Isabella Griffiths: What do you see as the biggest issues affecting the fashion industry at the moment?
Emily Gordon-Smith: “There are a few conflicting issues at play. While overall clothing sales continue to decline, the activewear market is booming – suggesting we’re still willing to part with our cash. And as the trend of product exclusivity rises, particularly within athleisure, there’s equally a desire for inclusivity, demonstrating how nuanced the industry is becoming.
Re-engaging consumers in-store continues to be a challenge for many, but it also holds huge opportunity and we’re seeing some exciting innovation taking place here as brands and retailers open their minds to alternative models and ways of engaging their customers.
Perhaps one of the most problematic areas for the industry is sustainability. We’re not just talking about a need to use more sustainable resources and look at alternative methods of manufacturing, but a total shift in mindset and promise from the people on top to fundamentally change the way they operate their businesses. This represents a huge undertaking particularly for brands operating within fast fashion who still need to keep up with consumer demand. Although you could argue with the authority they have, they have the opportunity to be the most influential agents of change.”
IG: How does this manifest itself on retail / consumer level?
EG-S: “Within retail brands are responding by finding new ways to entice consumers, giving them a reason to come in-store. It’s been well documented that the younger generations favour experience over product, as a result, the rules of engagement and how to do business are being rewritten. Exclusivity is a key element of that and is a strategy that has worked particularly well for brands exploring hi-lo collaborations. Looking at streetwear, where this approach has really lifted off, it appeals as a sort of cultural status symbol, defining the wearer as urban, streetwise and in some way active. This appeal has driven the demand for a more populist look at a luxury level, with designers engaging in hi-lo collaborations in order to gain crucial street credibility.”
IG: How can retailers and brands react to that?
EG-S: “Irrespective of price point, getting consumers in-store remains an industry-wide struggle. Brands should look at ways to extend and flex their offering beyond product. For activewear brands there’s a natural fit in putting on exercise classes or facilitating exercise for example. Any retailer with a physical store space has the opportunity to use it for so much more than just selling, whether that’s as a place to entertain or to help people network/meet likeminded people, activities like these support the brand loyalty cause. This is particularly important as companies like Amazon continue to disrupt the path to purchase.”
IG: Are certain sectors of the fashion industry more influenced than others by these developments?
EG-S: “Fast fashion faces the biggest challenge in terms of reacting to the sustainability issue. As a market, it faces multiple challenges when it comes to instilling change (scale, model and budget).
The rise of active – partly a result of casualisation and a desire for all day comfort – has also massively affected more traditional categories such as tailoring and special occasion, across luxury, mass and mid-range.”
IG: What are the biggest opportunities coming out of these above mentioned challenges?
EG-S: “The active category holds huge opportunity, especially when combined with an experiential approach. Brands and retailers should also consider how they can behave more inclusively, such as looking at extending sizes and addressing the growing modest dressing audience. Destinationwear is also a massive opportunity year-round as we choose experiences – so are travelling more – over possessions.”
IG: How does your research as a trend forecaster help your clients?
EG-S: “Keeping pace with today’s world is a huge undertaking for brands. We help our clients to track shifting consumer mindsets, examining cross-industry trends and explore the links between consumer lifestyle, product and engagement trends. This not only keeps them informed about the here and now, but how these developments will play out in the future and where the opportunities for innovation and business growth lie.”
IG: What do you anticipate to be or remain the biggest trends in terms of lifestyles and consumer behaviour that are here to stay in the foreseeable future?
EG-S: “The activewear trend is here to stay, and will continue to gain momentum as consumers place even more emphasis on wellbeing and health. Wellbeing has become big business for brands cross-industry. Within fashion, consumers are looking for wardrobe solutions that serve more than one need, and brands are responding. Hi-lo collaborations are one example, while brands like Nike are offering more laidback, cool lifestyle options in addition to their increasingly technical sportswear ranges.”
IG: Stylus is hosting a seminar at this season’s Moda. What can visitors expect to come away with?
EG-S: “We’ll be discussing the new fashion landscape, dissecting the biggest external issues affecting business for retailers, brands and manufacturers – including some of those mentioned above. Visitors can expect to gain an insight into the course we expect these issues to take and walk away with a greater understanding of the opportunities for growth.”
Emily Gordon-Smith is head of fashion at innovation research and advisory company Stylus. Catch the trends talk 6th of August at 1pm at Moda, held at the NEC in Birmingham.