• Rachel

OPINION Fashion Has to Change - The Four Elements Forecasted to Evolve the Fashion Industry


The landscape of fashion is constantly changing, and if the last year is anything to go by, it’s going to keep changing faster than ever before. New consumer expectations are driving fashion brands to rethink and overcome ideological and business challenges, which are steadily becoming major forces in determining the direction of the industry. Fashion stalwarts such as trend analysis company WGSN, and fashion business mouthpiece Business of Fashion (BOF), have recently released enlightening information on topics that are set to change the face of fashion in the coming years.


From discussions on supply chains, smart consumption, consumer wellbeing, and a revised model for fashion marketing, the world of fashion business is in a state of flux, more than usual. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of the elements to keep an eye on that are forecasted to have a great impact on fashion and beyond.


Supply Chains


It’s no secret that supply chains have become a constant discussion within the fashion industry. From reports of unsafe manufacturing facilities, particularly the one deemed a major “wake up call” for the industry, the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, through to the emergence of the climate action movement and sustainability principles. There’s no doubt that supply chains are at the centre of fashion industry concerns. According to WGSN’s Big Ideas 2023 report, released in January this year, brands are beginning to take these elements into account in the ways they structure this element of business.


Equitability, inclusivity, and regenerative measures in supply chains are of central importance, with groups such as Luxury Group Kering which houses iconic brands such as Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen to name a few, adopting these measures its business structures. According to WGSN’s report, Kering has set a 2025 target for biodiversity by converting 1 million hectares of farmland in their supply chain to regenerative agriculture. Many other brands are following in similar pursuits, including large-scale environmental regeneration and Fair Trade certification.


Smart Consumption


Increased income insecurity and volatility due to economic recession will also leave its mark on the way the fashion industry operates. According to the WGSN report, by the time 2023 rolls around, the ability for consumers to be frugal will become central to their purchasing decisions. Called “smart consumption”, for its emphasis on the mindfulness accompanying purchases, consumers will increasingly search for products that align with their values, interests, and constraints. Smart consumption encompasses the ideologies stemming from concerns raised within supply chains, but also financial restriction, as well as the ability to upcycle used garments through DIY and “fashion hacks”. WGSN labels this as a “limitarian” mindset, more concerned with sustainability and affordability, a drastic segue from the overabundance and consumerist mindset of past years.


Consumer Wellbeing


The rise of mental health advocacy and action will undoubtedly impact the way fashion brands relate to consumers. From products such as weighted robes to reduce anxiety, also featured in WGSN’s report, through to the general increase in interest in the wellbeing market, there will be a noticeable increase in the way that products play their part in consumers’ lives physically and mentally. This will be of central importance to branding and reaching customers, and retaining brands’ pre-existing audiences. Expansion into new areas and categories will drive focus towards how products will change or better the lives of customers, and the ability to create relatable products and experiences will also determine how brands will interact with their intended markets.


Revised Marketing Models


The “4 P’s of Marketing” - price, product, promotion, and place - are part of the standard education anyone receives when they enter the world of fashion business. BOF recently highlighted these original “4 P’s” in a post to their official Instagram, outlining the original 1960’s “recipe for marketing success” by E. Jerome McCarthy, a professor at Michigan State University.


In light of the changing values emerging from the market, BOF highlighted a new, revised marketing model, presented by Sean MacDonald, global chief digital officer of advertising firm, McCann Worldgroup. The updated version focuses instead on purpose, positioning, partnerships, and personalisation, particularly for hooking into new markets such as Gen Z and Gen Alpha.


BOF broke down the revised “4 P’s”, dissecting the new ideas within them that align with and emphasise the values and experiences similarly identified in WGSN’s report.


Purpose - The baseline of brands, and how consumers evaluate them. This is the foundational layer of a fashion brand, from which its driving values are signalled. Younger consumers will be more likely to evaluate a brand based on these values, while older generations will operate on different grounds that are more relative to their purchasing power. This foundational concept of a brand’s purpose will relate back to their business structure, such as supply chain management and how brands respond to concepts such as social, political, environmental and ethical considerations.


Positioning - Culture and ethos, in relation to creating narratives and experiences for consumers constitute the next tier of the revised “4 P’s”. This is a more consumer-centric element, where brands will place the consumer experience at the forefront. Positioning, done effectively, will allow for consumers to “place themselves within the context of the brand”, according to MacDonald. This allows for brands to interweave their narratives with the lives of their consumers, where smart consumption and consumer wellbeing will come into play.


Partnerships - This is where collaborations come in. For anyone who has been active on the Internet for the last few years, collaborations are nothing new, but they are definitely here to stay. BOF identifies the idea of partnerships as the “cool factor” that “can create a halo effect”, however it’s important to focus on novel collaborations over generating “hype” that fizzles quickly.


Personalisation - Rather than ad targeting, this centres on providing bespoke customer experiences and product offerings. Personalisation aims to hold long-term customers, by adding narratives, experiences, or products that differentiate the brand from its competition.


To summarise, fashion’s ever-evolving landscape has unearthed a multitude of new ways to do business. New expectations are constantly arising, and it’s the industry’s responsibility to react to and anticipate these changes to maintain brands’ relevance. From supply chains and their various moving parts, through to smart consumption and consumer wellbeing, often interlinked with social, political and value-based drivers, it’s a constant state of flux for the industry. The rise and fall of brands, even the most iconic ones, will be determined on how well the industry connects with its consumers and plan for the future.