The Future of the Fashion Industry

This is an article I wrote for The Fair about the future of the fashion industry from a socio-economic perspective.

I also got another writing gig with Music Review Unsigned magazine which I’m more than thrilled about. I interviewed The Depravations, a Galway based band that I accidently became a fan/groupie of and am now their self-appointed publicist. 😉 I’m putting up both articles and their links for you.

With so many successful online stores such as boohoo.com and ASOS.com, the use of social networks by designers to promote their work and rising rents and slow sales on the high street, what will the fashion market be like in 10 years time?

The global recession means the high street fashion industry has slumped considerably due to its high overheads and lack of sales. Many chain stores have cut back, been closed down or had to be rescued from financial difficulties. Disposable fashion is seen as frivolous and wasteful and consumers are looking to get value from their items.

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Stores have tried to compensate with more frequent sales and reductions but to little avail. Meanwhile as the high street flounders the digital market is increasing steadily.

Sites such as boohoo.com and ROMWE.com offer more choice and do not have to deal with the daily expenses of running a store either. Self-employed designers and sellers are using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to showcase their items to a wide audience quickly and with little expense.

The music industry has undergone a collapse and transformation due to the popularity of downloading music and high street chains closing down, will high street fashion be next? It is hard to imagine a world without our favourite clothing stores and obviously clothing can’t be downloaded like music files. But change is coming for the industry.

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New business owners are starting out selling online rather than opening a traditional store. E-tail and e-commerce mean that you don’t need a lot of capital to start up a business.

This means less wealthy people have the same opportunity to start a business and we will see more bespoke items and a greater variety of items available. Naturally the ease of going to a store, trying on an item and having the option to return it easily is still appealing to most customers also.

Ethical demands by customers means businesses are starting to scrutinise their suppliers more and this will hopefully bring positive change to those who work in the factories.

However the slump on the high street could affect workers in a negative way also. The world’s population is expected to increase to 9 billion and our natural resources are dwindling.

Ongoing climate change will also affect crop yields and in turn raw materials available. The fashion industry relies heavily on materials such as cotton and uses huge amounts of water. It is a question of when not if it will be forced to radically change its production methods. Currently researchers are trying to develop ways to “grow” clothing using bacterial cellulose.

If companies want to survive the next ten years, they have to think about supply chains, low-impact production and distribution models, and opportunities to use renewable energy.

The demand for online shops means IT professionals and experts are in demand so the IT sector is experiencing growth and will experience more growth. It is difficult to know what technological advances will be available in future but it seems sensible to consider the rise of the “app” and its usefulness.

Most major clothing companies now have an app for smartphones allowing people to access their content wherever they are. Huge profits by online retailers allow them to offer attractive delivery rates, reductions and keep prices down. Boohoo.com is one such store where most items are reasonably cheap and they have seen an explosion in trade.

We can expect further technological advances that will help us determine a good buy, new types of materials developed to cope with demand and more sustainable methods of production and distribution in the next ten years.

Clothing which is easier to wash and care for is also envisaged as it will require less energy to maintain. The advent of “smart clothing” which serves many purposes is already upon us with companies such as Nike inventing a running shoe with a sensor that tracks your run and sends data to your Ipod.

Clothing that monitors physiological well-being and possibly even brain activity will be available to us in the future. It is only a matter of finding ways to implant the technologies into clothing in a way that doesn’t affect comfort.

Just as we have developed clothing to withstand any type of temperatures and climates, the future suggests we will have clothing that works for us in many ways. Smart clothing will probably sell at a high price initially but should become mainstream in the next ten to fifteen years.

Although there is change ongoing and even more ahead, the fashion industry can adapt to survive. We can look forward to an industry that will hopefully serve us in a more ethically conscious manner and still meet the needs of a changing society. We must remember that our buying choices and demand for certain items or production methods can help shape this future.

 Thanks as always for checking  out the blog!

Edel

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