The pandemic has posed the biggest problem for the fashion industry to date, and it is unclear how long it will take the industry to recover. With people forced to stay at home the need for new clothes has diminished and there has been a lack of footfall in physical stores. Changes in consumer behaviour has forced brands to examine their business models and decide where changes can be made. This year has really exposed flaws within the industry but also presented some opportunities for the industry to develop.
The key word here is e-commerce. Staying at home has pushed people to shopping online and brands without an online presence have not done well, for example Primark. Interestingly, online stores are quite unpopular in the luxury fashion world with brands such as Chanel refusing to sell their merchandise online. The argument is the exclusivity of the brand, which is a big factor in the luxury sector, will be diminished. However, the price of the merchandise alone excludes the majority of the population making it difficult to see how exclusivity will be affected. Additionally, luxury brands aim to create a unique experience with their customers in boutiques. Whether this is through building rapport with the sales assistant or receiving complimentary champagne on arrival, the aim is for you to feel special and seen. This is something that cannot be replicated online. Even after the pandemic is over it is very probable that online shopping habits will remain. So, it will be interesting to see how brands who are refusing to establish an online presence will survive.
For the brands that are eager to embrace technology, e-commerce is just the beginning. Virtual fitting rooms and consultations may also become popular as brands seek to replicate their instore experience. Technology such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence may be used more widely.
Finally, fashion shows have been a staple for many luxury brands for a number of years. As large social gatherings continue to be avoided, brands who do not want to cancel their shows must look to technology. A great example is the brand Hanifa who made history this year by presenting a 3D virtual fashion show on Instagram live. Perhaps other brands will adopt similar technology to showcase their collections. What is certain is that fashion week will not look the same again.
We are quickly approaching the point at which the effects of climate change are irreversible. Consumers are very aware of this and have been placing greater pressure on brands to address this issue. Whether this be through the materials they choose to make their clothes in or the way in which they deal with excess garments, sustainability is likely to become a huge selling point. Several brands have adopted sustainability as their USP by addressing the issue at every step in the life cycle of a garment.
As well as brands becoming more sustainable, consumers themselves also need to adopt sustainable shopping habits. This means being conscious about the type and number of pieces they buy as well as how they dispose of them.
With people spending extended amounts of time at home, we have been able to pay more attention to social issues. Inclusivity has been on everyone’s radar as consumers are less willing to tolerate brands who only present one type of model. Consumers also expect brands to widen the range of sizes they offer. For the December 2020 cover of Vogue, Harry Styles was pictured wearing a dress. Whilst this was not the revolution many perceived it to be, it may be a signal that the industry is moving towards gender neutrality. Perhaps brands will be more accommodating to the blending of menswear and womenswear.
There are several factors pushing consumers to discover and purchase from small businesses more often. The desire to be more ethical and sustainable has enabled consumers to discover ethical brands who are more often than not small businesses. The increased traction gained by the Black Lives Matter movement forced people to inspect their shopping habits. Many have now made shopping at black owned businesses a habit that will follow them into the new year. Finally, Brexit will force shoppers in the UK to look toward more local brands in order to avoid paying customs fees.
A neutral colour palette was one of the biggest trends this fall with the numerous shades of brown being worn. Perhaps it is time for a brighter colour palette to be in the spotlight. It is difficult for some colours to become trendy as not every style is able to accommodate them. However, as the weather gets warmer and we approach the spring, pastels are likely to make a comeback. I think the colour green, specifically shades such as sage and mint, will be popular.
If you’re interested in how the players in the market currently view the industry and its future, I recommend reading this report: http://cdn.businessoffashion.com/reports/The_State_of_Fashion_2021.pdf