Festival fashion, with its riot of colors, sequins, flower crowns and do-it-all outfits, is back. After a two-year hiatus caused by a pandemic, Coachella, the California-based music festival that attracts 250,000 fans, made a comeback this weekend, bringing with it dynamic new trends and a cash boost for the fashion industry.
Coachella, the hottest event of festival season, is known as much for its outfits as it is for its performances. Trends for the rest of the year’s festival fashion are often dictated by outfits worn by celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Katy Perry and Gigi Hadid. For streetwear brands and fast-fashion labels, Coachella is particularly important. Boohoo-owned fast fashion brand, Pretty Little Thing, streetwear resale site StockX and US retailer Gen Z Revolve will sponsor areas of the festival, not only to advertise to attendees but also to those watching. from home and on social media.
Ebony-Renee Baker, fashion editor of website Refinery29, describes it as “such a big business opportunity for brands and influencers – it’s gotten so huge now and is being seen all over the world.”
Revolve’s chief brand officer, Raissa Gerona, described Coachella on industry analyst website The Business of Fashion as “essential, it’s massive…it’s that kind of Super Bowl.”
Festivals have long been an influence on fashion, ever since Woodstock cemented hippy chic as an aesthetic in 1969. Over the years, images of ravers in the fields and Kate Moss at Glastonbury have made tracksuits and boots fashionable Hunter rubber boots. Recently, festival trends have included crochet and cycle shorts – now mainstays of summer style. There have also been controversial times, such as in 2017 when the trend for Native American-style headdresses led to claims of cultural appropriation.
Influencers can also earn significant sums. Maryam Ghafarinia, who has 186,000 followers on Instagram, described to New York Post how it will capitalize on its attendance at Coachella, charging brands more than $2,000 (£1,530) per post on the site.
Amy Luca, senior vice president of Media.Monks, a global marketing and advertising services company, said these sums are dwarfed by the fees charged by household names: “When you’re talking about models and stars of reality tv, that [payment] can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Baker said festival season is often a time for people to try on trends. “I predict a lot of vintage-inspired ’90s looks, balletcore tulle skirts and leotards, cottagecore floral dresses, straw hats, lots of lace,” she said.
Fast fashion brands know that festival season is a time when consumers spend – The Business of Fashion reports a 173% increase in sales of festival fashion items on Boohoo, H&M, Asos and Nasty Gal sites, compared to 2019. This does not lend itself to a sustainable approach to fashion, although Baker says festival-goers will be looking for sustainable options. “More people than ever are turning to thrift, thrift shopping and vintage. Personally, I love a fresh new outfit for festivals, but I always look for second-hand options first.
Sustainable fashion and textiles consultant Philippa Grogan describes festival fashion as “instant fun – [a bit like] the festive Christmas dress but in the summer”. She says it makes her “wonder if [the clothes] were designed with longevity in mind… Then there’s the kind of overall aesthetic, lots of glitter and lurex, which are often largely derived from fossil fuel materials like oil and natural gas, as they are mostly plastic.
Grogan suggests getting crafty is an option. “Cut sequins out of existing things that aren’t plastic,” she said, “[and then] spruce up an old cardi or something. If festival fashion is all about impact, creativity like this goes a long way: “You always wear something unique if you really put something together at home with existing materials.”