Due to the recent rapid change of the industry L'Officiel asked me for its latest issue how I see the future of fashion. Lovely to be included is this interview series with 3 different experts.
This is more or less what I said:
Fashion is a way in which individuals express themselves. It defines who you are and it even defines status. It is a non-verbal communication. Unlike Liz Edelkoort declared "Fashion is dead", fashion will always be there, it will just change like anything else in the world changes.
But fashion is also a business. Just like anything else. And that’s all people perceive it to be. Make clothes, sell them, and make all the money you possibly can. Furthermore in the Western world consumers are sated. Fashion is changing because the society is changing. And this has always been like this. It is changing because the people are tired of dressing the same. Big brands produce the same coat for Barcelona and Amsterdam or Paris. The slow fashion movement - with respect for the people and for the environment - is opening doors. Customized clothes are coming. Everyone has a story and will dress as he/she wants. We always dress because of our culture and customs.
In China, however, I observe that fashion is very much alive and much more adventurous, creative, wild. People want to attract attention by their clothes. Many young new local labels arise in China. Copying of Western labels is getting less. (Yet copying has a long tradition in China. It was a way of learning, of showing admiration and respect.) On the other hand, I notice many Western labels designing their collection for the Chinese market. Some even seem to find inspiration on China's night markets and copy prints from cheap goods. Companies like Adidas design special sneaker collections targeting the Chinese costumers. You find golden Adidas sneakers with big teddy bear heads for example, which you will not find anywhere in Europe. No wonder, in China the middle class is still growing, and wants to spend money on luxurious goods. The market is big; 1,3 billion people are living in this country. Chinese shoppers bought almost half the world's luxury goods in 2015.
So I think there is a shift in fashion. The centre of fashion is moving towards the east.
It's a new era for fashion in which the current system is turned on its head in a bid to find a new working model. The industry tries to respond to the customer’s need for newness, but in doing so, we have created an over-proliferation of products that don’t have enough time to sell before the next collection drops, leading to waste. In doing so, it is constraining the creativity of the designers, exhausting the buyers and press, and overwhelming the consumer.
But for smaller brands and businesses using a wholesale model, this kind of change may be hard to execute - there will be no single solution to the industry’s woes, and no standard operating model which will work for businesses across the spectrum of luxury, contemporary and fast fashion. Rather, each business will have to define its own future and find its own path for adapting to the radically changing market landscape. And I think each way will have its own benefits and risks.