How fashion brands can cope with current global changes
We live in a complex era: pandemics, wars, climate change, and inflation are affecting our lives but also the activities of companies, including those of fashion.
In the face of difficulties, the fashion industry is not helpless. On the contrary, creativity and problem-solving skills help companies to find solutions. Furthermore, technological advancement allows them to do things that we could once only imagine! Let's see how fashion brands can cope with current global changes.
The main challenges for today's fashion industry
Fashion and climate change
Climate change harms the textile and fashion industries in different ways. For example, droughts and extreme weather events can destroy crops, or change the availability of water. This makes raw materials less available and more expensive, affecting the entire production.
In addition, the industry is pilloried due to the strong environmental impact which depends on greenhouse gas emissions, use of pollutants, consumption of resources, and a lot of waste.
Lastly, fashion brands work on collections about a year in advance, but now extreme weather conditions make it difficult to predict trends accurately. As a result, they may find themselves in the unpleasant situation of having produced clothes that no one will wear because they are not suitable.
Fashion and pandemics
The pandemic changed fashion. The most significant changes were a drop in sales and the consequent rise in inventories, as well as delays in deliveries due to the closure of factories and stores.
Moreover, during lockdowns, the way people dress changed: many started working from home, so they no longer needed office clothes. In addition, the use of personal protective equipment has become widespread, affecting the choice of fabrics and silhouettes.
In conclusion, the pandemic has changed consumer behavior. This is also visible in the increased interest in sustainability, in the growth of online shopping, and in the increased use of digital channels (for example, to access real-time customer service).
Fashion and war
The war in Ukraine is leading to a rise in energy prices, making it difficult for energy-intensive industries, such as textiles and fashion, to work.
Furthermore, the Swift circuit blockade applied to Russian banks has made payments difficult for Russian citizens, many of whom are high-spending customers. This has especially affected the French and Italian luxury fashion brands, which have thus seen their markets shrink.
Finally, uncertainty pushes consumers to save by cutting out unnecessary purchases like clothes and accessories. This trend is likely to continue in the future, as tensions in other parts of the world increase.
Fashion and inflation
Inflation is a major challenge for fashion brands, as it increases the cost of raw materials, production, and logistics. In addition, inflation can lead to currency fluctuations. This makes it difficult to predict costs and can cause disruptions in the supply chain.
All of this can lead to problems with inventory management, an increase in the price of finished products, and difficulty in predicting prices.
This, in turn, leads to a decrease in demand as consumers are unwilling to pay more for the same product.
What can fashion brands do to cope with global changes?
When thinking about how fashion brands can cope with current global changes, one answer is technology.
1) Technology reduces costs
The first way in which technology can help fashion brands is by reducing costs.
For example, the use of artificial intelligence can help to optimise production processes and reduce waste. In addition, it can be used for innovations like virtual samples which are much cheaper than traditional ones.
Another way to reduce costs is to use alternative materials that are cheaper than traditional ones but have a similar effect.
2) Technology improves the supply chain
The second way in which technology can help fashion brands is by improving their global supply chain.
For example, blockchain can help trace materials and products throughout the entire supply chain. This is important because it allows brands to identify and correct weaknesses and waste, share guidelines with suppliers, and ensure that they are respected. In other words, the ability to track and transparently trace the supply chain makes it more efficient.
Furthermore, the use of drones and robots (when possible) can help to speed up deliveries and reduce logistics costs.
3) Technology for creating sustainable fashion
The third way in which technology can help fashion brands is by creating more sustainable fashion.
First of all, technological innovation allows farms to monitor and reduce their carbon footprint and resource consumption. Then, recycled materials, such as yarns from plastic bottles, sustainable materials, such as bamboo or organic cotton, and eco-friendly biodegradable packaging can help to reduce waste and the environmental impact.
Moreover, today logistics can rely on more environmentally friendly means of transport than in the past.
By offering rental, reCommerce and recycling programmes as part of connected product services to consumers allows the consumer to directly reduce the impact of the fashion and textiles industry.
4) Technology for nurturing the customer relationship
The fourth way in which technology can help fashion brands is by creating a customer experience so positive that it overcomes the uncertainties that discourage purchases. For example:
- the use of social media platforms can help to create a community of customers and followers or to provide customer service;
- push notifications allow brands to talk regularly with customers, encouraging them to interact;
- technology helps create a personalised customer experience. The use of data analytics can help to understand customer preferences and tailor the customer journey accordingly;
- digital loyalty programs increase the involvement of consumers and their satisfaction, encouraging them to make new purchases;
- branded mobile apps allow companies to be transparent, sharing product information and supply chain data with customers. Furthermore, traceability works as a guarantee of product authenticity. All this demonstrates the reliability of the brand and increases customer loyalty.
Technology is not enough
Technology is useful, but it's only a tool that can work if there's a strategy behind it.
First of all, fashion brands have to be aware of the changes happening in the world.
They need to monitor not only their target markets but also other areas that could potentially affect their business. For example, they need to know about the latest political developments in countries where they source materials or manufacture products. They also need to be aware of environmental changes that could affect the growth of certain raw materials.
Secondly, fashion brands need to be prepared to adapt to changes. This means having a flexible business model that can easily be adjusted to new conditions.
Thirdly, fashion brands need to be proactive in their response to global changes. This means that they should not wait for changes to happen before taking action. For example, some brands are already working on plans to reduce their carbon footprint. Others are investing in research and development to create new sustainable materials.
Change brings not only challenges, but also opportunities. Fashion brands that know how to adapt will soon be able to count on a competitive advantage.