The Analyst Team

May 17, 2021

The Softcore dressing starter pack

With over 44 million views on the #softcore hashtag on TikTok, explore the cozy elements and aesthetics underpinning this new Gen Z subculture.

So, what is Softcore you might be wondering? And no, it's not what you think. 

Defined by "cozy" and "cute" descriptors, Softcore is another micro-core that's emerged from, you guessed it, TikTok. Understand the premise of this trend, how to back it and direction on ways to invest in this report. 

If you're struggling to offer products to keep up with all these Gen Z subcultures, reach out to a Retail Specialist to see how we can help you stay one step ahead of the game. 

Defining the trend

Kawaii origins

Japanese influences revolving around the idea of youth and the culture of Kawaii or cuteness form the basis of this aesthetic. Associated imagery is often in feminine tones of pink and lilac, with graphics largely utilizing cartoon animals like bunny rabbits and teddy bears.

The comfort crusade

The commercial concept of Softcore developed as consumers wholeheartedly embraced comfort qualities in all aspects of their life. In retail, this manifested in a boom in sleepwear and lounge sets, alongside a hankering for tactile fabrications. At its most mainstream, the theme infiltrated Kim Kardashian West's SKIMS Cozy collection, a line of luxury bouclé loungewear.

Softcore socials

Video platform TikTok has been instrumental in helping drive traction for subcultures like Regencycore, and worked similarly to promote Softcore dressing. In line with this, Kawaii filters of cute woodland animals are a permanent feature on platforms Snapchat and Instagram, further contributing to the aesthetic.

Why it's important

It's trending online

Interest in the subculture has been emerging since mid-2020. Though US demand peaked on Pinterest during the summer, it continues to plateau throughout Fall and into 2021, highlighting its ability to work across seasons. A similar pattern was also noted for Pinterest searches in the UK. The aesthetic via the #softcore hashtag has also racked up over 44mn views on TikTok.

It caters to the high low dressing trend

This smart casual trend has quickly become an essential styling technique, where consumers increasingly want clothes that are versatile and adaptable for multiple occasions. The Softcore aesthetic works well here - think cozy knits layered over dresses or fur/teddy coats adding variety to loungewear.

Retailers are getting on board

Although retailers are focusing on the return of occasionwear as restrictions lift, soft and comfy themes remain unwavering across communications. & Other Stories sent an email on April 20th promoting its "soft co-ord sets" and Monki currently features a "super-soft edit" within its navigation menu - everyday pieces and modal fabric blends are a focus here. 

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Images via Allegra Shaw, Instagram - Esdras Azonna, Instagram - Floguan, Instagram - Caribbean Papi
 

How to invest

For women

Color & fabric

Pastels and neutrals are central to this aesthetic and their presence on the Fall 2021 runway proves they are not just for spring. Include creams, blush pinks, whites and browns within your core palette and consider lilacs, sorbet yellows and ice blues for more trend-led tones. 

Tactile fabrics and textures underpin this theme and are an easy way to tap into the trend without overcommitting. Think hairy yarns, teddy/fur textures and soft-touch fabrics. 

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Images via Salvatore Ferragamo Fall 2021, Loaxual Fall 2021, Chloé Fall 2022, Acne Fall 2021

Lounge sets

Now an ingrained part of the consumer wardrobe, focusing on plush fabrics will help give fresh direction to your loungewear assortment next season. Sweats, cardigan co-ords and strapless designs were all noted at Acne and Tanya Taylor.

Cozy knitwear

A safe way to enter the aesthetic, consider cardigans in both lightweight and chunky knits as a good starting point, while sweater vests offer a more directional piece. Focusing on feminine details and yarns will be important to elevate designs.

Teddy coats

A fall hero piece, teddy coats and jackets continue to see success each season and offer a high ticket item for this trend. Stick to soft creams and neutrals, and style over loungewear to tap into the high low dressing trend.

Playful jewelry

Nostalgic and playful jewelry can help complete Softcore outfits and also bridges into the dopamine dressing trend present in the market. Resin rings have recently landed in the market, while candy-inspired beaded necklaces are already stocked at SHEIN.

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Images via NA-KD, & Other Stories, H&M, SHEIN

For men

Color & Fabric

While this story has overarching colors well-tailored to a womenswear assortment, picking out balanced pastel shades of baby blue, soft sage and sand is a way to avoid estranging your male customer. Softcore screams sensory, so inject your assortment with fabrications that prioritize tactile qualities. Materials at the Fall 2021 menswear shows ranked fleece, teddy, padding and knits as key investments.

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Images via Rick Owens Fall 2021, Solid Homme Fall 2021, PRONOUNCE Fall 2021, Kolor Fall 2021
 

Fleece pullover

Fleece textures are pivotal to this aesthetic and hold the most commercial value in established shapes like overhead sweaters.

Long-length scarf

Introduce this cozy accessory in a directional hairy yarn for the fashion-forward customer, touting it in email communications as Softcore basic.

Puffer jacket

Channel the duvet dressing trend from Fall 2021 by introducing plump, pillow-like puffer jackets as a fail-safe investment.

Cable knit jumper

The texture of this knit exudes comfort and supports the tactile Softcore story. As a core fall buy, consider mixing in contemporary tones of soft pastel for a refresh.

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Images via Zara, Acne Studios, Weekday, Vintage Supply
 

EDITED user? Log in to read our analysis on how to also tap into the childrenswear market. 

Beauty

The growing hype around K-beauty and J-beauty has propelled skincare brands like Hada Labo Toyko to the fore. Aligning with the principles of youth so emphasized by Kawaii culture, this exciting landscape for a lifestyle extending Softcore dressing has pushed a number of mainstream brands like BeautyPie to invest. Additionally, the millennial pink tone that is somewhat synonymous with the Softcore aesthetic has shown vast infiltration into the beauty and cosmetics market as have terms evocative of a "soft" experience like Glossier's Cloud Paint and NYX's Smoothing Marshmallow Primer.

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Images via Instagram - Beauty Pie, Instagram - Hada Labo Tokyo, Instagram - Glossier
 

Contributions by Venetia Fryzer and Katherine Bailey.

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