Can off-season fashion become widespread? – LONG DIGI MAG VERSION

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It’s a trend that the big names in luxury fashion have certainly embraced; with Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Tom Ford shifting to a ‘see now, buy now’ model, which initially focused on the idea of ​​shopping straight from the catwalk, but now appears to be aimed more at blurring the lines between seasons.

If anything, the dire consequences COVID has had on fashion brands and retailers who sat on excess inventory as stores were forced to stay closed, have intensified thinking on whether the move off-season would be a smarter model than having products manufactured months in advance to align with a traditional seasonal schedule.

Lisa Illis – Head of Design, M&S Womenswear, says:

“If covid has strengthened anything for our industry, it’s the importance of a strong supply chain and relationships between retailers and suppliers. The seasonless style creates real opportunities as it is possible to plan longer product runs.

And it’s not just COVID that is pushing the trend toward “seasonless” either. As the environmental impact of fashion production is increasingly known and talked about, consumers are also voting with their feet when it comes to buying clothes.

According to a report by Ordre.com and the Carbon Trust, the trips of buyers and brands for the four big fashion weeks from the spring 2018 season resulted in around 241,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. That figure equates to the annual emissions of a small country – say, St. Kitts and Nevis – or enough energy to light Times Square for 58 years.

Customers “invest differently,” Illis explains, because of the interest and concern for greater sustainability, especially among younger consumers.

“There will be real benefits to this development through marketing and more transparent positioning. At M&S, the quality of trust is built into the way we work and certainly over the next few months you will see increased conversation with our clients on this topic.

Jenny Holloway, CEO of Fashion Enter, a UK-based clothing supplier, agrees and told Just Style that with more and more people working from home there is greater concern about ” stack high and sell low ”, which helps send more products to the landfill. Thus, there has been a marked shift in all market segments for sustainable products, produced transparently and at affordable prices.

Integration of off-season fashion

But for outright online fashion stores, there is no “change”. They have long had the advantage of being able to offer a wider range than physical stores. And they were able to respond to catwalk trends more quickly.

With populations traveling more, being able to access swimwear in the winter or ski wear in the summer has helped allay consumers’ frustration of walking into a store out of season and not being able to find what they need. they need. Illis adds:

“The weather is also becoming less predictable, so there is an increasing lag in collection launches to meet customer needs. ”

Holloway suggests that retailers should adhere to “off-season trends” for some time, certainly over the past two years.

“We have consistently talked about shift ranges and the need for full flexibility and adaptability to changing weather conditions and external variables, like the dreaded impact of Covid.

“But the big guys in retail are resisting these variables,” she says, in large part due to the complexity of sourcing smaller quantities more frequently when your main supply markets are located. thousands of kilometers away.

A move to the off-season would require producing greater quantities at home – or closer – which can prove to be more costly, and the skills found in overseas clothing supply hot spots are not necessarily abundant.

And it could cost foreign manufacturers dearly, believes Mostafiz Uddin, CEO of Denim Expert, a denim maker in Bangladesh that supplies Zara and the Arcadia Group. Bangladesh is the world’s third largest supplier of clothing after China and Vietnam.

“Fast fashion may not be good for the environment, but it’s great for creating jobs. She has provided consistent and reliable work for millions of women in Bangladesh. Getting rid of this seasonless fast fad and going slow fad will go from one industry that employs four million workers to one that employs, say, a million. Maybe even less. This is the harsh reality that we are looking at.

“The relevant question is where will the three million of the four million workers employed in the industry go? Their employment in the country’s garment industry lifted them out of the abyss of poverty and empowered women in a patriarchal society. These workers are mostly unskilled and uneducated, for whom there is no other viable sector in the country to employ.

Timeless on elusive

Overall, it is generally accepted that fashion is incapable of “going out of season”, at least entirely. While consumers want greener options, fashion in general – no, being ‘trendy’ – is still a big deal, especially as social media continues to dominate and consumers remain concerned about it. appearance.

Fashion thrives on the very push of new styles, ”explains Uddin, adding that the creation of collections reflects the uniqueness of fashion brands and the creative seasonal developments of designers of fashion brands.

“The demand for products is always affected by the seasons, in all sectors, from fashion to entertainment. Switching from one season to the next has a huge impact on the way people think and feel. People adjust their appearance according to weather conditions and the environment. Consumers’ consumption habits are also influenced by the seasons.

But Illis says it’s more about betting on “timeless pieces,” which can come in a variety of seasons, as opposed to eliminating seasons from fashion.

“There is a desire to invest in basic parts – customers want the items to last beyond a season. Many are looking for new seasonal styles that are easy to layer on great staples. This fall for example, I expect to see a lot of clients keen to update their wardrobes with slightly more dressy items for long-awaited dates (be it an embellished top or new heels) but they’ll wear them alongside basic items – such as great jeans – that they’ve worn throughout the pandemic. ”

In mainstream fashion, ‘seasonless’ translates to products that can ‘outlive the season’, including certain styles all year round, which will form a large part of M & S’s core range today. and in the future.

“These products – timeless, timeless, essential – become the basis for a new color, pattern or style and today form the basis of most customers’ wardrobes.”

This would result in a repeatable core lineup that focuses on a retailer’s point of difference. It would also mean smaller drops in product each season.

The impact of the seasonless supply chain.

“The old push by retailers is gone. Narrow and Deep doesn’t run at the speed of response fashion today, ”says Holloway, whose argument supports the need to accelerate the migration to a seasonless migration.

Beyond staples and predictable ranges such as back to school, Holloway says suppliers are going to have to strive to meet retailers’ expectations of “the right fashion product, the right color, with the latest print. , in two weeks, with little and often drops to keep the landing page fresh and exciting.

While luxury may call their clothing seasonless, many items appear to be more classic-inspired with a touch of novelty added in mid-weight fabrics that cross the divide of the season, she says.

But what does this mean for the current supply chain setup?

Well, for one, fabric manufacturers and clothing suppliers located closer to home could benefit tremendously.

Holloway cites Leicester, UK as an example of good quality, readily available fabrics. For the retailer, it provides a good overview of the supply chain and the ability to ensure ethical compliance. These basic fabrics then become the backbone of a consumer fabric offering and can be processed in one to two weeks for garment factories.

This is what makes mainstream fashion so exciting. Constant new developments in design, model room, textile agents, then the fastest possible production lead time to ensure that the clothes are delivered on time; warm tropical prints for summer, second-hand outfits in April ready for weddings, Christmas sparkles in November – the list goes on. The secret is not to engage in production but to remain available for purchase (OTB) so that the retailer is responsive to market reactions.

Garment factories will also need to work much more closely with retailers for the setup to be effective. And retailers need to work towards a strong supplier base that they value.

Holloway adds that for too long there has been a disconnect between retailers and suppliers.

“Suppliers have the power to position retailers with the right product that sells, but all too often they don’t get the respect they deserve as price continues to matter. ”

In May, Asos confirmed that through Fashion Enter, she would explore on-demand textile production with Kornit. The technology will allow Fashion-Enter to quickly deliver samples and test and repeat small series of products exclusively on behalf of Asos.

“Retailers have the power to invest in the latest technology and form alliances with tech giants that small factories and suppliers just can’t. We were incredibly lucky to work in full collaboration with Kornit Digital and Zund, so we were able to move forward with the Micro Factory and Monoblock Flow which is definitely the next revolution in mass customization. Without Asos, we would not be able to deliver the proof of concept test. Opportunities like this exist, but it really is a team effort.

“Talk to the supply base and work together. If communication and trust are not there, this relationship will not work. This is a whole new way of working and it is the end of the role of traditional buying and wearable technology, with the focus on product development and understanding building vents and structures. and pricing. It’s a new era for retailers.


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