Before getting into deep insights of the foreseeable future of the industry, I must say there is something I have learned of forecasting and learning about the future: I have to know what is happening now. For this reason, I will have a small introduction of the present and what has led the fashion industry to where we are today.
So, what exactly is emerging from a chaotic period of time when we are in a middle of a worldwide pandemic, never-ending lockdowns, questionable elections, more than ever influential LGBTQ and Blacklivesmatter movement, staged riots, continuous protests, ongoing climate crisis, “Seaspiracy”, bushfires and explosions?
Wait, it is not over. An experimental vaccination program is forced on us while an irreversible AI revolution is happening. Our feed, mailbox, search engine is flooded with personalized ads that call to action. Shop now.
Can we go back to normal? Not really. Thanks to variants, lockdowns and massive upcoming restrictions affecting and blaming the healthy unvaccinated we will keep social distancing, staying at home and staying safe. One question: Do you think it is a coincidence that 5G technology was laid out simultaneously with the Covid breakout?
We are doomed to be online:
To consume everything possible online (entertainment, sport, games, conferences, workshops etc.)
And the supply is here to cater to the new consumer needs.
AI is working on our big data to customize every possible service to be consumed and voliá the “Big Brother” of the human population is created. There is facial recognition, emotional recognition, voice assistants and so on… to track our life inside out. An unprecedented exchange of data and knowledge around every single aspect of human behavior is being collected.
The world we live now reminds me of an Avengers movie but I feel another “Hunger games” is coming in the near future: Today’s most active population is in some sort of mental, financial, self-actualization/life crisis. They have parents who are separated from their family due to high Covid risks, and then there is a new emerging generation the millennials and Gen Z who were breed in cyber space, and knows how to make money from digital content earlier, faster and more than most parents. Well there is a lot more, such as the ongoing immigrant situation, collapsing governments, people who live in such poor conditions who fight for survival, media that spreads so much fear, the list is long, but what is predictable, that society will start to separate:
Even in a movie it would be too much to happen. Except it is indeed real.
According to Darwin’s Origin of Species it is not the most intellectual that survives, it is not the strongest that survives, but the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.
So! How does the industry of fashionistas adapt to the world we live in?
Let’s call the NOW a post pandemic fashion scale.
In this insight framework I am going to cover the following:
BEHAVIOURS aka “what are people and the industry starting to do”
Over the past year fashion seemed pragmatic. We have seen sweatpants, puffer coats, wellies and walking boots selling out across the globe while our heels, our tailored workwear and dresses were put on hold. As Covid-19 hit we stopped having need any fashionable clothing. We created content and organized photoshoots from our homes, and gardens. Photoshoots were made by mobile apps such as Clos, Zoom, Facetime. By now, we stayed home and away from socializing long enough to take off the sweatpants and the loungewear too since they both create a visual fatigue.
What is coming?
Designs are becoming more sassy, colorful and detailed. We had many seasons of beige, and people seek mood enhancing, dopamine dressing. Comfort will be embedded into products, and escapism is very high on the agenda, particularly for Gen Z. Work leisure will be massive as we go back to the office, but this time it will be different. This new lifestyle narrative of post-pandemic world will definitely favor a more flexible approach to dressing.
Anything that looks good enough to go out, but its comfortable to stay in will thrive.
Balance is the key, we are also experiencing a direction around the casualization of party wear, more versatile items that offer better cost per wear and cross functioning clothing. The narrative about simple silhouettes, timeless and seasonless idea of a modular wardrobe still continues, however escapism aspect is there. Stealth wealth luxury will be demonstrated through materials. The rich want to be enveloped in lovely, expensive, soft fabrics and the sustainability factors, innovations of luxury brands are making sure to cater these needs.
According to researches Covid did affect the female workforce more than the male. The industry needs to meet those consumers who have much less money to spend, and that is where the modular- multi functioning clothing comes into picture. Outfits need to be worn to different occasions. (When there is any.)
Consumer trends are crucially important and drivers of the industry. The focus of a pandemic consumer is on safety, security and comfort. Transition to home products, beddings and robes serves the comfort need. Zara for example started to design camping accessories.
Consumers want joy, the feeling of optimism, celebrating the small wins and colors, joyful prints and patterns are crucial aspects for product design. The need for self-care, wellness, hiking and walking continues to grow. Consumers are searching for “easy hikes near me” and outdoor brands have been added to high end retailer. Good example for this is the recent Gucci x North Face collaboration.
DRIVERS aka “what feeds their behavior”
The industry was meant to be changed. Retailers scrambled to cancel and return orders (and designers were unable to cover basic expenses like rent and payroll, let alone upcoming collections and costly fashion shows). Seeing shows in real time through internet made it even worse. Consumers wanted goods right away. This urged production, earlier markdowns, pre-fall and resort collection. The rise of fast-fashion, a truly unsustainable leverage of the industry has started. The unsold inventory became unsustainable.
So vicious was the cycle of overproduction and discounting to luxury goods that in 2018, Burberry revealed that it had been burning $37 million of worth of merchandise per year to maintain “brand value.”
With the hit of pandemic factories were shut down, deliveries were delayed, retailers got closed. A healthy change would be: later deliveries, delayed markdowns, fewer collections. Shows are going digital, seasonless, and genders altogether. Brands became more reliant on e-commerce than physical stores.
Brands have to make an ease to purchase. Product website, ecommerce, e-solid information of product description, fabric composition, large images, 3d videos and photorealistic 3D renders has to be shown within seconds to the consumer. If a site is not easy for shopping consumers will not going to go back to the brand. The expectation of the consumer is to shop easily, pay easily and safely even in installments or later.
Re-commerce is thriving.
Depop, Poshmark, the Real Real, Vestaire Collective are just a few “re-commerce apps” transforming online sales of the pre-owned fashion industry.
Second hand luxury retailers’ market is growing four times faster than the primary market.
In 2020, the personal luxury goods second-hand market worldwide was valued at 28 billion euros. Heavyweight Kering, the owner of Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, and other luxury houses, acquired a 5% stake in French consignment e-retailer Vestiaire Collective this March. In a market so saturated brands have to work twice as hard, and everyone is competing now for screen time. Brands need visual identity, a good image and a purpose to be diverse and stand out from the crowd where fast fashion brands are competing over low prices.
IMPACT aka “what is being created because of it”
The pandemic was not sustainable, single use plastics, throwaway masks and gloves flooded the planet again, and people became fearful to touch. We are still in the fear phase. Brands are becoming less wasteful in terms of logistics and packaging solutions. Sustainable packaging continues to be a key driver.
Fear of touch-contactless transactions: Touch free shopping is a necessity. Example: Amazon Go.
Drop culture: a limited release of merchandise. Brands such as Supreme drops are usually sold out within seconds. Fanatic buyers use chatbots never to miss a new drop.
Fashion journey is getting a lot more creative and personal. Our data is being collected online, and now brands can offer personalized clothing using AI to predict customers measurements and style choices.
New way of buying clothes: in app purchases and in speech purchases by google in ALEXA are new trends.
Styling apps: As we rely on our mobile devices for everything from the latest news and weather to e-mail, work and social media updates, now apps can give us fashion and styling advices such as Pose, Stylebook, Swaag, Drest, Cloth…
A revolution of fashion industry is happening.
Plus size and transgender models have reformed our body confident, and online content. Individualism, accepting your body, and sexuality became the new norm.
Virtual stores: The pandemic is prompting more companies to use technology in new ways to connect with consumers. Virtual store lets consumers browse an online rendering of an actual store re-created down to the music that consumers would hear there.
2020 was a year of protests, and people are demanding action. They prefer brands with a purpose and those who give back to a certain community or cause from their profit. They buy what they believe in and not what they see. It is affecting the way they buy clothes. Consumers became aware of the wasteful industry leverage and making buying decisions more consciously. The modern consumer is questioning where the fabric was sourced, who made their clothes and whether it is made in an ethical environment. They want transparent and less wasteful supply chains. They resonate with slow fashion and choosing sustainable garments, biodegradable materials, recycled or upcycled alternatives.
Innovations on the sustainable leather alternatives market: So far we could find leather from pineapple such as Pinatex, coconut leather such as Malai, wine leather- Vegea, and a recent success from a San Francisco startup resulted in prestigious collaboration from mushroom leather: Hermés x MycoWorks.
CONSEQUENCES aka “what is changing because of it”
In store shopping has changed: Temperature readers are placed in stores and as garments can hold traces of virus retailers are exploring disinfectants that operate by ultraviolet (UV) light to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Ozone treatment is being used in garment rental that disinfects, destroys bacteria, and viruses. Steamers are not an added value in stores any more to anti-wrinkle clothing it is also disinfecting tried on apparels. People are spending less time in store, they make sure it is on stock online before they pay a visit.
Fashion shows gone virtual, or mixed virtual and physical.
Virtual models such as shudu.gram, noonoouri, lilmiquela, koffi.gram have appeared on social media, who offer trouble-fee, celebrity scandal-free experience for marketers and advertisers. Such ads cover brands such as Burberry, Lexus, Bulgari etc. We can only guess how will virtual models take over advertising platforms and what will they look like in the future. Wrinkled? Plus sized? Will they look more like humans or robots?
The use of 3D printing: The industry has been using 3D printing for accessories, shoe soles, buttons and rigid-non-flexible parts of garments, but today designers are using the technology to turn their wildest designs into reality. It is possible that in 10 years time we will not only 3D print our clothes but our food as well. We have to change the way we thing of our planetary resources. 3D printing can give a solution to use less resource from nature, and be less environmentally wasteful.
FUTURES and new possibilities:
The future is the humanization of digital technology. Future is all about the post-digital era. We no longer think about it as an option, it is the new normal.
Future is all about a whole new universe for fashion immersion. Purpose built fashion meets game platforms are emerging. Such as ADA that has not yet aired, but is new fashion platform, mix of consumer creation, social networking, addiction building gaming mechanics, cinematic level visuals, and real time ecommerce connections. Players create avatars that inhabit personalizable rooms, they can try on brands within a virtual closed which are replications of physical garments that can be bought in-app. Everything is upgradable, and individuality is the platform’s unique currency.
Fashion enters the world of digital art, and becomes a collectable, tradeable and traceable character.
Louis Vuitton has first been seen in prestigious League of Legends, where the skins designed has made it to a physical collection also. The brand has just released marking its 200th anniversary its NFT game Louis: The Game, that features non-fungible tokens and follow through the history and evolutions of the brand by Vivienne’s avatar. I personally think the game has dreamy visuals, the journey of each level is adorable, and just as addictive as owning piece of Louis Vuitton handbags. Burberry’s long awaited in game purchasable NFT collectibles has been released August 11.
“Burberry and Louis Vuitton are joining digital fashion companies such as The Fabricant, which in 2019 auctioned an NFT for a digital garment, the Iridescence Dress. It went for nearly US$10,000 at a time when the NFT market was in its infancy.” Scmp.com
AI powered algorithm solutions understand consumer demand in real time and use data led consumer insight to create more customized shopping experience in the long term.
Cognitive computing: Clothes industry heavyweights rely on fashion forecasters for next seasons new looks and trends. Advances in Ai are turning fashion forecasts and design into science. Cognitive computing is now able to identify patterns previously inaccessible to humans (lack of data collected) and analyze vast amount of global data from social media bulk to political polls making it possible to accurately spot what is trending and what is not. Further beyond that Amazon has developed an algorithm by Amazon Lab 125 that can design clothing by analyzing a bunch of images to copy the style and then apply it to new items generated from scratch.
Fashion becomes a piece of digital art but also a piece of currency:
DEO- decentralized autonomous organization: Tech is allowing for decentralized or collective brands to emerge. These give the public the power to create everything from fashion houses to record labors and share in profits. This means that an umbrella community gets to suggest or vote on product designs through DEO using a crypto currency. Successful designs are produced and profits are shared between the community owned brand.
NFTs are part of the decentralized system and it can give a detailed digital identity to a garment or to a digital creation and gives control to the owner of that digital identity of what they do, so it will distrupt the idea of copywrite and intellectual property. So artists can have a digital footprint of their creations and know exactly how it is being used.
Volumetric capture, haptic touch: ZOZOSUIT 2 is a highly accurate 3D body measurement suit that can generate precise 3D body models with a simple, accurate and intuitive smartphone-based scanning process.
CLO3D: Clo3d is a 3d design software that helps fashion and garments business.
3D design is the future: Implementing 3D design is the revolution of the whole industry. It saves tremendous cost, time, resources, gives endless opportunity for the designing process, opens gates to merge with different platforms and industries.Saving costs is more than worth to mention. Cost of samples, cost of shipping, cost of changes on designs and patterns, cost of photoshoots.
Sustainability plays as dual player in my insight framework as it is a major factor in the future of the industry as well. In terms of how transparent the world’s largest fashion brands are in terms of environmental indicators:
- 30% of brands explain how they define “sustainable” materials
- 6% of brands disclose the amount of pre-production textile waste they generate
- 21% of brands explain what they are doing to minimize microfibers
- 5% of brands publish water footprint at raw material level
- 26% of brands publish carbon footprint at manufacturing and processing level
- 30% of brands publish a roadmap to eliminating hazardous chemicals
- 10% of brands commit to zero deforestation
-data provided by Fashion Revolution
Reuse, repair and reconstruct. Our planets resources are decreasing rapidly. Upcycling collections can be a solution for unsold inventory, and to give garments a new look instead of sending them to landfill. Brands with serious sustainability ambitions such as Tommy Hilfiger, Nike or Adidas are paving their way for a truly circular economy where nothing becomes waste.
The innovation of fabrics: Intelligent fabrics, garments with probiotics, UPF materials, anti-viral fabrics, heat-and heartrate sensing innovations are all going to play an important role in the future of fashion. Copper in the garments is known to fight viruses. Technology can be embedded not just a microchip as in the Google jacket but actually in the fibre to track and trace the origins of a garment, who made it, so it is leaving a little place for brands to hide regarding their supply channels. By having these trackers embedded in the fabrics there is a relationship created between wellness, fashion and sustainability. It is possible to track the body’s biometric such as wellness, fitness level, heart rate for example the Nadi Smart Yoga pant or the Xenoma suits. Industries can exchange waste and reuse them for production. Great example is Indosole, using tire waste to create soles of their shoes.
“It is time to make fashion a humanitarian profession, a social act. The industry is becoming more than just clothing.”
It is hard to predict the future, since innovations are so rapid and the world we live in everything happens so fast. In our future creativity will come in many forms and shapes and not necessary from humans. It might come from machines, algorithms, and Ai. The ethical consideration of the future of digitalization and the use of robots is questionable. Third world countries are highly reliant on labor work and as per now fashion industry is heavily reliant on them. As the natural resources of Earth are decreasing rapidly and the industry cannot sustain itself as it was until today, clothing, yarns and fabric might be growing in labs in a short period of time. It may occur that we will live more in a digital space as avatars than in our real life thanks to seemingly never ending dictatorial restrictions. It is possible, that we will dress our avatars and make them more fashion as ourselves. As a result of the digitalization of fashion industry a whole new generation of jobs are being created relying on tech, innovations, internet and Ai.
With mega minds and talents such as Virgil Abloh, I can imagine in a couple of years Louis Vuitton will design space trunks and space uniforms.
As per now I believe everything can happen in a 10 year time span.
By combining robust research, and knowledge learned at Condé Nast hopefully I have provided a powerful insight for the digital and virtual future of fashion industry, and I believe the revolution of fashion is serving as a role model for other industries to be environmentally less wasteful.
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