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It's Time For An 'Urgent Awakening', Says BoF State Of Fashion Report 2019

by: Rosie Dalton | 1 year ago | Features

Image via the State of Fashion Report 2019.

It is that time of year again – when Business of Fashion joins forces with consulting firm McKinsey & Company to bring us the State of Fashion Report. And while their State of Fashion Report 2019 does contain some optimism – like the increasing focus on sustainability and transparency, for example – it also describes 2019 as a year of reckoning for fashion.

“For fashion players, 2019 will be a year of awakening,” BoF writes. “The ones who will succeed will have to come to terms with the fact that in the new paradigm that is taking shape around them, some of the old rules simply don’t work.” According to the report, key factors for success will next year include a digital-first mindset and a faster-than-ever speed to market – which is pretty scary, if you ask me. But thankfully BoF and McKinsey acknowledge that these things alone cannot save a fashion brand.

On top of adaptability and resilience, the State of Fashion Report 2019 also says that fashion businesses must “take an active stance on social issues, satisfy consumer demands for ultra-transparency and sustainability, and, most importantly, have the courage to ‘self-disrupt’ their own identity and the sources of their old success, in order to realise these changes and win new generations of customers.”

One thing is for certain in the current fashion landscape and that’s the fact that nothing is certain anymore. With this in mind, brands need to safeguard their businesses by ensuring that their practices are values-driven at their core. Sustainability is a theme that has cropped up in the State of Fashion report over the past few years now, but in 2019 things look different – less gratuitous and more authentic.

“An increasingly important priority is sustainability and transparency, reflecting rising concerns on the part of consumers and companies about how to alleviate their impact on the environment,” the 2019 report says. “Sustainability, which for the first time breaks into our respondents’ list of the most important challenges, is evolving from a tick-box exercise into a transformational feature that is engrained in the business model and ethos of many recent success stories.”

This shift in perspective from sustainability as a gratuitous ‘nice to have’ into a factor fundamental for success is certainly a positive sign for the future of fashion. But this is part of why BoF describes the coming year as such a major ‘awakening’ for fashion. Because the simple fact is that too few brands truly have sustainability built into their businesses. Take fast fashion giants like H&M, for example, which claims to be ‘sustainable’ and points to their use of organic cotton as illustration. But whose underlying business model actually contradicts the very definition of sustainability.

If BoF and McKinsey are correct in their projections, 2019 will be a year in which consumers get even wiser and brands like these are forced to put their money where their mouths are. With this, also comes an end of ownership for many consumers. “The lifespan of the fashion product is becoming more elastic as pre-owned, refurbished, repair and rental business models continue to evolve,” BoF writes. This ties in with the younger generation’s passion for social and environmental issues reaching critical mass, resulting in those same consumers now demanding radical transparency and a purpose-driven approach.

“The prizes for those who can adapt may be greater than ever,” the report postulates. “But so are the penalties for those who fail.” In other words, then, the stakes are higher for fashion brands now than they ever have been before – and is it really any wonder that this is the case, considering the fact that people and the planet are now under greater threat from the fashion industry than ever before?

With so many garment workers now facing human rights violations everyday and with so much of our earth now under threat of obliteration, fashion cannot continue in the same trajectory it has been taking. It cannot remain the second most polluting industry, nor can supply chains remain so obscured. The only question that remains now, then, is which major players will be too stuck in their harmful ways to weather the storm? And will help transform fashion into a force for positive change?

You can read the State of Fashion 2019 report in full over here.

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