Sense-respond-innovate: anticipating the fast fashion trend
Seasons change in the blink of an eye. And so does fashion these days. The industry that revolves around trends is now captivated by a development that goes beyond the little black dress and leather jackets. Fast fashion is speeding up time to market and challenges textile professionals (both manufacturers and retailers) to give their very best- as fast and as cheap as possible. How can you keep on doing what you do while anticipating this need for instant gratification? In this article, we tell you what fast fashion is, why you should put it on your agenda, and what it takes to react in time.
What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is the reduced time gap between catwalk shows and the moment the designs can be purchased in shops. In the 1990s, retailers closely monitored world-famous designers and their new collections, to predict fashion trends among their customers. They used these predictions to create their own collections, providing their customers with an affordable version of what they had seen on the catwalk. These collections are known as ready-to-wear or prêt-à-porter, and it is what we find in clothing stores such as H&M and Zara. This strategy worked well, and gave power to the retailers that were most able to predict trends and customer demand. But then it happened. More and more competitors entered the market, and retailers started competing on speed. Catwalk shows turned into the starting signal of a race against the clock, where retailers fought to be the first one to launch a new collection and catch the eye of the increasingly demanding customer. Today, it happens that design and sales are only a couple of weeks apart.
What makes it such a headache?
If such a race would be held, let’s say, twice a year, maybe fast fashion would not be such a problem. But the time of winter and summer collections is far behind us, due to a growing need to launch fresh and new ideas to hold the attention of customers. People all over the world get richer, more critical and have access to pretty much all clothing stores through online web shops. By launching more but smaller collections, customers are motivated to visit a store more often, and turn into loyal buyers. This move leads to a shorter life cycle of clothes, and higher profit, as more products get sold. However, a high number of collections puts quite some pressure on retailers and textile manufacturers. Retailers have to respond to -upcoming- fashion trends constantly, forcing their textile manufacturers to be fast and flexible without compromising quality.
So far for the bad news. The rise of fast fashion does not necessarily mean your job as a textile professional isn’t still a great one. You do need to make some changes, though, so your strategy fits the actual demand. When well executed, this new approach turns you into an innovative company that delivers high quality uniqueness, based on the latest fashion trends and real customer demand. How? In a study ‘Fast fashion: response to changes in the fashion industry’ by Bhardwai and Fairhurst, the words “sense” and “response” came up. The study may have been published in 2009 (which makes it ancient history), but the truth in those words remains. As competition in the textile industry has only increased over the last eight years, we suggest a third word for your success strategy, which is “innovate”. This comes down to a very basic success recipe of sense-respond-innovate, in which textile professionals stop doing what others do, but try to figure out what lies ahead, anticipate it and never stop improving. This is the only way to face the many fashion seasons that rule the textile industry.
Adding value through functional finishes
Wow, that’s beautiful. But how does this new strategy influence the production process? If you ask us, anticipating the fast fashion trend is all about clever ways to do more with less. For example, in the last stage of the textile manufacturing process, using technical finishes can help you turn a common piece of textile into something unique and brand new. Think about cosmetic finishes that add a durable fragrance or refreshing aroma to the end-product. Or a moisturiser that turns a simple pair of leggings into a high-end product that combines fashion with skincare on the go. Add to this high stretch qualities, and either a warming or a cooling feature, and you have all the tools to create several different product variations without having to completely change your production processes. These are only examples, as the list of functional finishes is long and keeps on growing. There are finishes that remove odour, eliminate microbials, add a leathery look, make clothes more breathable, and so on. All of these features enable you to meet the demand for new innovations, respond to trends and provide customers with extra something.
Looking for some real-life examples? In the white paper below, we discuss two brands that made it to the top of their industry by using some very simple guidelines.