The Fashion Industry Must Adapt To The New Model.

Global sourcing and online have fundamentally transformed the retail fashion model by attacking three enablers that supported its historical growth – access, innovation and uniqueness. Up until as recently as a decade ago fashion worked to a trend cycle that was supported by geographic distribution constraints. Leading designers and design houses tapped into visionary social trend forecasts to create new collections that were made often in vertically integrated supply chains. These collections had limited global access – a combination of seasonality, price and distribution limitations.

In turn this enabled fashion trends to be (lets call a spade a spade) knocked off and produced for the volume markets locally. The contemporary context is radically different.

Social trend forecasting has narrowed and today forms into a zeitgeist of consensus stimulation. Cutting edge design collections are broadcast globally to an eager audience of consumers instantly – creating demand there and then. Online retail means consumers can get access to anything they want when they want it. Most designers and design houses are no longer vertically integrated and have introduced pricing architecture that has increased their reach. The major profit gains in global sourcing have pretty much been exhausted and replication is now embedded into shared suppliers.

On top of all this, we have a consumer who has global access at their finger-tips and a manic addiction to fashion stimulants – a thirst for newness.

The new fashion world is driven by consumers that no longer react to nature’s seasons, want it when they see it, want to see new stuff all the time, demand value for money, seek branded uniqueness and can buy globally.

Is it any wonder many fashion retailers are getting caught out. The new fashion formula is straight-forward in its structure, albeit complex in implementation.

Fashion retailers have to invest in design that they can ‘own’ as uniquely theirs. They must adapt to the rhythm of ‘micro-seasonality’ and deliver new product at least every four weeks, a movement away from buying deep. They need to reflect a more global colour palette and trend approach that defies the divide between the northern and southern hemispheres. They must create range architecture that plays to layering, new fabric thinking and fabrication techniques. They need to increase basket size through the concept of ‘wardrobing’. They need to drive value through lifestyle enhancement. They need to sell ideas not items. They need to become storytellers and stylists for their customers not order takers and transaction processors.

Above all, the new fashion retailer is one that embraces optimisation and right-sizing the business rather than maximising it to the point of destruction.