Written/Researched by: Andrea Kennedy. Edited by: Katie Marcus
Politically, everything is uncertain right now. But that’s nothing new for the ever-changing fashion industry, where trends, fabrics, technologies, and marketing tactics are constantly subject to major shifts. Fashion just doesn’t stand still, and as it works to accommodate consumers, our businesses should too. Therefore, to stay on top in the fashion industry, it’s crucial to be aware of the directions we are moving and to consider how to better plan, develop, source, produce, market and distribute to future markets.
With our fingers crossed for no dollars lost let’s move forward and react quickly, thoughtfully and right ahead of the trends.
Here are seven ways the world, consumers, technology and industry are shaking things up for fashion. We must consider what our businesses need to embrace and execute in order to stay relevant and profitable in tomorrow’s market. The seven trends are:
1- Peer Groups and Purchasing.
Generational marketing is more important than ever as we consider the three key cohort groups:
First, BabyBoomers. They are preparing to retire, taking on hobbies and vacationing more. What they purchase for the last third of their lives will not be on impulse and must be of value. They have money to spend, but do not require more belongings. They are streamlining what they own, downsizing their homes. We must work hard to capture what they buy and concentrate on value!
Second, Millennials, with their signature innovate and entrepreneurial spirit. They are grown up and becoming homeowners, who will soon begin saving for future families, which means less room for risk. We must stay innovative to keep them as loyal clientele.
Thirdly, Generation Z (also known as i-Gen). Having now entered college, this group continues to Instagram, Snapchat, and Lyft first, while shopping last. They are about showing the world where they’re at, not just what they have. They see their millennial siblings in debt, and prefer to keep their dollars close. We must offer them excitement and value to keep their interest.
These generational cohorts will buy, but it’s on us to design, develop and manufacture products that appeal to them. We will need to implement lean manufacturing techniques for smaller, higher-quality batches. Our customers will no longer shop for the short-term, they will insist on value and longevity, or they will not purchase.
2- Population and the Planet.
It’s no secret that the world population is exploding, and is set to reach the 10 billion mark by 2050. Some estimates say that by 2040, one-third of our inhabitants will be extinct and many natural resources may be too. As our resources deplete, we must be conservative in our use of water, trees, oil, coal, and natural gas. We must be innovative in our development and creation of products, and plan and build new production facilities, so that they can be self-sufficient, closed loop and carbon neutral. Change starts with each of us, and the first step is to remove the old ways of “take-make-waste” from our thinking and practices.
Simply put, we have to produce more using less resources. As consumers become more aware of this global crisis, more will seek out and pay more for products created with responsible supply chains. Expect more requests for no-impact products, like recycled post-industrial or post-consumer fibers, or products made in wind, solar, tidal or man-powered factories, produced by companies doing business responsibly from end-to-end. The sooner you begin offering these ideas, the better off your business will be as sustainability becomes a major consumer focus.
3- Biometrics and Bluetooth.
Now is the time for companies to invest in technology. Fashion is no longer separate from science, so let’s develop products with technical competitive advantages.
Biometric apparel can take us there: garments can serve important functions, like measuring heart rate, pulse, temperature, oxygen, hydration levels and more. Textiles and wearables can have reactive properties within flexible fibers that heat and cool us, keep us alert, and give us directions through GPS and Web-enabled components. When polled last month, 50% of males said they would purchase apparel that monitors heart rate and charges their mobile devices. This is up 25% from the previous year. Therefore, as health centers become overcrowded with aging baby-boomers, customers will seek garments that allows them to monitor themselves. Companies entering this market early will have a competitive advantage like no other.
4- 3-Dimension Ascension.
3-D printing allows for speed-to-market and takes us to the next level in consumer responsiveness. Product development turnaround has never been faster than with 3-D prototyping, sure to revolutionize our productivity.
Not just factories, schools, and design studios will have 3D printers. Within 4-5 years, having a 3-D printer in the house will be as common as having an inkjet printer today. We will print our own 3-D jewelry, clothing, and shoes. We will be 3-D bodyscanned for sizing in stores and designers will dive heavily into 3-D prototyping and fittings. Online Etailers will give 3-D fashion shows and you’ll be able to see how you look in a garment by trying it on in a virtual 3-D fitting room with a look-alike avatar. 3-D technology creates less waste, and for that reason alone, now is the time for companies to embrace this digital, 3-D movement.
5- Robotic Revolution.
As 3-D uptrends, so does robotics. Automation and robotic production has entered warehouses and the textile sides of the supply chain; and it’s also slowly entering our garment factories. This colossal shift in manufacturing is driven by advancements in automation technology, but also because worldwide raw materials laborers and factory workers are demanding fair and increased wages. Although manufacturers will have a large financial output in fully-automating their processes, the investment will lead to time and money saved, as no longer will companies need to pay to train unskilled workers. In a country like US, where factory jobs are undesirable to young college-bound persons, automated facilities can keep production domestic, and save the time and costs of outsourcing. Another perk: robotic workers will keep ticking around the clock and turnaround orders in hours, as opposed to days or weeks.
Robots and automatons will become more involved in textile and garment printing, cutting, dyeing, and embellishment. Sewing will soon become automated and remotely-programmable production lines will become the norm. At a time when capabiliti\es of mass customization and small batch orders are an advantage, robotic sewing and autoated production lines will be a deal breaker.
Our fast-paced customers are accustomed to speed-to-market goods, and they want quicker response times. Allowing customers to serve themselves, may be the ultimate in delivering customer satisfaction. Although it requires a complete turn-around in operations, the few stores, such as Hointer, who deliver speed-to-market without retail staff are succeeding as customers flock and return. Peopl-eless stores make sense in today’s environment of cost-cutting and bottom-line focus. I-Genners and Millennials are instagramming about self-serve retail experiences and relish not being followed by a salesperson, or dealing with unfriendly retail staff. Although it is the exact opposite of the also-trending “Farmer’s Market” model, there is room for both. And with innovation, excitement and timesaving desired, those who convert to at least partial self-serve will find many early customers who will loyally return.
7- The Art and Craft of Fashion.
We have been engaged in a cycle of garment styles based off pattern blocks and an over-stocked assortment of basics at retail. Stores suffer because customers have more than enough button-fronts, tees and pullovers to dress themselves for their lifetimes. S/M/L/XL sizing is everywhere and nothing fits perfectly. This has created a cycle of markdowns and chargebacks that is unsustainable. Designers and manufacturers need to consider returning to the days of multiple fittings and again give attention to beautiful fit, detail, and diverse styling details to bring back the craft of fashion as art. A return to fashion as art will be welcomed by consumers who are showing they no longer wish to purchase an array of adaptations of the same styles.
It is time for freshness, innovation and an appreciation of the human craftsperson. Although the more detailed hand-worked processes will cost more, the customers will receive and perceive uniqueness, quality, art, and longevity… all of which our industry should have never lost.
It’s time to take the reins and shape the future of the fashion industry. Adapt too late and you may find yourself out of business. We must become change ambassadors and inspire ourselves and those around us for success in tomorrow’s ever-changing fashion world!
Thank you Fashion Mannuscript, for publishing this article in your March 2017 edition!