Halloween's Growing Influence Op-ed By Tamara Cincik
The Halloween outfit I might wear this year, but which I fully expect to be lost in translation on the mean streets of Muswell Hill, is that of “An Influencer” from Urban Outfitters. Photos of it have been DMed to me a few times by people who loved Fashion Roundtable’s The Power of Influence event in July. Oh the irony. My son will be in his 3rd year as Dracula. And it’s not just me recycling Halloween costumes. Mintel’s research cites that 75% of us will reuse the outfit: could November be the month we all decide that a skeleton suit is in fact the new millennial pink body con?
Trick or treating is a US import which has exploded in the UK over the past 10 years. Mintel forecasts that UK consumers will spend £419m, up by 5% from £400 million in 2017. And age is a factor for who gets spooky, with over 85% of under-fives, 77% of millennials and 52% of everyone else, dressing up to celebrate Halloween. As a mid-seasonal hump day, this is a key opportunity for brands to connect with consumers and engage with younger customers, before they gear up for Christmas at full throttle. We don’t spend in Christmas volume terms, but this is a sizeable and growing market for any retail strategy across food, drink, entertainment, fashion and beauty. In 2017 25% of Halloween purchasers spent between £10-£25 on Halloween, 24% spent £10 or less, while 17% spent between £26-£50.
I have always loved Halloween, as a girl I dreamed of being a witch making potions out of dead rose petals, tap water and incantations, in my 20’s I consistently wore black and silver vintage. There’s always been a dash of the camp Victoriana in me, which admires the depth in the darkness. In 1999, working on a shoot in Mexico to celebrate Day of the Dead, I saw first-hand how a community comes together to celebrate and drink with those they love who are no longer here. It made so much sense: a kind of topsy-turvy deeply logical sense, where people speak about those they mourn, bringing their favourite foods and drinks to chat, dance and talk to their dead loved ones. It felt raw and real, so normal and utterly beautiful. Wouldn’t that be a brilliant import as well as the gelatine-laden Haribos and sweet fangs? For consumers what would I like to see? More costumes made in non-flammable materials please, as the horrendous story of Claudia Winkleman’s daughter’s cape catching fire on a candle in a carved pumpkin in 2014 highlights: children, candles and flammable fabrics should not be at the same party/trick or treating doorstep.
Then there is the waste. A 2017 survey funded by the North London Waste Authority (NLWA), run by NGO Hubbub, found that 7m Halloween costumes are thrown away each year. That’s 7m costumes at 0.38kg each, equalling 2.66m kilogrammes of plastic. 1m kg is 1000 tonnes, so 2.66 mkg = 2660 tonnes of additional plastic waste generated.
Imagine brands tapping into our desire to dress up across all generations, with options which are fun, affordable, sustainable and most of all safe. This is where I hope the party and the growth opportunities for the consumer meet. Or where we can get creative, dressing up in DIY outfits such as those recommended Ecocult. The #SewSpooky campaign funded by NLWA with campaign support from Hubbub, aims to encourage more people to make costumes and to pass on their used outfits to friends and family, giving them another lease of life. While half of the people NLWA surveyed weren’t sure about using a costume that had been worn before by someone they didn’t know, 73% were happy with the idea of receiving a used costume from family or friends.
Heather Poore, Creative Director of Hubbub said: “It truly is a Halloween horror to see the amount of costumes that are only worn once before ending in landfill, when it’s so easy to save used costumes from a nasty end and pass them on to friends and family. Our Sew Spooky campaign also includes lots of quick and easy ideas for spook-tacular costumes that a child could make, which can make for a fun half-term activity.”
So, if you see a woman in a baseball cap, crop top and gym leggings (aka my gym clothes) with a mini Dracula on the streets of North London next Wednesday, please do come and say hello. After all I am not sure why I would need to spend $24.99 (down from $59.00 - bargain!) on an Influencer Halloween Costume which looks exactly like my average gym morning, although perhaps its a bit chilly to have my tummy out. Now where’s my broom?..