THE WORST OF THE BEST
WHILE THE MEDIA IS BATTLING OVER WHO CAN FORESEE THE BEST AND WORST APOCALYPTIC SCENARIOS FOR THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC FUTURE OF THE WORLD, ONE PARTICULAR INDUSTRY IS IN EXTREMELY FIERCE HEADWINDS. THE FASHION INDUSTRY. AN INDUSTRY THAT HAS LARGELY BASED ITS BUSINESS MODEL ON PENETRATING THE CONSUMER’S EMOTIONAL URGE FOR RENEWAL AND SELF-REALIZATION.
BY MAJBRIT WEIDEMANN
The fashion industry lives by dreams of who we want to be and what we want to look like. We use that daily to signal who we are as human beings and what our social and professional values are. Someone will even call it a reflection of our personality. You become what you eat … and of course, that also applies to the clothes you put on and how to stage yourself.
But behind all the dreams lies a billion industry, employing thousands of people in Denmark, which account for 35 billion Danish kroner of the total Danish exports every year. An industry with a business model that is now emerging from an extremely vulnerable side with a foundation based on a traditional model that typically means overproduction of seasonal products that lose their relevance shortly after they come on the market.
There is an imminent – and unfortunately very realistic – probability that the companies that have largely based their business on seasonal pre-orders from dealers (wholesale), will now realise huge losses or die. The products have simply lost their value before the industry opens again. Spring has come, and the window to sell seasonal products is closing.
According to the two trade organizations Wear and Dansk Mode & Textil (DM&T), the fashion industry in Denmark stands to lose 20 billion. in revenue as a result of COVID-19.
So is the reality the fashion industry is now facing, that the classic business model is now showing its worst face? That it is made clear how uncomfortably fast millions of products that in production have spent millions of the earth’s resources lose their value? And that the whole basis of the volume and season-limited business model that previously allowed the industry to overfeed the market by sending millions of products in circulation now turns out to be the biggest enemy.
For years, the fashion industry’s negative impact on the environment has been debated, and many companies and designers have undertaken to change production to a more sustainable version. The industry’s new buzzword, sustainable – used by the media and industry itself to define whether or not a company follows the new rules of the game, and to a lesser extent focuses on evidence-based research that proves that the industry must change its business model in order to really make a difference.
So the question is; has the industry really had the wrong focus on what the meaning of the word sustainable really is? And have companies erroneously resorted to traditional means and fought for the media attention by meeting the media’s demands for accountability by fighting over who has the most organic cotton and recycled polyester in the collections? And at the same being time hailed for it by the very same industry that must now take the consequence that they might not have been brave enough to take the step and implement a real sustainable change?
The world looks different on the other side of COVID-19, and consumer behavior will change. On the positive side, it also seems that the world will be greener, and perhaps it is a unique impetus to implement something entirely new, and thus an opportunity for the fashion industry to reinvent itself and its existence.
The all-encompassing crisis in which the industry has been put in could cause us to rethink if the model and premise for the fashion industry are completely wrong. That the research also points out that it is the over-consumption that is the problem for the well-being of the earth, and not (or less) whether it is one or the other cotton used in production. Is the time right to take advantage of a unique opportunity to cancel the industry’s push strategies and implement a new holistic approach to fashions mass production?
If we turn it all upside down, the new world order will open up a myriad of opportunities for companies in the fashion industry to go deeper into their relationship with the consumer, inviting real innovation as the new drivers in the companies’ future.