What helped the 20th-century fashion industry to build business empires works no longer. The young fashion consumers seem less and less enticed by the ‘it-factor’ of big brands, expensive logos or time-consuming retail structures. Instead, new brands mushrooming across Instagram and other social platforms seem to be hitting the nail while bypassing expensive retail and marketing tactics.
How will the future reshape human relationship with brands? What are the environments, spaces and experiences that fashion brands will need to offer to connect with these consumers in 2020? What’s the future of fashion?
The world-renowned business foresight and innovation consultancy ‘The Future Laboratory’ researched through the very latest social, political and commercial parameters to present a phenomenal study – ‘The Age of Re-engagement’ – on consumer mindset, workplace attitudes and brand experiences that will define the next decade of wearables. This thought-provoking intelligence for the fashion business was summed up as following by the brilliant co-founder of The Future Laboratory, Chris Sanderson.
What’s your brand doing for the world?
Sanderson pointed out that brands now—particularly fashion brands that are so deeply integrated into our everyday emotional and social needs—need to connect to their consumers in a whole new way, by leaning in, engaging and helping them to find purpose and reason in life. He pointed out that here, brands that reflect consumers’ values and lives in a true and honest sense, can build greater relatability and thereby, deeper connections with them. An example that Sanderson pointed out was how large-scale activewear brands shifted from selling the idea of competition to self-betterment. In the global fashion highlights too, the movement for brands to take active voices in issues, social debates and concerns; for example, Chanel’s feminist rally-esque catwalk is the reflection of this trend.
What’s the ‘experience’ in your clothes?
The most effective way to create these links with the consumer is through meaningful interactions that trigger memorable experiences. The customer is moving away from buying products, to purchasing the intangible ‘experiences’. These experiences should be personal, engaging and also create wonders. Sanderson added that fashion should think of promotions and communication in more fluid terms from music, dance to art and film. Here, the experience of a garment becomes the highlight, rather than the product itself. Driving this even further, Sanderson said that consumers no longer want to be part of an experience where things ‘happen’ to them, while they value being part of making the experience, engaging with it as it helps them find meaning.
Where tech becomes the bridge between fashion and consumer and AI the future workforce for data
In connecting to the consumer, The Future Laboratory’s study highlights ‘tech’ as an essential medium. Sanderson explained that in brands engaging with the consumer, data is the most powerful tool available as tech becomes better and better at creating new relationships.
He also elaborated this point into how AI and autonomous technology will ease the human burden while at the same time, companies that don’t pay attention to this will be left behind because they will not find human talent to do labour-heavy tasks in the near future. “AI is not about replacing humans, but augmenting their roles. About making life easier, more interesting and engaging. Machines as conduits of labour and the human voice and spirit are reserved for the ‘greater”, he stressed. EQ and neurodiversity, which cannot be imitated by robotics yet, were highlighted as the hot skills of the future. This way, brands that will truly succeed in the 21st century are those that recognise the true potential of their human capital and the emotional intelligence that they bring. Simultaneously, companies that don’t invest in automated colleagues will not be able to harvest big data as a means to enhance the product.
Sanderson also highlighted how tech is no longer on and off as it was in the past. Now, it’s a part of us, integrated into our bodies and our lives, making the future physical and digital— rather, ‘phygital’.
Buying happiness with clothes – Is it possible?
Emotive purchases or brands beginning to offer shoppable emotions through clothing is an important aspect of the future of fashion. Can your consumers buy happy, sexy, clever, or even sad—should they crave it? Here, Sanderson says that the product is actually secondary, as the function of purchasing is driven by the emotion of the consumer. How do we transmute emotion with technology? Can we use tech to allow our clothing to ‘feel’ like our emotions through all our senses from sight, touch and feel to sound…?
Clothing that offers an alternate state of being; far into the future or not?
Sanderson then goes even further, far into a future (or perhaps not) when clothing can possibly allow consumers to feel what it is like to ‘be’ another form, live another life. How do we create neural engagement? Would unpacking alternative digital realities become common in fashion? It would, The Future Laboratory predicts. In a nutshell, Sanderson surmises that everyone is looking for healthy, wealthy and happy and interesting; “people will spend on clothing that gives them these things through emotions and experiences.”
These trends analyses, case studies and fashion business intelligence presented important notes to refocus ‘fashion businesses’ in the age of re-engagement.