CAUTION: WIDE LEG AHEAD

Consumers are liberating their legs and evicting skinny-legged pants from wardrobes and online wish lists in favour of more voluminous versions. Wide leg pants have crept up on us, first being favoured by more sartorially adventurous consumers and steadily gaining traction as a mainstream trend. The look is quintessentially Kiwi, indicative of our relaxed, somewhat androgynous national style, and is expected to hold consumer's attention for a while.

Under the wide pant umbrella, there are are a plethora of styles - one to fit every consumer. The two overall looks which divide the trend are louche, silky and simple, or boxy and bold. However, within these two key looks, there is plenty of room for variation based on your typical consumer. While wide leg pants have previously been the exclusive terrain of high-fashion followers and have experienced a rising and falling popularity for some time, the new widespread adoption of the trend by the mainstream consumer indicates the new long-term nature of this trend.

For the more cautious consumers, a wide leg pant is gaining widespread popularity - but keep it simple. Low-key, minimalist designs often have a drawstring or elastic waist without a zip, or a simple high waisted cut which is fitted around the waist and hips, falling straight down the legs into a traditional full leg cut. Combine these shapes with a plain, all-over colour from the seasonal palette and cautious consumers will feel relaxed enough to experiment with the new style. Consumers favour silky, wide leg pants in either a cropped or full length - the cropped versions ending between mid-calf and ankle in a culotte style. An important feature of plain wide leg pants is their versatility - consumers want to dress them up and down, so make sure you buy or design styles which can be worn from work to weekend. In-store merchandising is crucial, as consumers may need extra encouragement to experiment with the trend. Style t-shirts with wide leg pants - a simple, non-threatening entry point for consumers. A classic wide leg pant can work for both winter and summer; swap the heavier winter fabrics like wool for a light-coloured linen during the warmer months. Prices range from low to high, based on fabric, quality and the consumer group targeted.

Now come the most exciting details; statement cuts, exposed zips and flashy prints are options to appeal to bolder consumers. Fashion-forward consumers have been jumping on and off the wide-leg pant train for years, and are ready to embrace this new pant shape with open arms. The identifying feature of this consumer is their interest in high-fashion and originality; there is no defining age range, as wide leg pants can be worn by a variety of ages and body shapes. Regarding design, everything from wide versions of straight leg pants, to slouchy palazzo pants are selling well. Paper bag waistbands and self-belts are popular, as are deep-cut, accordion pockets which compliment a military-inspired look. Within the statement wide-leg pant category, the key is volume and individuality; these consumers are happy to experiment with a variety of shapes, so retailers can stock designs which are challenging to consumers. Fabrics are mainly light with just enough weight to fall into their correct shape, or crisp and slightly stiffer so that they naturally sit out from the leg and keep their shape. In terms of palette, use an eye-catching colour on a classic design, or a subdued colour on a more experimental design. Prints are popular, and gingham will be on-trend for another summer. For these adventurous consumers, style in-store in a homage to high-fashion. Paired with a blouse, crop top or t-shirt and layered with a belt and accessories, these consumers are open to purchasing the entire new look, or at least an additional product or two which will complement the pants.

A few practical considerations; the use of petite sizing will help shorter consumers, as often wide leg pants in a full-length style need to be taken up for these consumers. This issue also applies to culotte styles, which become full-length on many consumers and lose their intended shape. With more wild designs, retailers should be cautious with quantities ordered - limited stock will encourage these consumers to purchase immediately, and lower the stock carrying expense. Be wary about overwhelming consumers with options, a few plainer wide leg styles and one or two statement styles are sufficient. The timing of store drops is critical - with smaller quantities of product, you can plan a mid-season drop which will keep consumers’ interest. Following the pace of fast fashion, consumers are increasingly captured by the idea of mini collections within a season, which will keep stores looking fresh and exciting. Even if you purchase the entire seasonal collection at once, splitting this into smaller stories to gradually style into the store is more consumer-centric than dropping an entire new season at once.

While wide leg pants are now a bona fide essential item for any retailer or designer, there are a few fads which will be over before you can say ‘what thigh gap?' Leather and vinyl wide leg pants are a micro trend which we can kiss goodbye at the end of this winter. Pyjama dressing has peaked in the trend cycle, and in its place tailored styles are having a resurgence. Tracksuit inspired pants with side poppers are on-trend as part of the 2000's throwback, but they aren't appealing to the majority of consumers, and are mainly purchased by young fast-fashion followers. A few micro trends which are heating up in the wide leg arena - large, folded cuffs (popular on denim), a front pleat (hello 80's!), and slits at the front or side of the ankle.