I will continue on from last week’s thoughts on how not to be sustainable to move to a totally new responsible systems understanding for the fashion industry and elaborate on the essentials which could transform the value chain as we assess today and construct our future. We are in a shift that is in evolution and it is crucial to take a course, set a tone, and remain realistically hopeful even in the peak of the turmoil. The broken system of the fashion industry needs healing and our collective actions, where we put our minds and hearts, the leadership models will make the difference. So, I will try to remain dedicated to deep dive into some of the emerging ideas as well as expectations which could guide us to a mind-full ecosystem.
Yesterday I found myself dressing to go the grocery store on a brief episode of socializing across the veggie stalls before our total lock-down for the coming 4 days; pondering if I would get to say hello to someone I do not know, smile with my eyes behind my mask. This week we participated on the first Kingpins24 online; what was (and will be) the highlighted get together for the denim industry twice every year. We are all learning to navigate this unprecedent phase with new dynamics and adapting through creative solutions and technology.
Lately, it is the human interaction that I miss the most and this makes me think that although pandemic impact online sales is expected to take over, post pandemic; the brick and mortars will exist not with racks of clothes to browse through but more as interactive hubs for value creation around the brand identity. We are learning from a no-touch economy dynamic and it is at the time of crisis where also amazing creativity is coming alive.
It is our humanity that we need to bring back to fashion all the way from raw materials to the consumption as we; the citizens of a connected global world realize how huge the impact of fashion is to economy and society. Environmental impact has recently been easier to relate to; both because of the genuine work delivered by the responsible companies as well as the marketing hype of sustainability. The current crisis is teaching us about the economic and the social fractures and how vulnerable the industry has been. The greenwashing of sustainable singled products to promote a brand or a manufacturer will cease practice as customers are expected to become more purpose driven. We have to see the connections of the industry to climate crisis, economic downturn as well as the social fabric which reaches out from employees of a factory in developing countries to the rack of jeans in global stores and it is complex. There is a downfall in the way the supply chain has been constructed and the ones who are exposed to turmoil the most are the ones who have been already struggling.
The pre-pandemic sales volume will not be there in the imminent future due to diminished spending and there will also be a natural adjustment over an extended time period where resilient, agile companies with progressive leadership will reconfigure a new way of conduct. We will face an overstock and price sensitivity at the initial stage of the industry re-boot and how companies will utilize the overstock and the associated price will initially overrun the idea of value. There will be an eventual supply and demand balance in the longer run.
Fashion triggers the design of products, collections, systems, connected global supply chains providing livelihood for millions, enabling arts and science to unite. The post pandemic era will be where the industry will need to design value. Fashion is a powerful connector as well as a communicator and it is time that we put this power to use for good for real. Authentic transparency is essential, and it needs to be at the center of the new value creation trajectory for manufacturing as well as for consumption. We have seen that it is too risky to base a business operation on volume with minimal profits, dependent on pre calculated discounts; and manufacturing for landfills. The brands will need to revisit the value proposition as we move to a “buy less” system simply because we face a reduced global spending. As consumers look for quality and a personal, emotional relation for their limited purchases, authentic value proposition will become a necessity and evoke streamlining transparency of raw materials, design and manufacturing. The design of value cannot be limited to a collection or a number of products and will be communicating the authentic brand proposal. Designing value will become an existential drive and will relate to a platform system thinking rather than a product thinking.
As our norms and realities shift, my expectation for post corona is that consumers will remain insistent on the search for meaning. Genuine storytelling of brand identity as a part of the collections will define the new, critical business platform and brands surely will depend on their supply chain to accomplish the transparency.
Transparency of supply chains has been dependent on third party certification and mostly limited to compliance where the language is too complex for the consumers. The communication needs to move out of the industry to the citizens. This is a call for solidarity and independent transparency where the companies connect with stakeholders to engage in value design, enabling consumers to be a part of this dialogue. I believe that we have the various technology options such as blockchain to connect the dots around a circular value proposition. We might see models where brands will own the products through its entire life cycle and develop a business model where economic value is enhanced through resell. The systemic value design for fashion needs to also collaborate with across industries and may look at permaculture, the understanding of planetary boundaries, principles of the Doughnut Economy model, looking at the Sustainable Development Goals, Drawdown Project for inspiration and systemic adaption. Social, economic and environmental responsibility will need to be at the core of the digitally integrated, transparent, value-focused, interactive post corona platform systems.
The value-minded customers will surely ask more from their jeans – both as a system as well as a product and will search for a sense of wellbeing, comfort, protection and purpose. Pollution reactive, future-proof, functional fabrics and jeans designed with biological solutions and responsible technology will be at the core of research and development.
Digital Growth will define assessment of growth not through production but productivity and efficiency. Just consider the sampling stage for the collections where once designed digitally will not only speed up the timeline but also cut down on waste. AI will enable to a new understanding of consumption detection and most of the e-commerce experts have been expanding drop collections to drive supply chains. On demand production will require a unique re-definition of how we design components and manufacture clothes and production will become flexible, agile, more informed, technology and data driven. Retail will be immersed in the digital developments from smart mirrors which will partially replace the changing rooms, to body scanners which determine the perfect fit as well as social media immersed product offers, catered to the individual taste, need through on demand models. Many others will follow.
The scale change is inevitable and the industry has a chance to reconfigure itself and reinvent its dynamics – and as Dr. Jonathan Foley presented on the Drawdown 101 Webinar , we have to consider that every $ we spend on climate solutions, will earn us 7$ in the longer run and we cannot single out the solutions and have to consider an inclusive approach first to re-boot and then re-boost with new set of guidelines.
I would like to leave you all with a practice idea by Tara Brach which I have experienced online at The Tricycle Community. Tara’s teachings blend Western psychology and Eastern spiritual practices, mindful attention to our inner life, and a full, compassionate engagement with our world. The RAIN practice is a full self-scan and assessment and each letter stands for a phase of the practice. Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Nurture. To really understand how connected we all are and that our individual actions collectively co-create the now and the thereafter, I invite you to run RAIN both on a personal level as well as for the part that we play in the industry. We do have the possibility to re-design our future – with holistic value.
Recognize what is happening;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with interest and care;
Nurture with self-compassion.