The future of independent fashion brands in a post-Covid reality

The recently concluded International Fashion Forum has pointed out directions that are set to become key in the future. These include: locality, digitalisation, culture, sustainability, diversity, unification, visual art, communication and experiments.

The past year saw a massive shift take place within the fashion industry with physical to digital formats taking the lead, sustainability coming to the fore and virtual fashion. It is predicted that come 2021, offline is here to stay and will not become obsolete. Instead, it will be inextricably linked with the online, digital format that became extremely successful in the past year.

In the coming year, there will be more competition between designers and other creatives in the digital space. Honest and sincere brand strategies will win, and format for presenting content on social networks will completely change; local brands can confidently focus on their target audience, thus in the future this will be a major step towards global recognition.

Owing to the digital format, many local events have been transformed into international ones. Online media will work to develop its own niche in social networks, and thereby try to compete with independent industry experts who have already gathered a target audience around them.

The trend will also be the interaction of creative representatives of metropolises with the developing world. Fashion will become the engine of not only the cultural, but also the economic component of developing countries.

The International Fashion Forum was attended by 74 speakers from 24 countries and was supported by the Moscow Department of Culture. Following is a more detailed report on the development of the industry in 2021 pertaining to the year gone by of 2020 and the key lessons to take away:

FASHION, DESIGN AND ART OF THE FUTURE – TRANSFORMING THE CREATIVE POWER OF WORLD CAPITALS

The past year has seen a monumental shift in the fashion week format which has a direct impact on the forthcoming digitalisation of the way we view fashion in general.

All major fashion events, ranging from fashion shows, presentations to trade shows and fairs, conferences, etc., were presented in an online format which highlighted the need for seasonless fashion, and all in all the unnecessary resources that go to waste during such events, half of which can easily be more successful in a digital format.

Alexander Shumsky, President of Russian Fashion Council and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia, Co-founder of Fashion Fund (Russia) shared that despite the challenges of the pandemic, independent designers from Moscow received a lot of attention from international media this year, all due to the online format.

According to him, this is neither good, nor bad but in fact a new reality, which allows us to expand the boundaries of events and make them global and international.

Alexander termed 2020 as the most difficult year for independent designers over the past decades, but made an optimistic assumption that ‘a lot of things which are actually bad for the economy’, could be a starting point for fashion brands, for example, factors such as lower rents, a focus on conscious consumption, etc.

The shift from physical to digital was also one that was met with a lot of enthusiasm from the fashion industry. Brands, fashion labels and designers alike embraced the opportunity in a positive way and got their creative juices flowing in order to make the most out of the situation — a trend we believe will continue in the times to come.

“As soon as we spotted the opportunity to move to the online format, we did it,” Lucilla Booyzen, Founder of South African Fashion Week (South Africa) said. “It helped create an ecosystem where it became easier for local designers to collaborate with other designers; they learned how to work with consumers through social networks to identify needs and respond to demand. Although the pandemic was devastating, we see incredible positivity coming up. We can start building our local industry, people are looking at their communities, are looking at sustainability, they are looking at doing things in a different way,” Lucilla shared and noted that South Africa will continue to improve digitally based on sustainable fashion and build long-term relationships with brands that share values.

Joana Jorge, Project Manager at ModaLisboa | Lisboa Fashion Week (Portugal) said, “The pandemic forced everyone to mobilise, to unite. Fashion Week was held in a hybrid form: online and offline and to make up for the lack of physical presence during the show, small presentations in public places were also included. Small presentations may reduce audience reach, but increase the degree and quality of impact on a ‘live’ audience.”

Also Read: Orders driving manufacturing: Are the consumers ready to accept this trend?

SUSTAINABILITY: GLOBAL PRACTICES TO SAVE THE PLANET

SUSTAINABILITY GLOBAL PRACTICES TO SAVE THE PLANET

Tips for those who want to sell clothes without harming the planet

If there is one thing that the pandemic has caused for us to pause and reconsider, it is the need to recognise the impact our actions have on our planet. Fast fashion and over consumption have been threatening areas of concern for the industry much before COVID-19 hit the world —  the pandemic only served to highlight the urgent need to reevaluate our choices.

“Sustainability is the ability to think about future generations’ needs ahead of our own greed,” Christina Dean, Founder and Board Chair of Redress and Founder and CEO of The R Collective (Hong Kong, China) said. She considers it to be inappropriate to separate the economy, nature and fashion from each other and believes that all of these should work together. She further added, “What was fascinating for me about Covid was that suddenly people stopped shopping and it has been a catastrophe for the industry…” This underlines the fact that much less is needed for us to live a happy content life not driven by consumerism and that brands need to reassess what they are producing and why.

Agreeing with the same, Patrick Duffy, Founder of Global Fashion Exchange, Co-founder of SwapChain and Circular Fashion Summit (USA), added that, “Clothing was and remains an important code, the main thing is to buy it with meaning for yourself. It is necessary to revise the old system of values ​​and create a different paradigm —  balance, economy and ecosystem.”

The sheer volume of clothes disposed away on an annual basis is staggering, there has been an increasing level of awareness amongst consumers which has directly corresponded to them making mindful purchases.

The process of making clothes and their corresponding disposal is detrimental to nature, but the pandemic has revealed another deficiency —  the lack of ethics in fashion, when the labour of people involved in the industry is not properly paid. Carry Somers, Co-founder and Global Operations Director of Fashion Revolution (UK) supports the idea of ​​the indivisibility of men and nature, and stresses upon the issues of ethics (this is about people) and sustainability (this is about ecology) in the fashion industry. She calls on the global fashion community to address these issues together.

Many brands are also addressing the issue at hand, by using exclusive natural fibres and recycled clothing, collaborating with local artisans and manufacturers, preserving cultural traditions and creating jobs.

A NEED TO LEARN TO WORK WITH VIRTUAL CLOTHES

A NEED TO LEARN TO WORK WITH VIRTUAL CLOTHES

With the pandemic, it has become difficult to just walk into a store and touch or try on clothes, so more and more professionals are looking for new approaches and developing products such as digital clothing and adopting the concept of virtual fitting rooms. Besides being a more sustainable option for the planet, digital clothing allows designers and brands to create a product from any material and change it endlessly —  even after the release of the collection.

Commenting on the same, Daria Shapovalova, Co-founder at DressX, member of Forbes 30 Under 30 List and BOF 500 List of the People Shaping the Global Fashion (USA) said, “Digital does not require such costs for production, travel, purchase, disposal of things —  everything is solved with a few clicks.” to which, Natalia Modenova, Co-founder of DressX, More Dash and Fashion Tech Summit (USA), added, “The only limitation is the lack of Internet —  virtual fashion can also be a big step for retail: it doesn’t matter what size you have, age, etc., as long as you have a good working network connection.”

Although virtual clothing has been an upcoming trend for a while now, people were not ready to take it seriously. But 2020 changed that in a big way, further accelerating the shift.

Today, virtual clothing is the avant-garde; direction in which large companies and brands are interested and something that brands should definitely look at incorporating.

CONSUMER TRENDS AND WORKING WITH BUYERS

“Fashion consumption is chaining in the XXI century and consumers are looking for more than just aesthetics. The industry has to respond to that demand to prevail. Relevant brands in the XXI century will have to be meaningful, embracing a purpose that goes beyond status. This is why small independent designers are catching the eye of forward thinking fashion consumers who expect added value and strong brand personality when buying a product,” Daniel Pérez-Barriga, Brand & Communications Strategist, Senior Executive & Consultant, Founder of Waterboy (Spain) said.

On how to sell your clothing in Paris, Ekaterina Glazunova, Head Buyer for Tom Greyhound Paris (France) shared that arriving on the Parisian schedule is all about right timing. “I think it’s better to make a name first with a minor fashion destination. I mean, today they are doing a great job. Let’s take for example Copenhagen Fashion Week or PittiUomo in Florence or Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia.”

At the same time, if you have an opportunity to do a physical showroom in Paris, it’s always great, because you can benefit from Parisian traffic, since all buyers are coming to Paris market anyway.

So if you are doing a showroom, what do you need?

“You need a beautiful collection of course, but also you need to work on your prices and on your distribution strategy. I think you need to have a clear idea about your final customer and which store represents the best of your vision of fashion. So please be ready to answer all of these questions to your buyers.” Ekaterina said.

On how to get the buyer’s attention, Kazuma Mori, Founder of BUNKER TOKYO conceptual boutique (Japan) said, “What I want from a brand is culture and action. I think designer brands will need the culture and cultural background of you or your image, and the social significance of creating the collection.”

Fashion needs to be on the side of cultural minorities, which will be essential in the post-corona world. After COVID-19, Black Lives Matter has been one of the most important issues all over the world; many brands have spoken out about it. Stressing on the same, Kazuma said, “I think you really can feel the cultural background from the look. Cultural background makes a story for the collection and it definitely reaches out to customers.”

HOW TO SELL MENSWEAR

HOW TO SELL MENSWEAR

It is forecasted that Gen Z born after 1999 and Gen Alpha born only 10 years ago, will become the biggest part of the fashion consumers. They are digitalised, but also very conscious about climate change, which means that for them, sustainability will be mandatory for the fashion sector.

According to Andrea Selvi, Buying Manager at Luisa via Roma (Italy), young brands will be applied during the creation process to consider those two major factors. “Online will be increasing faster than offline, which means that all products online should be very strong in terms of visuals. They have to work on the shooting, on video and even interaction to better understand the product. On the other side, ethical collection will be very important, so organic, eco-friendly, upcycling will be a key part for the customers.”

Men’s market, before the pandemic, was growing faster than that of the women’s. There are two different approaches on menswear but they both depend on your final customers. “Men between 35- and 50-year-old search for more high-quality products. They can spend more money on an item, if they can use it for a long period,” Andrea highlighted, adding, “Younger customers are acting like serial shoppers, they know the brands, they follow them on social media and they are keen to find special collabs or exclusive products. Quality is not a real characteristic for them, but they are more conscious about sustainability. Agender is an important trend and we see more and more lookbooks with girls and boys wearing the same clothes. But I think it’s easier for women to borrow men’s clothing than the opposite, so maybe we have to wait a little bit more to see men wearing women’s dresses.”