soon. – Jane Neal

Fandom Remains in Fashion

Rock The Bells clothing.

Fashion is connected to much of our entertainment, particularly through licensing. Licensed fashion helps promote an entertainment property in all stages, so brand awareness is at the forefront.

In December, Marvel Studios announced it was releasing “Stan Lee,” a documentary about the creator of many Marvel characters including Spider-Man, Iron Man and Black Panther on Disney+ later this year. While there is no definite release date, Genius Brands debuted the Stan Lee e-commerce shop with apparel and accessories featuring Lee ahead of the documentary.

Rock The Bells (RTB), founded by LL COOL J, is a platform comprising a SiriusXM radio show, podcasts, its annual music and culture festival in Queens, NY and the first hip-hop cruise, champion classic hip-hop. Merchandise is one extension of how RTB keeps hip-hop culture evergreen. RTB and the estate of late rapper, ODB, dropped a capsule collection and worked with streetwear designer, Cloney, on an array of hoodies and hats currently on the RTB website.

Along with its streaming service, Netflix has a games app (featuring video games based on its series like “Nailed It!,” “Too Hot to Handle” and “Stranger Things”) and Tudum, a content site. Its online shop supports all of Netflix and includes licensed apparel and accessories from its series, including “Cobra Kai,” “The Witcher” and “Squid Game” (plus the Metallica x “Stranger Things” T-shirt).

Licensed fashion is organic promotion of sorts. People are aligned with and support a particular fandom by what they wear. For the brand, it’s continued awareness after an album, film or series debut for months, if not years. – Patricia DeLuca

Embracing Web3 Fashion

Timex x Bored Ape

The global fashion market is facing a challenge. Economic uncertainty is rife worldwide, and rapidly shifting consumer behavior presents an ebb and flow of opportunities and obstacles. So, how can brands enter the fashion market with confidence in 2023?

Despite a decade of recessions, lockdowns and dwindling financial confidence, there is resounding proof that specific markets can flourish in inclement conditions. This year is no exception. Speaking with consumers worldwide, Global Web Index has uncovered that apparel will remain on top of the consumer agenda across 2023 – especially for Gen Z female shoppers. Moreover, consumers are actively engaging with emerging trends.

One key consumer trend in fashion is digital self-expression. According to McKinsey, whether it’s “avatar avant-garde” or social media shopping, digital channels will be vital for brands navigating the fashion industry and meeting the consumer head-on.

As our understanding of the metaverse expands, so does the opportunity for brand engagement and extension. Brands are already exploring virtual storefronts and “skins,” with 67% of Gen Z Instagram users wanting to use digital avatars to reflect their unique clothing preferences, body type, and skin tone, according to Instagram. However, one of the most exciting opportunities in digital fashion is the merger of digital and physical (“phygital”) products. Timex collaborated with Bored Ape Yacht Club in December to produce the first customizable watch collaboration, offering consumers both a digital and physical product. This limited-edition launch followed hot on the heels of a partnership with “Fortnite,” presenting players with a “Race Against TimeX” special event that reached gamers, streamers and social media stars worldwide.

Social media itself presents another opportunity for brands to work and collaborate within the fashion space. Social commerce bridges the gap between a returning retail market and e-commerce shoppers, with social sellers logging $742 billion in 2022, according to Influencer Marketing Hub. Social commerce is also an opportunity for brands to collaborate openly and promote capsule collections in an evolving direct-to-consumer landscape.

With global brands accustomed to pivoting in the face of change, the fashion market will present those who stay on their toes with countless growth opportunities. – Ben Roberts

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About the Author(s)

License Global

License Global is the leading news source for the brand licensing industry, delivering award-winning editorial content including news, trends, analysis, and special reports about the global consumer product and retail marketplace.

Through its print edition, website, daily e-newsletter and event publications, License Global reaches more than 150,000 executives and professionals in all major markets. The magazine also serves as the official publication for the sector’s trade events, which include Licensing Expo, Brand Licensing Europe, Licensing Expo Japan, Licensing Expo Shanghai and the Licensing Leadership Summit.

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