David R. Shah, editorial director

July 2020

If you believe all that you read, many things will never be the same again after the coronavirus pandemic. But it’s not the first time that we have stared disaster in the face and expected transformation. As the financial crisis of 2008 showed us, it takes more than hope to change the world. So, it is to be reset or restoration? No one can answer that question, because no one knows what’s going to happen once the coronavirus has subsided – or when or if we will find a vaccine.
The best prophet, wrote Thomas Hobbes, is the best guesser. However, one thing is sure: what the consumer is searching for now is security, trustworthiness and clarity.
We need to accept that the pandemic and the damage it has done has not necessarily changed the world, rather it has accelerated trends that were already shaping business. When it comes to deglobalisation, companies have been busy lowering their exposure to countries that carry high geopolitical or health risks for some time. We have been talking about data for many years now and it can only encroach further on our lives. In purely business terms, anything that promises to reduce stock and minimise risk has to be a plus. The virus has also opened the door to a robotic army and the post-coronavirus workforce could look quite different. Economic downturns have a habit of spurring automation.
And fashion? The sector is expected to contract by 27-30% this year, according to the State of Fashion 2020 Coronavirus Update report by the Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company. It hasn’t been easy for the fashion industry for some time, but “doing the right thing” was not only the fashion norm of 2019, but also encapsulated much of the industry’s response to the pandemic.
All this season’s yarn and fabric fairs were driven by sustainability and eco responsibility. Although the conversation appears to have quietened on climate change due to the health and economic issues surrounding the pandemic, you can be sure that sustainability in all its forms and methods is still very much top of the bill.

So what awaits the fashion industry? It’s fairly safe to say that the future of fashion revolves round 10 key points.

  1. We will see greater collaboration, alliances, mergers and acquisitions amongst brands.
  2. Everything to do with digital will accelerate and the wholesale system will decline.
  3. The Chinese will bounce back first to account for as much as 50% of the luxury market, and they will do their shopping at home.
  4. Local could be the new black as we see fewer and smaller collections, together with reshoring and investment in local manufacturing. City centre business models reliant on maximum footfall are at odds with social distancing.
  5. Longevity, investment potential and heritage factors will count evermore in consumer decision making. In-season retail will slowly win through.
  6. The concept of fashion shows will be completely overhauled.
  7. Digital will become a key component in sales and fashion presentations as buyers travel less.
  8. Resale, rental and transparently sustainable business will grow.
  9. Athleisure and loungewear are far from over – especially as working from home will become the norm for some sectors.
  10. The shift to more restrained, timeless pieces will ultimately give way to exuberance and excess – just as wartime fabric rationing paved the way for Dior’s New Look collection in 1947.