By Rua Dinm
Business Fashion Editor
Despite the fast-changing trends, the fashion industry has proven to be extremely slow in solving many of its issues. How can it not? The solutions that are posed often create more problems. Let’s take one of the previous issues: keeping up with fashion trends. Most consumers could not imagine a world where products were accessible and affordable simultaneously. However, fast fashion had solved this dilemma for everyone. Now you could pay your bills and look good in a new dress every month. With most popular retail brands moving their productions in other nations while using cheap materials and labor, affordable, stylish clothes are more available. Unfortunately, this movement has become one of the most convenient dangers to our society. On one hand, fast fashion is everything consumers desire. It is affordable, accessible, makes it easy for college students and fashion enthusiasts to keep up with the next trend on their Instagram feed. On the other hand, there is no doubt that this fast-paced business plan is exploiting poverty flourished countries, creating massive waste, and increasing overstocked warehouses with collections for a whole season that may or may not sell. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The fashion industry was moving so fast that it sped past all its issues, not caring about the trail of destruction it was leaving behind. Ethically, environmentally, and every which way, what people perceive as a shallow industry has some deep, dark practices. Although the conversation about change had been frequent, actions were rarely followed. For better or for worse, the universe had other plans. Due to COVID-19, the industry was forced to stop everything in March. The halt triggered a lot of necessary growing pains for the industry. Companies like J. Crew, J. Hilburn, True Religion, and Neiman Marcus filed for bankruptcy. While Bldwn, The Modist, Elizabeth Suzann and more are closing its door forever. Fortunately for some companies, advancements that were slowly coming to fruition were now accelerated. Technological updates such as 3D printing to replace sampling, which wasted time and material, different variations of online fashion shows are now becoming common practice. Business fashion leaders were pausing and having conversations about what they could do better.
One of the most interesting transformations from all of these changes is made-to-order productions. A notion that the industry did not think to have to deal with till at least 2025. In this business model, customers first place the orders. After this, the orders are given to the manufacturers. This way, the customers directly receive their products within two weeks. Brands such as Ultracor, Alton Lane, and Misha Nonoo are following this business plan despite the challenges of this model. Unfortunately, this model is not all glam and glitz. There are loads of drama behind the scenes. For starters, if the current manufacturer disagrees with this, which most will, because unlike before, they have the risk of receiving each order to order payments. The days of receiving one big paycheck do not suffice this reality. When fashion designer Nonoo tried to adapt to this business model, she had to go through several rejections. Now, she has manufacturers in both Peru and China on board with this new normal. Another downside to this model: it does not cater to consumers following ever changing trends on Instagram. With this business model, designers do not have enough time to design, release, market, manufacture, and sell.
Thus, some companies have been planning to meet in the middle with manufacturers with a semi-solution. In this model, everything stays the same, but the collections are manufactured in small quantities. Brands such as Zara and H&M have taken this middle lane and plans on releasing their collections in smaller batches. Especially since both brands do cater to fast fashion consumers. This design is most likely a profitable decision for them. Although if this decision is solely on the hopes of keeping fast fashion alive, there is some bad news for Zara and H&M. Looking at different consumer trends around 2018, there has been a decline in fast fashion enthusiasts for several reasons. For starters, customers are a lot more conscious about their purchases now more than ever. As cute as the clothes are at Forever 21, customers are aware of the cost of a $5.00 top on their conscious. Moreover, people are tired of buying shirts for two and a half washes. It is no secret that these trendy designs are often made with cheap materials. Perhaps, it is the frustration of throwing away their fifth shirt of the week or the loneliness of this quarantine, but buyers seem to be attracted to timeless, classic, sturdy clothes. The question is, how long is this trend going to stay? In these questionable times, who knows what direction customer decision making might be moving towards.
With all these changes, it looks like the fashion industry is moving in the right direction. Nonetheless, it is too soon to say anything. There are a lot of unknown factors as of now. How long are these changes going to take to enforce? Are these changes are fast enough? Will companies abide by their promises to do better or is this another marketing strategy? Only time will tell.
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