Welcome to the second annual Crystal Baller: a roundup of emerging trends that will shape outdoor, active, wellness and ecommerce in 2022.
Before we dive in, let’s just say it. There’s one theme that undergirds it all: after two pandemic years, there is no “new normal”—there’s just new. We can’t ever get comfortable. If I had only one prediction for 2022 it’s this: expect to be surprised. In 2022 we should all maintain that pandemic spirit of flexibility and experimentation.
With that in mind, here’s what to watch for:
1. Everything Circular, obviously
The outdoor industry has been leading that charge for years—actively trying to solve problems like end-of-life for petroleum-based products, the move away from them altogether, and extending the life used or returned gear. But they’ll be the first to admit they have a long way to go. In 2022, we see dedicated recommerce platforms (like our friends at RESPONSIBLE) taking the circularity load off smaller brands. We also see big brands pooling their resources—collaborating across corporate lines to share sources and insights and gain some real traction. Solving this problem isn’t a competition, it’s a collective imperative.
P.S. COVID-willing, we’ll be talking about it on the stage at SXSW in March with leaders from Patagonia, Arcteryx and Cotopaxi. Watch for insights from that talk.
2. Digital fashion
I’m a curmudgeon about this one—I love the tactile nature of fashion and how fabric moves with the body (and I resent anything that keeps me on a screen longer). But if Nike’s acquisition of RTFKT, Balenciaga’s Fortnite foray, or Adidas’ leap into the Metaverse are any indication, digital fashion is here to stay. The uptake of NFTs is proof we’re no longer afraid of digital art collecting, and fashion is just another form of art. Talk to me next year and I may be trying to figure out how I can use my first pair of digital ACGs.
3. Upper UPPER body workouts
Inner wellness might be all the rage, but we’re not yet above a little vanity. This year, however, our face lifts will come from the gym, not the surgeon, as we learn to work out the 57 underrated muscles in our mugs. “Face yoga” has started popping up all over my Instagram feed recently (credit to Brussels-based My Best Face for turning me onto this) and I think it will soon be as ubiquitous as Korean sheet masks and jade rollers.
4. Accessible outdoors
Last year we talked about body positivity and boy did 2021 deliver. Brands like Alder Apparel, Girlfriend Collective and Alpine Parrot raised the bar for inclusive sizing. This year we’re going to see our industry finally take big steps to open up the outdoors to all kinds of abilities too. Organizations like Outdoors for All have been doing this for decades, but in 2022 we think you’ll see true representation in mainstream campaigns and product development—from brands you probably didn’t expect. (P.S. We recently wrote about how brands can make the outdoors more accessible to newcomers if you want some ideas for yourself.)
5. Pickleball. Seriously.
As we all looked for new ways to get out of the house, socialize with friends outdoors and move our bodies, this sleeper sport turned into a bonafide craze. Your parents’ favourite ’90s pastime is now beloved by everyone from Leo DiCaprio to Melinda Gates (to our own Steph Elmitt). In Austin this past November we got to meet the two geniuses behind Recess Pickleball—who were the first to give the sport a fresh aesthetic and make it appealing to a younger cohort of players. Expect to see plenty more of this friendly diversion—might be time to learn the rules.
6. More mushrooms please
Though most of us were grounded from travel, it sometimes felt like I was the only person who didn’t “go on a trip” this year. As predicted, in 2021 mycelium played a big role in sustainable fabric development (even our pals at lululemon are about to launch a line of mushroom leather goods), but just as prevalent was the use of mushrooms as a therapeutic psychedelic. In the last decade brands have stepped into yoga, meditation, and fitness (Hermes somehow managed to get on the wellness train this year too). So now, what would it look like to have a brand-facilitated psychedelic experience? I’m not saying you should do it, but I’m not NOT saying you should.
7. Livestream shopping
Now to the ecommerce portion of our agenda. In the absence of brick and mortar, book tours, stadium shows or any IRL events, retailers and celebrities alike took to livestreaming. A slew of new platforms made it super easy to shop in the moment. The results were impressive: Garth Brooks sold 420,000 pre-ordered box sets in just 18 hours using embeddable video shopping platform TalkShopLive.
Some high-end retailers are using this tech to facilitate personal shopping, but we like the group potential for brands: just imagine beloved influencer @Pattiegonia giving a live walkthrough of Patagonia’s current Worn Wear inventory. Or cult brand founders like Brice Partouche of Satisfy Running, talking about the features in his latest collection. Or a full body-range live try-on hosted by Girlfriend Collective. This is going to be particularly powerful if you have a highly technical product: make a case for the bells and whistles, and customers can buy right there without leaving the live feed.
We know 2022 will offer up plenty we didn’t see coming. If you want to stay on the pulse of the industry, visit our friends at This is Range and subscribe to the Horizon Report (our favourite way to get a glimpse of the future). And if you want to see how last year’s predictions played out, read ‘em here.