Someone recently asked me about my thoughts on the future of the fashion industry.
I only had a few minutes to answer this question. I didn’t want to start my answer by saying “In order to survive…”. As an entrepreneur I don’t want to think of it only as a question of survival, but also of how brands - new or old - will succeed in the future. So, here’s what I said;
The industry wasn’t sustainable before the pandemic, and has been turned upside down since. I don’t want to go into the depressing details. The bottom line is that eventually consumers will continue to shop, but their purchasing decisions will not be the same as before. They will have evolved.
How is it evolving? I would answer that in so many ways - from the perspective of style - runway looks vs. comfy clothes; shopping habits - online vs. brick and mortar; consumer consciousness - fast fashion vs. environmental and social responsibility, and fabric education - I may be delusional but I would like to think that consumers will become more knowledgeable about fabric through direct-to-consumer brands’ online stories.
For brands, now is not the time to be stuck in the old ways! Brands need to evolve too. Startups certainly are at a disadvantage with this current state of the economy, but one good thing is that they are starting their brands at the beginning of a new evolutionary cycle of fashion shoppers.
The industry is evolving fast, and brands need to be nimble and flexible to keep up. Planning for product that won’t be in stores til next year can’t possibly be accurate or effective now, during this time of unpredictable change. Brands need to shorten lead-times to avoid over-ordering, source compelling materials, increase their supply chain transparency, keep product quality levels high, explore categories outside their comfort zone, engage shoppers with interesting content, and during this whole time maintain a transparent relationship with their existing customers.
Suppliers need to evolve too. The minimums of 3000 yards/order 1000 yards/color for commercial fabric orders can’t be the norm forever. There are so many evolving brands using a variety of fabrics to complete their collection. Those minimums wouldn’t work for them. Fabric mills need to figure out how to accommodate smaller orders by offering a nicely-assorted stock program, or at least by committing to griege with low minimums for solid colors. Garment factories need to be flexible on their minimums too.
Like fashion itself, the fashion industry needs to leave the old season behind, and start a new one.