Outdated fashion ignores trends
In the past week many felt outraged at the widely accepted practices of our insanely wasteful fashion industry. Is it only those outside the industry that can see how outdated fashion suddenly looks?
The wrong people
I’ve worked across a wide range of industries and am stupefied by the ignorance Burberry displayed on business, manufacturing and ethical levels as they incinerated £28M worth of stock using the excuse “we don’t want the wrong people to wear it”. What makes a business take such drastic action and what were their alternatives?
Case of duplicity
Laughably, Burberry is a lead partner of the otherwise laudable “Making Fashion Circular” initiative spear-headed by Dame Ellen McArthur and Stella McCartney. Not only do Burberry expose themselves within the industry but a stronger case of duplicity is hard to imagine. Throwing their weight behind a circular economy approach while destroying useable stock demonstrates that the company’s new board have yet to get to grips with the underlying culture.
Trends that fashion missed
Why is fashion so unethical? Studiously it appears that the big fashion houses have ignored the big three trends that the rest of industry adopted many years ago.
In manufacturing the Japanese adopted and then innovated upon the just-in-time techniques extolled by American thinkers in the post war era. Well evolved tools and philosphies have subsequently resulted in near zero defect production lines for cars and active management and re-processing of waste in the mining and chemicals industries.
Perhaps the 1980’s is most often remembered from the very uniform way to looking “casual” or “not casual”. Clothes fitted fixed formulae and the lack of variety lent itself to mass production and the search for cheap manufacturing economies. But 30+ years on, has anyone noticed that the desire to looks the same has gone? Personalisation is a trend you miss at your peril. Here’s why:
- It’s great for engagement; Necessarily it makes a direct connection with the customer as they respond to their unique creation.
- It’s great for stock control! It demands a production on demand approach, drastically reducing the need for excess stock.
Not all the best ideas are born and raised within one business. Granted, we all have specialities, but it’s accepted practice in most industries I’ve worked with to join forces with businesses – sometimes even your competition – to help lift ideas off the ground. Fashion brands prefer to stand alone. After all, there are only so many people that spend £250 on a polo shirt and each brand fights hard to make sure their logo sits on that perrson’s breast.
Missing these 3 trends is why brands overproduce, stand aloof and remains impersonal. Persisting with these critical character flaws means the brands are regularly dealing with symptoms having never shown the maturity to deal with the underlying cause. As a result – they burn and Ellen McArthurs initiative will struggle.
Ever the practical guide, SplashMaps is here not to jump on the bandwagon, but to offer a lifeline.
Getting fashion back on trend
Burberry are not the only ones. It happens across the board in fashion and even in the outdoors gear world. There are notable exceptions (businesses born on open and ethical principles, like Patagonia and Royal Robins), but there’s not one mainstream or high end brand that has set itself apart on ethical grounds. Fast fashion still dominates the high street as the race toward lowest cost fashion infects the middle and lower tier brands.
Get you sums right!
Why is Burberry burning? They got their sums wrong. They’ve assumed the burgeoning middle classes in China and India will rush to spend £250 of their hard-earned cash on Polo shirts. Unsurprisingly this didn’t seem to be the case. The solution to problems like this is to adopt agile principles for each project. This enables you to test and itterate with customers as part of the process before committing to huge production runs.
Has high fashion even recognised the potential of the internet? Invest in the technologies that allow customers to shape-up their own products. In the mapping industry we are famous for being able to make a map of anywhere and print it on fabric with your own title. Imagine the boost in engagement with your end customer not to mention the drastic reduction in waste as a result.
Pay more than lip service or cash to the Making Fashion Circular initiative. It appears that few high end brands want to take the first step, so Ellen has provided the ideal forum. Embrace it and champion the principles of the circular economy, adopting recycled fibres, finding partners to repurpose waste, perhaps upcycling with a retrofit service to personalise and make strong revenues off you’re the unsellable excess. How could a company like SplashMaps have helped? Check out our “retrofit” service where we’ll line your favourite jacket with a map of your place!
And if there’s no change?
Businesses that don’t change die. If the world is getting more ethically aware then surely customers will vote with their feet. That being the case we need alternatives and the great news is that plenty of businesses adopt these principles, are new, fleet a-foot and eager to please with quality products and plans to expand into this area.
I spoke with Jaime of Offset Warehouse where they specialise in short runs of fabric from ethical sources. Businesses like this support a growing subset of the fashion industry; those that genuinely make unique pieces and for whom ethics come first. Perhaps one day they’ll adopt SplashTex, our EU sourced recycled polyester.
LUSH – a whole eco-system of ethical businesses
You can be sure that every product and the whole supply chain that made that product are utterly ethical. To supply to LUSH there are a stringent set of tests to assure that your business is run ethically. This creates a whole eco system of businesses that are capable of bringing ethical practice to a broader range of products and brands.
Buy from a business with a purpose
Hiut jeans do one thing, and they do it well. They’re also bastions of re-building the textiles industry in Wales as the brands have moved all their production to the far East. Pay less than the big brand prices for a higher quality and better designed product that supports a local economy. Why not?
Buy from the independents
Jeff Newsam has spent many years in the fashion industry and this month launched a new brand of Italian merino, cotton and viscose shirts under the compelling Spinone brand.
Ultimately, I don’t want great brands to vanish. In this era of valuing “ideas” above “things”, intellectual property is King. Burberry realise this, and their high spend on premium locations and plush advertising is a long-standing investment that’s hard to replicate and could be used for good if they adopt a circular approach and follow the trends above.
An ethical fashion industry
I would like the brands to do more than appeal to the ego. Instead they can demonstrate their genuine desire to improve your life and the planet into the bargain. Shorter print runs, better planning (better forecasting) and more personalisation are the keys. A fashion brand like this would not only give people what they want, but excesses would be a thing of the past and their customers would be more faithful and fulfilled.