Fashion has always been known to push the envelope. With new trends and ideas, fashion has an eye towards the future. The fashion industry will see huge amounts of innovation in coming years as new technology and changing customer trends and demands will transform the industry.
Here are four changes to expect in the future of fashion:
1 . Data-Driven
It used to be that consumers wore whatever designers created. Those days are over, and fashion brands now use data to understand customer preferences, monitor their shopping behavior and create products that meet their needs. The future of fashion is data-driven: by leveraging data on consumer trends, brands can create pieces consumers are most likely to purchase.
Many stores and brands, including Miu Miu and Stitch Fix, use data to predict the rise and fall of trends. Predictive analytics consider everything from climate to color preferences, social media trends and political movements. The benefits of using data in fashion are numerous: from only producing pieces consumers will actually wear to reducing waste and connecting the right consumers with pieces they will enjoy. Data also helps brands run more efficiently, giving them room to innovate and balance supply and demand.
Fashion forecasting has long been an artform, but with the growth of data analytics, it now becomes more of a science. That data extends to algorithms. Amazon is developing a machine learning program to automatically assess if an item is “stylish” or not. Google is testing user-driven AI fashion design that uses algorithms to create new pieces and styles. Data of all kinds will soon be sewn into every aspect of fashion.
2 . Sustainable
Fashion has long been one of the biggest contributors to waste and climate change, largely because of its unsustainable and non-eco-friendly production methods. But the tides are changing, and brands are moving towards more sustainable fabrics and manufacturing methods.
Fast fashion, which was popular for its ability to quickly and inexpensively reproduce runway looks, is in decline in favor of slow fashion—pieces that are more eco-friendly and designed to be longer lasting. Nearly 50% of fast fashion retailers have reported a recent decrease in customer purchases as consumers look for brands that take a stand for the environment.
Research shows that 88% of consumers want brands to help them be more environmentally friendly. Even with its strides, fashion has a long way to go. Fashion production releases 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, more than international flights and maritime shipping combined. A number of sustainable fashion brands are growing, and their innovative practices are becoming more commonplace among retailers. British design company Vin + Omi harvests its own crops to make clothing from horseradish plants and chestnuts. It also features clothing items made from recycled paint containers. Levi’s recently unveiled a new collection of denim that uses 96% less water to create—a major win for clothing that notoriously requires a lot of water to produce.
Shopping for pre-owned items is also on the rise. The secondhand market is expected to hit $64 billion by 2024. Even as other forms of fashion shopping hit a COVID slump, online secondhand shopping continues to see strong growth. With more consumers looking to purchase previously worn items, fashion brands must create pieces with longevity and that can last beyond a single owner.
3 . Digital
The future of fashion is happening online, and brands will have to adjust how they create and sell clothing to make it work in a digital world.
With more shoppers taking advantage of online shopping, fashion retailers have to follow suit. Aside from changing COVID-19 restrictions, consumers increasingly prefer the convenience and speed of online shopping, even if it means not being able to try an item on in person. The most successful fashion brands of the future won’t just make their clothing available online—they will also create an immersive digital shopping experience with things like virtual fit or sizing tools, virtual showrooms and virtual stylists. Fashion brands will also leverage technology like AR and VR to allow consumers to “try on” items digitally from the comfort of their own homes. Major retailers like Adidas, Macy’s and Modcloth are adopting virtual dressing rooms and bringing the technology mainstream. Using AR to virtually try on items helps consumers stay more confident in their purchases and reduces return rates by 36%.
Even consumers who make purchases in person will still be influenced by digital efforts. A number of large fashion brands are moving to virtual fashion shows and are digitizing their designs into 3D prototypes on avatars that are easier to showcase, test and manufacture on demand. Designers can test out ideas virtually and float them with consumers before actually creating the physical pieces.
4 . Simplified
Fueled largely by COVID-19 changes, fashion is simplifying, both in its styles and in its delivery. Many fashion houses used to create eight collections a year. The result was a crowded fashion show schedule and items showing up in stores months before customers were ready to wear them, like swimsuits in February and winter wear in August. The new shift in fashion is to two collections a year: spring/summer and fall/winter. The simplified approach puts customers at the center by creating pieces when people will actually be shopping for them.
Simplifying fashion also saves money and the environment. Instead of moving through clothes so quickly and having to produce a new collection, marketing campaign and fashion show every six weeks, simplified collections reduce waste and the amount of clothing produced.
Fashion trends themselves will also become more simplified. With many people working from home and social distancing for the foreseeable future, fashion brands have toned down their styling in favor of comfortable loungewear and clothing that works for sleeping and living. Even after the pandemic, clothing will likely stay simple and comfortable.
The future of fashion will focus on customers and providing an innovative experience. The industry is continually evolving, but changes in the future will create a more sustainable, customer-centric and efficient industry.
Blake Morgan is the bestselling author of The Customer of the Future. Sign up for her new course here.