Researchers say that we will have to wait 12-18 months for the vaccine of coronavirus which means that we are going to be stuck in this situation for a long time. The future looks uncertain as many cities have been under lockdown for two months now and multiple industries have suffered the damages.
From oil market prices to the internet, every business is being redefined by the pandemic. One industry that might also experience major changes is fashion. The fashion industry’s predictive, seasonal systems have long been labeled out-of-date, broken, and wasteful, with the consequences piling up in landfills around the world.
So when we get back to our daily lives, what changes would have occurred in this industry? Let’s hear it from the experts.
Matthew Drinkwater, Head of the Fashion Innovation Agency (FIA) at the London College of Fashion, says that his team’s workload has escalated sharply during the crisis. This company is responsible for developing immersive consumer experiences that bring technology giants like Microsoft and LucasFilm together with leading fashion brands. When he was asked about the surge in demand, he said that there is a dramatic shift towards digital solutions at this time of mass quarantine.
Matthew further explained, “COVID-19 is forcing brands to engage and experiment with immersive technologies. We’ve been inundated with requests on how to create virtual clothing, virtual catwalks, and virtual showrooms. This is an opportunity to redefine business models and build a more sustainable, progressive future for the fashion industry.”
Furthermore, since going back to business, as usual, is out of the question right now, “the requirement to integrate all forms of digitization from supply chain and creation, to showcasing and retailing is forcing every brand to embrace the technologies that empower this”, according to Drinkwater.
Since physical contact is not possible, designers and manufacturers are now turning to digital and virtual fashion. Deeply embedded in this fast-emerging sector is Kerry Murphy, Founder of The Fabricant, a fashion house that only produces digital clothing. He believes that the pandemic has proved that our industries and financial systems are quite fragile.
Source: New York Times
Having worked with a number brands as well as pioneering denim manufacturer Soorty Enterprises (with whom The Fabricant created a Cradle to Cradle-certified digital denim collection), he revealed that “brands are already looking for radical ways of redefining their culture and operations to a more digital mindset.”
In their latest work for outdoor lifestyle brand Napapijri, The Fabricant manufactured digital clothing samples instead of physical ones so that the possibility of textile waste was eliminated. This attracted a lot of people towards the stunning online content.
When Murphy was asked about the response of the consumers towards fashion after coronavirus, he said, “consumers react to what brands and retailers put out there to be consumed, and behavioral change will depend on new experiences, like digital fashion, being adopted by brands. Digital fashion is slowly gaining traction, if not being ‘worn’ on digital platforms like Instagram by the mainstream – yet.”
The Fabricant has developed a new LEELA platform which is the first big step towards this idea. It is in beta stages right now and Murphy admits that it was put out there regardless of its level of readiness, so that they could begin engaging with early adopters and enthusiasts.
The digital fashion company by Selfridges points exactly to what Murphy said about brands and retailers. The campaign “explores the future of fashion and retail through the medium of digital art” by 3D digital fashion designer Cat Taylor, who transformed the new season’s collections into otherworldly digital renders, which linked to the Selfridges eCommerce site.
The lockdown means that people are not spending as much as they were on fashion brands since nonessential items are not on their list anymore. So what does this mean for fashion brands?
Director of Brand Engagement at retail intelligence agency Stylus, Katie Baron-Cox, suggests that “Generosity of service will become a key new metric for brands.” The reason? Consumers will prefer “access, connections, insights, and rarity, in place of discounts on lots of ‘stuff’, although discounts will still have a place as “we are likely to be moving into a vast global recession.”
What really constitutes value to the consumer was already shifting in line with sustainability-based concerns, she explained, “but COVID-19 will exacerbate this shift.”
Furthermore, she said, “In all honesty, I don’t think fashion brands, so far, are emerging from the coronavirus as shining stars in terms of agility, messaging, or smart recalibrations of existing modes of selling. In part, this may be because the fashion industry modus operandi as regards advertising has become far too reliant on selling via influencer comms.”
In response to what customers now expect from the fashion brands, Baron-Cox said, “I think people will expect more creativity, flair, and imagination from their escapism.” She believes that even though this factor has been on the table for quite some time now, it will speed up by large swathes of the fashion audience having more time to consider their choices in more detail, to hone their own creativity and which brands are therefore worthy of allying with.”
The change in consumer sentiments will be brought by eco-ethical credentials, socially positive actions, and a network of support that will need to be far more emphatic.
By far, the brand that has built its reputation due to eco-ethical credentials is BOTTLETOP. Founded in 2002, the accessories brand which upcycles aluminum ring-pulls to create high-end contemporary bags, owns its supply chain, with 30 artisans working in their factory in Salvador, Brazil.
Director Cameron Saul says that despite the lockdown, customers are continuing to purchase through their BOTTLETOP and TogetherBand online stores. He explained, “People understand and appreciate the mission behind our brand and appreciate the sustainable and social aspects – we have to think about the most vulnerable people at this time. A crisis like this brings us closer.The (Bottletop) brand message is consistent with our work.”
To sum it all, experts believe that consumers will now expect more sentiments from these brands and the fashion industry needs to be creative and emphatic when it comes to launching new designs for them.