This Is What Fashion Consumers Actually Want And How The Industry Is Responding

by: Rosie Dalton | 11 months ago | Features

Image: Eckhaus Latta's AW17 collection cemented the brand’s ongoing celebration of diversity. Image source

When Dazed opened up conversation with its readers about how the fashion industry needs to change, they found that what fashion consumers actually want is greater responsibility. For some people, this means greater sustainability and accountability, while for others the focus needs to be on more inclusion and less copycat culture. To boil it down to its simplest sentiment, though, fashion consumers now want to see an end to fast fashion. Or, as one reader (@Yuriykyrzov) puts it: “Upcycle, destroy fast fashion. Think of how clothing can be timeless rather than trend-based. Function, design, and durability should work together to create lasting garments that aren’t thrown out or forgotten due to breakage or trend progression.”

So, if slowing down the system and focussing on sustainability are paramount for shoppers right now, then how is the industry actually responding to those needs? In order to answer this question, we really need to look at the different sectors involved in fashion as a whole. On the one hand, fast fashion retailers are trying to up their sustainability game, which is great. But, on the other hand, they certainly aren’t taking any steps to slow down their production cycles – which is a big part of their inherent unsustainability in the first place. And there are still countless allegations being made about big brands ripping off independent creatives as well.

In the luxury sector, things are both better and worse. While some heritage brands remain staunchly resistant to changing their production methods, most major brands now recognise that this is critical to the continuation of their businesses. Kering-owned house Gucci, for example, recently made a commitment to “operate efficiently in respect of the planet.” The brand's new sustainability approach included going fur-free, as well as conserving more energy, reducing waste and implementing “sustainable sourcing and traceability of raw materials”.

But what about luxury fashion’s prevailing image problem – namely the lack of diversity that still pervades the industry? Consumers like @Jessicamnty now want to see “Diverse teams on set. Diverse editorial teams,” as well as “incentives to challenge up and coming designers to make more ethical and inclusive clothing.” And while things are slowly improving and some luxury players like Gucci have finally started thinking about this side of things, it seems that it's often the independent, smaller labels leading the charge here. Diversity forms the backbone of many newer fashion labels today – the likes of Eckhaus Latta and Chromat, for instance. And for independent brands such as Kowtow and Nobody Denim, gender equality is also a driving factor behind their business models (alongside responsible production in general, of course).

So does this suggest that the future of fashion really lies with the independent brands alone? If this is the case, then those brands are going to have a pretty tough time competing with the corporate giants. Because, despite recent shifts in consumer mindsets, fast fashion still continues to rake in the profits. Admittedly, things do seem to be slowing slightly in this regard, but their market share remains disproportionately large. According to a recent report by Bloomberg, for instance, shares in Zara’s parent company Inditex fell 4.5% in 2017, putting them on course for their worst year since 2008. But still, the Spanish retailer's cofounder Amancio Ortega is one of the richest people on the planet. And Zara remains on the Forbes’ list of The World’s Most Valuable Brands. So with that in mind, we clearly have a long way to go.

Ultimately genuine change needs to be a collaborative effort, industry-wide. And until fast fashion brands truly take on the recommendations of fashion consumers and focus on slowing down, as well as increasing sustainability measures, the future of fashion will remain frighteningly blurry. Hopefully, however – through greater education and more conversations like those fostered by Dazed – we can finally tip the balance into more responsible territory for fashion. And, either way, the big guys are likely to be left with little choice soon, but to heed the advice of individuals like @katie_w_w: “Just slow the whole system down, and make new ways of working so it doesn't destroy the planet like it's doing now.”


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