A market sector rooted in culture with reliance on hype and a decades-spanning influence. Despite predictions from Virgil Abloh that it would fizzle out in the 2020s, streetwear's unflinching resilience in the face of a global pandemic has reinforced its evergreen success.
Its broad appeal lends itself to both mass and luxury brands, making streetwear a $185 bn category. However, as consumers demand inclusivity and gender becomes less of a social construct, is the industry missing a trick with its hyper-masculine focus?
In this report, we uncover how the market and demand for women’s streetwear has grown, as well as the hottest trends and female-owned brands targeting the demographic striving for Hypebae status.
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- The women’s streetwear market is hot property poised for extreme growth, with leading retailers pivoting their strategies to capture this demographic. It’s been reported the women’s customer base was growing twice as fast as the men’s at GOAT while StockX now sell as many women’s sneakers every four hours as it did for all of 2016.
- EDITED data can back up its success. Women’s streetwear is becoming more accessible, with more products dropping than ever before. And consumers are responding - new products selling out of majority SKUs are up 47% vs. 2019.
- While the time is ripe to enter this market, it is still dominated by menswear. Retailers stocking iconic streetwear brands and luxury designers are dedicating 59% and 50% more of their assortments to this consumer. Retailers also can’t ignore the demand from the non-binary demographic and commit to landing styles that translate to all consumers.
- The defining streetwear trends aren’t categorized by gender. Matching sets, bold hues, oversized silhouettes and Softcore lend themselves to the overarching aesthetic and only require universal sizing.
How the market has grown
Streetwear was one of the categories that continued to thrive in lockdown, which helped propel the market above its pre-pandemic state. We analyzed products dropping online from some of the most influential streetwear labels including A Bathing Ape, Carhartt, Supreme, Off-White and many more. Overall, over the past three months, online arrivals are up 30% YoY and outpacing 2019’s levels by 3%. New items categorized for women are dropping now more than ever - up 24% YoY and 9% compared to 2019.
The product divide
With the women’s streetwear market blossoming, how do the products on offer compare to menswear? Across the US and UK online, 59% more products by streetwear labels were categorized for men than women. Footwear made up 30% of new women’s streetwear arrivals and 28% of men’s was driven unsurprisingly by sneakers. Tops were the most dominant menswear category landing new to market with T-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts as the most-invested styles. In womenswear, tank tops were a more prominent arrival over sweatshirts and hoodies.
Accessories equaled a greater proportion of new men’s streetwear than women’s at 8.3% vs. 6.4%. The bulk of this was dedicated to new hat styles - bucket hats, beanies and caps. While in womenswear, bags were the top invested subcategory, spurred by shopper totes and backpacks.
Performance and pricing
According to a Hypebeast and PwC survey, consumers identifying as non gender-binary were reported to be spending the highest on streetwear, followed by male and finally female respondents. Comparing the average advertised price point of own-brand streetwear products at a US and UK streetwear e-tailer backs up this finding. Womenswear is either cheaper or the same price as menswear across core categories at both Kith and Fila.
Sneakers currently stocked at Kith are either from one of the 45+ labels available at the multi-brand retailer or a collaboration. Combined, the average price point for men’s sneakers still comes out 40% higher than women’s sneakers.
While discounting is limited in this area, womenswear is marked down at a slightly higher rate. Currently 33% of both mens and womenswear ranges are advertised as discounted with an average discount depth of 32% for women and 28% for men.
With the endless carousel of collaborations and comfort now embedded into consumer wardrobes, women’s streetwear shows no signs of slowing down. Products selling out of the majority of SKUs over the past three months are up 47%
Savvy retailers know leveraging market analytics can help gain an edge over the competition by understanding what’s working and adjusting ranges accordingly for this fickle consumer.
For example, the product breakdown revealed more tank tops were categorized for women at streetwear labels. However, this item was outsold by hoodies, much like in menswear. This highlights streetwear’s blurred seasonality and proves trends in this market are rooted in style rather than gender.
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The luxury overlap
Our luxury market deep dive outlined streetwear’s integration within the high-end retail sector. Sneakers became the top stocked women’s footwear style for luxury brands, making up 29% of shoes available over the past three months, with a 35% increase since 2019 when it was the third top-stocked shape. With comfort continuing to dictate runway trends, quintessential streetwear styles are growing in this space. Since the start of the year until the end of April, the number of new arrivals has grown 53% since 2019 and 50% YoY.
Products stocked within the luxury market are more skewed towards women, with 55% of products categorized as womenswear. Despite this and the category’s upwards trajectory, streetwear is still a male-dominated market. The number of new luxury streetwear arrivals this year classified for men eclipsed womenswear by 50%.
The importance of gender fluidity
The spending power of non-binary consumers in this space combined with 56% of Gen Z shopping outside of their assigned gendered area further underscores the importance of this demographic in streetwear. Items described as gender-neutral, genderless or unisex continue to land in this market, up 23% compared to 2019. However, it’s probably making an even more significant contribution with several labels such as Telfar, Cold Laundry and Rastah creating streetwear that is not categorized by gender.
2021’s hottest trends
With streetwear continuing to disrupt the market and the growing opportunity to cater to women, we compiled the strongest trends brands should be leaning into to capture this consumer (outside of sneakers and hoodies, of course!). Notice how tactile fabrics, sporting influences and relaxed silhouettes are also favored, mirroring what’s trending for menswear.
A certified color for next summer backed by influencers and the impact of dopamine dressing. Colored soles on sneakers, sliders and bucket hats are an ideal entry-level product to emulate street style, while oversized silhouettes or matching lounge sets make a standout piece to capture viral attention.
The Gen Z subculture of all things cute and cozy also translates to streetwear through pastel hues and fuzzy textures. Think color-blocked sneakers and fleeces and Y2K-approved graphics like butterflies, as pioneered by Needles and X-Girl.
Another example of post-pandemic positivity in fashion, the smiley face is becoming the most sought-after motif and is a streetwear essential spotted at Justin Bieber’s Drew House, Balenciaga, Lazy Oaf and more.
With jeans outselling sweatpants for womenswear, slouchy denim styles are the ideal silhouette to market to streetwear savvy consumers with loungewear fatigue. 90s nostalgia is synonymous with streetwear, which has led to high-waisted, vintage blue washes with knee rips seeing commercial success in the market.
A streetwear staple that’s not going anywhere - bundled-up dressing has been confirmed as a commercial shape on the Fall 2021 runways with Givenchy, Ottolinger, STAUD and more designers backing puffer jackets.
Another streetwear no-brainer. The 90s classic has been renewed for another season following its presence on the runway and the viral success of Prada’s nylon bucket hat.
While the loungewear hype may be slowing down, coordinated sets will continue as a wardrobe staple appealing to both street and activewear consumers. Kith recently released its Women’s Spring 2 drop consisting of knitted separates in timeless hues. Adidas teamed up with Black-ish star, Yara Shahidi, on a range that included striped tracksuits serving a nod to streetwear’s hip hop roots.
Sport is a driving influence on streetwear with the NBA playing a crucial role in trends. In womenswear, Tenniscore is being hailed as the new athleisure and it’s starting to trickle into streetwear. Adidas’ Tennis Luxe collab with ASOS was widely received, while Fila partnered on a range with Brooks Brothers. Incorporate the look with tennis whites, polo shirts, pleated skirts and bucket hats.
Even though the women’s streetwear market is growing, major brands are still headed up by men. By no means a complete list, here are some of the female-founded labels changing the face of the industry.
Founded by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and her friend Daisy von Furth in 1994, X-Girl is considered “the pioneer of Girl’s Movement in the fashion industry, involving art and music” and specializes in basics inspired by street culture, sports and the outdoors.
The brainchild of Polish designer Natalia Maczek, MISBHV is known for streetwear featuring deconstructed T-shirts, oversized hoodies and iconography drumming up a distinctive post-Soviet aesthetic. A favorite of Billie Eilish and Hailey Beiber.
Always a standout during London Fashion Week, Ashley Williams streetwear is instantly recognizable and off-beat. A pioneer of Softcore dressing, cheeky graphics are adorned on fleeces and puffer jackets sweetened with hyper-feminine styling.
Known for colorful prints and playful graphics, designer Natasha Zinko’s womenswear line has expanded to include a concept shop in London and a sub-brand DUOltd created in partnership with her teenage son, which has gained a following from Migos, Travis Scott and more.
Created by Jessica Zhao and Chelsea Ma in New York, TakeOn celebrates Asian-American streetwear culture through quality pieces infused with utilitarian functionality.
Images via TakeOn
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