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Consumer Response to Utility Wear in US and UK Markets

| 7 min read

Glamorous Cargos: A Utilitarian Comeback to Meet the need for Pockets

Cargo pants have made a notable comeback in the form of utility wear, as GenZ embraces the 90s and Y2K trends. This renewed interest in utility wear-led trends is partly due to the demand for pockets among women. The following edit explores cargo trends performance in the US and UK markets across womenswear. These insights presented are drawn from Stylumia’s Consumer Intelligence Tool.

Key Insights

  • Rapidly embracing the Autumn 2021 and Spring 2022 runway trends, brands and retailers supplied shoppers with a diverse range of options in cargos. Based on Stylumia C.iT, the top trending categories where this trend has hit the mark are women’s pants & trousers.
  • Cargo – pants & trousers occupy a significant market share of 68.6% and 61.5% in both the US and the UK respectively. One key trend to look out for here is satin.

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Timeline of Utility & Cargo Trend on the Runway

Autumn 2021

Cargos and bigger-baggy bottoms emerged as a rising trend in the US as spotted on Autumn 21 runways. Luxury brands such as Burberry and Ferretti along with popular upcoming designers such as Lionne who debuted at NYFW were among others who showcased their versions of this trend. Ranging from interpretations in denim to corduroy, suede and cotton gabardine were among the types of fabrications designers picked while showcasing this trend in traditional earthy tones. Large utilitarian pockets are featured across shirts and jackets alike.

Spring 2022

Spring 22 welcomed more diverse interpretations of cargos with Marc Jacobs drifting away from the traditional silhouette, color, its other distinctive features. Similarly, Diesel and Tom Ford also showcased playful interpretations in lustrous satin and unconventional hues. Isabel Marant’s RTW Collection showcased utility wear in the form of jumpsuits. 

Autumn 2022

Valentino’s AW 22 Collection, set in motion the hot pink craze and established its impact even among utility detail-inspired pieces and cargos. This interpretation fortified the breakaway of this trend from a neutral palette.

Spring 2023

Spring 23 ranges showcased an amalgamation of trends ranging from metallics to sheers, corsets, and maxi skirts with the utility-inspired detailing. Further, this fusion was enhanced with romantic and whimsical touches, including floral prints.

While the utility & cargo trend is here to stay, it is imperative that brands and retailers zero in on the winning combination of attributes the consumer is gravitating towards. It’s important to ensure they capitalize on high-demand trends and don’t fall prey to supply trends in the market which can be highly misleading.

The length of an end-to-end fashion cycle typically can be between 12 weeks to 30 weeks. That’s why it can take up to a year for a new trend to hit the shelves because of how long it takes to develop, source, and make a product. Social media on the other hand has drastically shortened the longevity of trends. This has pushed brands and retailers to experiment with newer models such as “see now buy now” & “read & react”.

Navigating The Global Demand For Utility Wear and Cargos

Utility wear & cargos were among other trends that regained popularity with the rise of ’90s and Y2K fashion.

While the UK has seen a steady rise in demand across product categories since Spring 21, in the US, the demand did not pick up until later in autumn. Despite this difference in timing, demand has consistently increased in both countries. Reaching a peak during autumn/winter 22 as spotted on Stylumia C.iT, it continues to thrive in spring 23. The primary factor driving this trend is the consumers’ renewed emphasis on comfort and utility when making purchases.

Demand for Cargos over 2021-22 (Fig 1)

Utility Wear – Trend – Winning Assortment mix

The original concept of utility wear was to create functional clothing that served a practical purpose. These garments were designed with specific features, such as large pockets and sturdy fabrics to make them suitable for the job at hand.

Today, utility wear is a broad category of clothing that includes several different types of garments, including pants, activewear, skirts, jackets and more. Among these, pants and trousers hold the highest hit rate. They have a significant market share of 68.6% and 61.5% in both the US and the UK respectively.

Market Share of Pants and Trousers in the Cargos (Fig 2)

Understand the demand for other cargo categories here.

Understanding Regional Differences in Cargo Pants Trend: A Guide for Brands and Retailers

Although the global demand for cargo pants has increased, the regional preferences on this trend are highly nuanced. That’s why it is important for brands and retailers to pay close attention to the finer distinctions of this trend. For e.g., while statement cargos in bright colours could be popular in one region, classic styles could hold a larger market share in another. Understanding a trend with detail and contextualising per ones target demographic can reduce the margin of error by as much as 50%, as stated in this edit.

Fabric is a crucial attribute when it comes to pants and trousers. It can have a significant impact on the comfort, durability, and style of a garment. 

Fabrics such as cotton, denim, polyester, leather, and corduroy have been favoured for utility owing to their durability, comfort, and versatility in past. In recent years, cargo pants have transitioned from a functional, utilitarian garment to a fashion item. This shift in consumer preferences has resulted in an increased demand for unconventional fabrics velvet and satin.

Velvet & satin once reserved for formal occasions are now used to elevate the most basic items into fashionable pieces. In due time, consumers have picked these items across various offerings made by brands.

Satin: The Top Consumer Choice for Fashion-Forward Cargo Pants

Satin stands out as a clear winner among other dressy fabric interpretations offered in cargos. In the US market, supply has remained consistent with demand. Overall the US market has a remarkable relative demand growth of 370%. In the UK there is a shortage in supply of nearly 100%. Witnessing a high latent demand of 900%, satin cargos are a must-have in upcoming ranges for brands & retailers in order to win the utility-cargo trend.

Satin: Supply & Demand Growth in Autumn 2022 (Fig 3)

Keen to gain consumer-first insights on trending fabrics and other attributes across markets? Click here and schedule a demo with Stylumia.


Stylumia is a cutting-edge platform that delivers consumer intelligence to fashion retailers, providing them with valuable real-time data and competitor analysis. The platform helps brands make informed decisions about buying and stocking products in the most efficient and effective way possible, ultimately boosting their sales margins and optimizing assortments for greater revenue and profit. Stylumia is trusted by some of the world’s largest and most successful Fortune 500 companies.

With Stylumia, fashion retailers can conduct comprehensive market and competitor analyses across various dimensions such as assortment, price, discount, category, color, size, options, and strategy. By leveraging these insights, retailers can identify lucrative opportunities and make informed decisions that will drive their businesses forward. Say goodbye to missed opportunities and hello to greater profitability with Stylumia!

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