I have a friend who works at SpaceX. Every so often, her Facebook activity will pop into my News Feed as she promotes self-landing rockets alongside others' benign posts about babies and dogs and sports. It sometimes seems unreal that there's a $12-billion company operating in Southern California that is quite literally planning to colonize Mars, but at trend forecasting agency WGSN, such space travel isn't nearly as absurd as it is to me, and might be to you. It's happening already, and per its research, it's coming up — and dramatically impacting the retail industry here on Earth — much sooner than any of us likely expected.
At the WGSN Futures conference in New York City on Thursday, Andrea Bell, Director of Insight and Executive Editor of Americas, spoke on this topic of space travel in her keynote, The Vision 2030, which looked ahead to the trends that will dominate the market for the next 15 years. Bell stated that — with the assistance of such corporations and ventures as SpaceX, Google, Vulcan Aerospace and Facebook's Connectivity Lab — "space tourism" will have both taken off and grown significantly in just two years. This development, Bell noted, will have a sizable impact on the garments we wear and the retail market from which we shop. "Our clothes aren't going to look and feel the same in space," she said. "Our hair products aren't going to work. Our makeup isn't going to work."
Fashion companies are already trying to get ahead of the curve and asking, as Bell said, "Do we need to start designing for this consumer?" She referenced Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto, who, in January, announced a collaboration with Adidas and Virgin Galactic to design and subsequently produce the line of clothing that will be worn on Virgin's commercial spaceflight operations. Of the product line, Bell said: "It's weightless; it's high-tech; the material is virtually indestructible." As the space tourism market launches and expands by the year 2030, shoppers will need clothes, accessories and beauty products that can travel with them beyond Earth.
Bell then name-checked Amazon's Jeff Bezos, who stands as the top investor into the current space race and is working to create the first space store. "His company, Blue Origin, has had the most successful space flights," she said. "Bezos has said that his New Shepard shuttles will make him the biggest retailer not only in the world, but also in space." The jury's still out, Bell joked, on the next-day delivery situation outside of our atmosphere.
A second trend that remains top of mind for WGSN is smart clothing, which, by 2030, will have made the transition from wearable accessories (such as watches and headsets) to fabrics, which will be hardwired to communicate through touch. In May, Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) revealed Project Jacquard, which has embedded its technology in new conductive yarns which are then placed in touch- and gesture-sensitive areas. The first Jacquard-enabled jacket is expected to hit select Levi's stores as early as 2017.
WGSN also sees mobile commerce — "m-commerce" — as being the next retail frontier. Last year, the m-commerce industry had already reached $142 billion in the U.S., just on apparel alone. Bell said that we can expect the biggest growth to take place in Southeast Asia and Africa, where m-commerce will jump to $88 billion by 2025, a sixteenfold increase. The only factor currently hindering m-commerce, Bell said, is the physical speed; as a solution, Google's Progressive Web Applications takes the average loading time from 3.2 seconds to 17 nanoseconds.
So, to recap: By 2030, we'll all have dope, space-ready wardrobes that will incorporate smart fabrics, all of which we bought from our phones. (And, hopefully, we'll have elected a female president, too.)