The fashion industry is at a crossroads. Product turnaround and time to market is lightning pace, you can buy a new outfit before you even get up to start your day and get it delivered in record time. You can even return it and have it redelivered in a better size that better fits before whatever function it is that you want the outfit for. We’re seeing a rise in wearable technologies and accessories such as smart watches which are able to measure and analyse our bodies and behaviours in ways which, at present, we don’t even know how to analyse.
In contrast, these new innovations mean that fashion is one of the least sustainable industries on the planet, having a profound effect on some of the biggest negative trends of the decade: water and air pollution, unfair labour practices and excessive waste.
The future of fashion, like any industry focused on manufacturing goods, is on a knife-edge. Fashion is one of the biggest industries in the world and the path that this industry takes is likely to blaze a trail for others to follow. Fortunately, fashion isn’t short of these creative, trailblazing leaders and many of them have their own ideas on where the industry is going.
In an article published with online magazine Racked, several key influencers in the fashion industry predicted what they think the future holds for fashion, as well as what they’d like to see. We pick out the best bits below.
Adam Wray, REDEF fashion curator
"In ten years, I hope we'll have made at least some progress towards eliminating exploitative labour practices and environmentally-abusive production techniques. Barring massive economic upheaval or natural disaster, I don't see any hope of the industry's pace slowing down, so it'll have to happen through technological innovation.
I'd also like to see a more robust culture of fashion criticism. Compared to other media, there are so few credible fashion critics, and not nearly enough good journalists tackling it from a business angle. It's crazy to me that Apple keynotes are scrutinised like the Zapruder footage but we get maybe two or three in-depth articles on Zara per year.
Lastly, I hope independent, bricks-and-mortar boutiques are able to flourish in an industry increasingly reliant on e-commerce outlets and labels selling directly to consumers. Browsing a well-designed, well-curated boutique is a great pleasure, and it would be really sad to see that disappear."
Fern Mallis, creator of New York Fashion Week and fashion consultant
"I’d like to see an industry that has truly become committed to sustainability and fair labour practices. No longer making clothes in factories with children and despicable working conditions, and no longer polluting our planet.
I would like to see prices become more realistic (meaning less expensive), and sizes become more attuned to the fact that there are more customers size 14 and above than there are size 0-8. I would also like to see clothes in the stores that correlate to the season one is shopping in."
Stacey Burr, Adidas digital sports managing director
"Near Field Communication chips will be in embedded in all of our shoes and clothing. I see enormous potential in this with health trackers. Going beyond the wrist, everyday clothes will be capable of hosting embeddable trackers in a variety of fashions. They'll become the norm in apparel. It won't be a question of whether or not to have a tracker, it’ll more so be a question of how you'd like to wear it."
Neil Blumenthal, Warby Parker co-founder and co-CEO
"We’d like to see form with more function. We’d love to see aesthetically-pleasing design that’s more temperature responsive. I never want to be hot or cold again. Seems like this should be possible."
Jeff Johnson, The Arrivals co-founder and creative director
"3D visualisation tools are ubiquitously used throughout the architecture and product design fields. At The Arrivals, we use 3-D printing, digital modelling, and photo-realistic renderings to help us visualise our products and communicate more clearly with our vendors. Working in an industry where these tools become the standard would greatly improve the efficiency of the industry and possibly breed more creative ideas, products, and brands in the future.
I'd like to see an increase in fairness: fair pay for workers, fair prices from brands, and customer consensus on ethical production. For fashion in general, we want to see a return to quality. We know this is the antithesis of fast fashion, but it's definitely possible and what customers deserve. We want to see brands making items that people want to keep and see age, gracefully. Consumers understand and appreciate the value of well-constructed pieces, so we hope to see a shift away from trends and more toward forever pieces."
Aurora James, Brother Vellies creative director
"I would love to see mass fashion get to a place that empowers people in the production process. I hope the days of fast fashion will be over soon and we can start valuing craftsmanship again. We have it in us — let's hope 10 years sees it come to pass."
Yael Aflalo, Reformation founder and CEO
"Fashion is the third most polluting industry in the world, so we're always looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint. Garment care is an ongoing topic because of its environmental impact. I would love to see a green at-home dry cleaning system offered within ten years, so consumers can avoid all of the chemical exposure and impact that comes with traditional dry cleaning, along with the convenience of doing it all at home."
Dio Kurazawa, WGSN denim director
"Denim brands, fabric mills, and laundries have begun to move quite aggressively towards sustainability, including decreased use of harsh chemicals, water consumption, and energy: I would love to see these initiatives evolve. This could include the eradication of chemicals, and the need for manual labourers."
Alan Tisch, Spring co-founder and CEO
"It's an exciting time for fashion as shopping becomes more about the journey and experience and less just about the buying process. I'd like to see fashion in a place where customers and engaged followers of a brand can experience said brand in ways that don't exist today. Whether it's virtual reality capabilities — using VR to experience a fashion show, or better yet, visit a showroom, or spend a day with a designer — and be able to seamlessly purchase in-app during that experience.
I'd like to see the fashion community thinking about direct to consumer strategies, particularly on mobile. The major shift towards mobile is inevitable."
Jonathan Cheung, Levi's Head of Design
"My biggest wish for us as a fashion industry is to stay curious: to be actively open to discovering whatever arises, to push our species forward creatively and culturally. Let’s be optimistic about the future. We don’t know what will come, but trust that there will be amazing things. There are incredible designers still at design schools — I’ve seen them. In ten years time they will be at the height of their creative powers. They will change things for the better. They are the future and we’re in good, good hands."