To commiserate the lunacy of Black Friday and to continue henceforth with my Heart-Centered Hustle, I spent my weekend not in the shops buying myself things I don’t need, but instead reading a forty-five page report called The State of Fashion.
The State of Fashion
It’s a collaborative report by McKinsey and Business of Fashion from tonnes of quantitative and qualitative data and words from the mouths of over two hundred senior industry experts.
Published back in January this year, it provides a contextual backdrop to the state of fashion today, an in-depth analysis on industry performance and predictions for trends that would unravel in the year ahead.
Getting my geek on has always been a big endorphin-inducer for me, but when I realised that the kicks I get from cranial expansion are outweighing pretty purchases a million to one, I had to stop and acknowledge the monumental shift in my consciousness over the past twelve months.
That seismic internal transformation reflects what’s going on in the world of fashion; a $3 trillion ecosystem that is coming undone at the seams and being stitched back together with a whole new look.
Unpredictability is the new normal, the global economy is uncertain and digital disruption is everywhere.
In the world of threaded up inspirations, heritage business models and longstanding brands are being knocked off the catwalk in one fell swoop by technology-driven start-ups, innovative business models, niche brands, powerful pureplay e-commerce players, online marketplaces and more.
Every player in the industry, big or small, is scrambling to keep up with its breakneck pace of development and technology is being woven into the supply chain at every step of the journey from concept to consumer and beyond.
Data is being used to design, robots are being used to sew, virtual reality is being used to sell. This is not just something you see on futuristic Ted Talks or YouTube videos, this is happening now and in fact, has been for quite a while.
THE ASIAN INVASION
The report highlight which caught my attention the most was this trend forecast:
In 2018, for the first time in history, over 50% of global footwear and apparel sales will take place in the East.
My interest was sparked first of all because I’m currently based in Chiang Mai, where I’m witnessing fashion from a totally new perspective.
Secondly, because of a conversation I had a few weeks ago with our in-house maid, Anna, who hails from a Hill Tribe in the northern mountains of Myanmar. I’d asked her why she moved to Chiang Mai for this job and without hesitating she replied that it’s “to make money to go shopping – I love fashion”.
And thirdly because before I left the UK, a large part of what I was witnessing there was the reverse trend – re-shoring.
To hit the shops within weeks if not days of styles being seen on the runway, fast fashion in the UK was becoming ultra fast. Big brands like Zara and H&M were being overtaken by Boohoo and Missguided getting from design to delivery in just a week.
In order to make this happen, sourcing strategies were all about a large-scale and rapid shift from East to West. The high volume, long lead-time production that had been outsourced to the low-cost East for many years was now being brought back closer to home.
So while we were busy focusing on setting up more local routes to market, it was easy to miss the tidal wave of fashion flowing in the opposite direction.
A big reason for the growth of fashion in the East from both a supply and demand perspective, is technology.
Asia is home to more than two-thirds of the world’s e-commerce unicorns, it’s where a large number of pioneering innovations are brought to life and where international investments are big priority.
Many Chinese giants are investing in the developed West with the likes of Suzhou Tianyuan Garments opening up a sewbot factory in America’s deep south creating T-shirts for brands like Adidas and Armani.
Others are investing in emerging markets like Ethiopia which are gold mines for raw materials and the last of low-cost needling. Then there are the gargantuan groups like Alibaba who are investing heavily in science by appointing a quantum computing scientist to drive forward machine learning.
Their supply chains are slick, their customer experience is like no other and they’re home to pioneering hubs of innovation.
From a consumer perspective it’s all about connectedness.
Growth in internet usage is surging in emerging markets – the Americas, Africa and in parts of Asia where now almost half of this huge population is online.
Thailand ranks as the highest worldwide in terms of time people spend surfing the internet, which according to a report by Hootsuite, is over nine hours per day. So it comes as no surprise that e-commerce here is growing at a double-digit rate.
A whole new world of fashion is opening up and the intrigue of Western brands and products from all corners of the globe are now at their fingertips.
Social media’s role in all of this is pivotal the Land of Smiles has become the land of Likes and peer-to-peer approval can be the difference between a sale and a no sale.
It’s a fashion movement, a true revolution, a point in history that will be talked about for years to come and one I’m witnessing as a Westerner on Eastern soil.
It’s fascinating to watch it all unfold and raises so many questions on what will happen next now that the catwalk has gone global.
Will Paris, London, New York and Milan no longer have a stronghold on style? Will hundred year old heritage brands be knocked off the top spot by tech-based newborns – the yet unknown underdogs? Will all of our clothes be made by robots?
All we can say is that it’s challenging, it’s uncertain but it’s optimistic.