Fashion industry was going through a very rough time during the last few years. Mainly due to lack of direction, wrong & misplaced decisions taken by financial investors as ‘new-age’ owners of Brands – who had no clue about the creativity-driven intricate and seasonal fashion industry. Discrimination (also favouritism) while employing designers, production teams, supply chains, services and above all, the undercurrent of rampant corruption at multiple levels, took a huge toll at efficiency, design and product quality. Once these vices set-in, history is replete with case-studies to prove that Mediocrity takes precedence over Merit. That’s when Covid-19, The China Virus, hit the world and actually helped push the Fashion industry to ReBoot and Re-Set. A blessing in disguise in the true sense that would cause a huge collateral damage – Unfortunate, Unpleasant & Unprecedented. Hopefully, this calamity will completely transform the Fashion Industry going forward.
Looking back ever since I landed my first job in Jan 1988, just after the Crash of 1987, followed by Asian crisis 1997, then 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001, SARS epidemic in 2003, Global financial meltdown in 2008; this industry has seen it all and braced these disasters, surviving through extended downtimes, but never ever to this magnitude that we currently witness during COVID-19.
This is an opportunity for Fashion Industry to finally reflect & reform. There had to be a global scenario such as this ‘China Virus’, where everything just stopped. Unless this had happened, Fashion industry wouldn’t be able to slow down even to introspect and think of any long-term reforms. The fast-fashion calendar until 2019 turned to be one crazy madness, leaving no room for even small human errors, forget factoring disruptions due to natural disasters or socio-political unrest etc.
Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA): Products with very short life-cycle, priced at ‘lower-than-cost’ at retail, came to be known as ‘Fast Fashion’. Zara in Europe and Walmart in USA led this business model, and how! But then every other brand jumped into this game of Fast Fashion, trying to ride the volume train, many in the process, depleted their existing brand-value, transiting from Value-Addition to Cost-Cutting. All of this eventually pushed their consumer towards irresponsible and impulsive buying pattern, to buy cheap products, that they didn’t actually need, and that wouldn’t even last the season.
Sense of Seasons: We have seen this changing over the last three decades. In the early nineties, I clearly remember shipping calendar to retail stores perfectly synced to the respective seasons. By the year 2000 we started shipping to stores with pre-Season offerings. Thereafter, post-2008 crisis, brands developed an obsession towards seasons & collections. Products that should sell in Winters started crying for customer attention as early as the preceding Mid-Summer. Early mark-downs became standard practice, as if there is no tomorrow. All of this undue haste & rush by Brands to get their collections to the shelf earlier than competition, at costs that didn’t even cover the industry expenses, put enormous pressure on the complete product-cycle, right from creativity & research, product testing, manufacturing and supply chains. Each one of these came at a huge cost to the Fashion industry in particular, and the global ecological environment in general.
Going back to where we were thirty years ago, with just two major seasons per year, will mean giving new life to Fashion Industry. Designers will have the time & freedom required to experiment and delve deeper into their creative spaces. Sampling & Prototype development would improve the overall quality of end product. Manufacturing will perform much better given reasonable lead-time, logistics & services will become more efficient.
Imagine all of this mated with pathbreaking Technology, driven by AI & Machine Learning, we would have totally reformed and reinvented the Fashion Industry.