Spring Racing Trends in Australia

What were the biggest trends of 2019's Australian spring racing season? In this report, discover the top occasionwear categories, styles and colours seen at race days and in retail.

By Atiqah

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Introduction

The Australian spring racing season is known to be a huge part of the nation’s culture and tradition and a main event in the fashion calendar. The races have long acted as a platform for racegoers to showcase their impeccable style and finery, making it a huge opportunity for brands to tap into.

Despite Melbourne Cup 2019 hitting a 24-year low in attendance following the public protests and backlash towards horse racing industry, the event continues to be a key date for fashion in the region.

In this report, we reviewed a total of 12 Australian apparel and accessory brands retailing at David Jones, Myer and The Iconic, to analyse the key head-to-toe looks offered in the Spring 2019 race season. More than 3,000 data points were screened from August to October 2019 on popular clothing items for racewear – Dresses, Jumpsuits and Suits as well as Headwear.

The apparel brands used in the analysis were Alice McCall, Sass & Bide, Thurley, Lover, By Johnny., Bec & Bridge and Shona Joy while Morgan Taylor, Max Alexander, Gregory Ladner, Olga Berg and Ford Millinery were analysed for their Headwear.

 

 

Key Apparel Categories

Dresses are consistently the most popular choice for the races. According to the Spring new arrivals (Chart 1), the category continued to be the key volume driver, accounting for almost half of the brands’ newness during the period. Feminine midi dresses contributed to almost half of new-in dresses, followed by mini and maxi dresses.

Although Jumpsuits and Suits’ contributions were relatively minimal compared to Dresses, these two categories have proved to be the next popular options after dresses, just like at Royal Ascot.

 

Brand Contribution

Overall, some brands had the competitive advantage of dominating a high contribution in all three categories in newness, such as Alice McCall and Shona Joy.

However, for the key racewear staple, Dresses, Bec & Bridge held the biggest contribution during the season with 24%. It offered various styles of dresses from satin slip dresses to midi floral dresses.

Meanwhile, Alice McCall had the biggest offering for Jumpsuits and Suits, which mainly came in floral motif.

 

 

New-In Styles: Dresses & Jumpsuits

Overall, the silhouette for dresses and jumpsuits this year was more feminine and ladylike. The key styles spotted among the brands in focus included:

 

Bold Florals

Although florals are a given for spring, the romantic print accounted for 20% of the brands’ newness, signifying its continued popularity. With ‘feminine and floral’ being the official dress code for one of the major races, Oaks Day, coupled with the versatility of this print, it is no doubt that florals will be a popular choice for Spring Racing.

 

Lace

Alice McCall, Thurley and Lover were among the advocates of this trend. Intricate lace contributed at least 10% of the season’s newness, which was mostly used in a full head-to-toe ensemble. This style was also popularised by Kate Middleton as she repeatedly wore a full lace dress at Royal Ascot.

 

Puffy Sleeves

Puffed-sleeve tops and dresses reigned supreme on the Fall/Winter 2019 and Spring/Summer 2020 catwalks. This voluminous sleeve trend was also a major offering among the Australian brands this season, as it was not only on dresses but also on jumpsuits. Alice McCall, Shona Joy and Bec & Bridge were among the brands popularising this style.

 

 

New-In Styles: Suits

Some of the major Suit trends included:

 

Check Print

Although classic solid blazers held a higher contribution in the overall jacket category, check printed blazers were also common in this season’s newness as seen at Bec & Bridge and By Johnny. The print, which was more synonymous in the Fall/Winter season proved to be as popular in spring.

 

Double-Breasted Blazers

The ‘80s power suit silhouette appeared in the form of double-breasted blazers – boxy yet tailored and sleek. Shona Joy was one of the brands advocating this style best, mostly in tonal looks. Strong or sculptured shoulders were prevalent too, giving a more structured look to the whole ensemble.

 

Wide-Leg Pants

Another fall trend, the wide-leg trouser, which made a huge comeback on the Fall/Winter 2019 runways also reappeared in this season’s newness. Accounting for more than 20% of the pants’ newness, this style also extended to the groovy ’70s bell-bottoms, but in a more polished style.

 

 

Colour Performance Analysis

Core Colours

The core colours – black, white, brown and grey – accounted for nearly 60% of the brands’ total assortment, newness and sell-out during the period. Black and white alone contributed around 40% of the new arrivals, giving plenty of options for consumers for Derby Day, as it is widely known for its strict black and white dress code. However, black was more popular as it showed signs of missed opportunity as opposed to white, which showed signs of overstocking with 3 percentage point variance against sell-out (Chart 3).

While nude colour was popular following the neutral, tonal trend from the Spring/Summer 2019 runways, it was not the case for racewear, as it showed signs of overstocking with 4 percentage point variance against sell-out.

 

Fashion Colours

Pink and blue were the top two prominent fashion colours, as they were the only fashion colours appearing in the top 5. Based on Chart 4, pastel colours reigned supreme for blue, following Kate Middleton’s periwinkle blue number by Elie Saab at Royal Ascot 2019. Meanwhile, the shades of pink were more playful, as both bright and pastel hues were equally well received. Bright pink shades were popular especially at Melbourne Cup and Stakes Day.

Interestingly, red showed signs of missed opportunity with 4 percentage point variance against sell-out.

 

 

Overview on Headwear

Although headwear is not compulsory in Australian spring races, it is still an integral part of the race day outfit, completing the look. Headbands and fascinators took up a major contribution in the new-in styles, accounting for more than 70% of this season’s newness.

With the growing popularity of hair accessories recently, Hair Clips were also an alternative form of headwear, albeit having a relatively small contribution. Pearls, resin and tortoiseshell hair clips, which were popular in the ‘90s, commanded most of the hair clips styling this season.

 

Brand Contribution

Overall, Morgan Taylor and Gregory Ladner were the biggest contributors to the headwear newness. Morgan Taylor led in the Headbands and Fascinators department, while Gregory Ladner dominated Hats marginally.

 

 

New-In Styles: Headwear

With no stringent guidelines or rules for headpieces for the Australian spring racing season, the key trends surrounding newness in alternative forms of headwear were more robust and saw a lot of varieties. These included:

 

OTT Headbands

As seen at Prada, the padded ‘80s headband is now back on trend, giving inspiration for over-the-top headbands as a key headwear trend for the races. The ‘crown’ look was prevalent, mostly in the form of flower garlands. Other elaborate headband styles included the colourful halo crown, wide and high padded headbands, as well as the large turban style headband, which also came in floral print.

 

Boater

Straw in millinery continued to be popular, especially for wide brim hats. This season, the boater style with wide ribbons took the centre stage. This style offering was mostly seen at Morgan Taylor and Gregory Ladner in neutral colours but loud fashion colours such as pink, red and orange were popular too.

 

Bow Elements

Big bows were a major element in headwear this season as they appeared not only in the form of satin hair clips but also across headbands, fascinators, and hats.

 

 

Styles Spotted at Spring Races

The spring races, which officially kicked off in October with the Caulfield Cup and The Everest, saw similar trending styles among the Australian influencers and racegoers. The two races, which fell on the same day, saw dresses, sleek pantsuits and jumpsuits to be among the popular choices despite having different themes and dress codes.

As predicted by stylists, tonal tailored suits proved to be popular, especially at the Caulfield Cup. Floral prints were especially huge, appearing in dresses in feminine silhouettes with puffy sleeves and ruffles during the event. This style was also prominent at The Everest, complete with statement headbands. Pink, blue and yellow were among the popular colour choices aside from the usual core colours.

As for Derby Day, ultra-feminine and sophisticated looks were apparent, where attendees adhered to the black and white dress code, donning full lace dresses as well as tailored skirt suits and jumpsuits. Classic wide-brimmed hats were mostly chosen to complete the look.

Meanwhile, Melbourne Cup, which also known as ‘the race that stops the nation’, saw more bold, progressive styles yet still remained feminine. As expected, the biggest event in the Spring Racing Carnival was more colourful, as racegoers mostly came in bright fuchsia, canary yellow and scarlet red. Softer hues such as baby blue and blush pink were popular too.

 

 

Conclusion

Main Findings

Floral Print to Stay: Although floral prints tend to evolve season after season – from garish, retro florals in 2018 to bold florals in 2019, the print remains a success and continues to have its pull. The brands’ constant injection of newness in this print coupled with the high adoption amongst racegoers further prove that the print is a must-have for the racing season.

The recent trend on feminine silhouettes such as puffy sleeves, midi length dresses and romantic ruffles, as well as girlish hair accessories also helped amplify its popularity, making this combination a key style that will influence the wedding season. Also, as the races in the United Kingdom are more stringent with the dress codes, the feminine silhouette seen in the newness will continue to shape the racewear trends in 2020, but in a more conservative style.

 

Importance of Fashion Colours: While the monochromatic black and white will always remain as the main core colours in apparel, fashion colours showed of bigger importance to get right during the spring races. For instance, the lack of red offerings as depicted in Chart 3 proved to be a huge missed opportunity for the brands. Furthermore, Royal Ascot that took place during mid year has definitely influenced the popularity of certain colours such as icy blue, pink and red, which would point towards consumers’ demand.

 

Next Steps for Brands

Balancing the Art and Science of Fashion: The trends from the runway, and street styles from Instagram, have proven to be good indicators of what would be trending for the races. Furthermore, there is opportunity for local Australian brands thanks to the 6-month seasonal gap Australian labels have compared to the Northern Hemisphere brands.

The success seen with the recent trending silhouette, puffy sleeves, which was huge not only on social media but also across fast fashion retailers, was reflected similarly in Australia. Trending fashion colours from the runways that have proven to be successful will also help brands understand how colours and trends perform over time.

 

Make Informed Decision-Making: Relying solely on runway trends would be risky when it comes to commercial interpretation. With data-backed trend analytics, brands would have a higher rate of success and efficiency, as well as a guided direction, provided that monitoring and tracking is done diligently.

As spring racing is a key event on the yearly calendar, brands should monitor recurring success from their bestsellers and update them for new collections with trending prints, silhouettes and colours of the season to drive commercialism.