There are many possible changes to be considered in the future for the UK fashion industry, including environmental, technological, demographic and governmental. In fact, in the future every aspect of a products life from its birth to its death may well take a completely new form in the future. Therefore, the future of UK fashion will be discussed through each stage of a products life.
Fabrics and design:
The UN and our national government have created initiatives such as ‘South-South’ and ‘Better Cotton’ to make the production of cotton a sustainable and fair practise worldwide in the future. More and more companies are backing these initiatives and they hope that in the future, all production of cotton and other such fabrics will be completely fair and sustainable (Bettercotton.org).
Technological development with fabric and the relationship between science and fashion are becoming increasingly influential on designers and their collections. For example, Dr Manel Torres has created designs using ‘Fabrican’, (see Q2). Inevitably, like most designer trends, this soon enough become another fad in pop culture as ‘the technology has been developed for use in household…and will soon be found in products available everywhere’ (Fabricanltd.com).
Helen Storey on the other hand has embraced technology in fashion for the sake of helping the future of our environment. She has developed a concept called ‘catalytic clothing’, which purifies the air we breath and dissolves in water, therefore reducing air pollution and energy used for waste (catalytic-clothing.org).
After exploring the achievements already displayed in fashion today and considering the rate at which we are all aware technology is developing, there is no telling future will hold in terms of design as there are endless possibilities- both high end and high street.
Garment production technology is developing and creating a whole new range of possibilities for the use of fabrics and production of clothes. For example, the introduction to laser cutting machines mean that the most intricate patterns can be cut out of fabrics in no time at all. Designers such as Alice Temperly (A/W12) used laser cutting for their collections and this technology is now already being bought to the high street (cutlasercut.com).
The locations for garment production may well change in the future too. There is currently a heavy focus on it in China but with their currency value increasing, it will soon not be such a great choice for cheap manufacturing. Competition from lower cost nations such as Africa, Cambodia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and the Philipines will heat at a rapid pace (Plunkett Research Ltd, 2012).
A certain change for the future of manufacturing will be its social and environmental effects. Companies such as Better Cotton and Brandex are involved in a movement to create eco-friendly manufacturing and better circumstances for the workers. This is something that is vital to continue with since consumption rates are increasing (mintel.com) and due to government initiatives to preserve the environment. Therefore, more companies will take up social responsibility to keep up with consumption demand and preserve the demand for their services.
A question to raise when considering distribution is; will clothes be distributed to stores or will they become obsolete and head straight from warehouse to household? A Mintel report says that online sales of clothing and footwear has increased by 13 percent between 2009 and 2011, ‘making it the fastest growing – and now the most popular – category bought online.’
However, its analysis suggests that women’s inability to try the garments before they buy is creating a barrier for the growth of sales in the online market. There are technologies such as the virtual fitting room, personalization and ‘augmented reality’ being developed to help customers vision themselves wearing clothes without trying them on. If these technologies catch on and become a routine part of online shopping and develop to the point that the virtual fitting rooms are as good as seeing clothes on in real life, then it is possible that in the future consumers will not have a need for a physical store.
Secondly, with the global movement towards a sustainable world, more and more companies are taking up social responsibility. For example, large companies such as H&M, Marks and Spencer and Tesco have taken up this role, making sure that they are green at every stage of their sales. This means that they are reducing their carbon footprint during their distribution process and with such pressure from government initiatives; many more retailers will be following in the future.
A Mintel report says that UK sales will be affected in the future, as there will be a decline in 15-24s, the most fashion conscious population. The number of over-55 women is predicted to grow by 7% between 2011 and 2016 to reach 31% of women and research shows that only a quarter of these are fashion conscious (Mintel.com). This would suggest that overall sales in the retail market will decline in the future. However, the growth of the 25-34’s market may counteract this as they have a comfortable income and like to buy into fashion typically.
A substantial continuing increase in obesity appeared recently and since larger consumers tend to spend less on clothing, this could mean a decrease in retail sales over the coming years (Mintel.com). Alternatively, this demographic change does generate a demand for more plus- size clothing, so if retailers see this opportunity then there could be a shift in size demand in the future.
Use and Disposal
The fashion industry has become well known in recent years for producing ‘fast fashion’; it is rumored that trends now change every two weeks. This means that use for each new fashion item will become shortly obsolete and consumers will have to buy more to keep up with trends. This could be a reason for growth in consumer spending over recent years (mintel.com). If trends continue to change so quickly, then consumer spending will continue to rise in the future.
On the other hand, the awareness of and initiatives to improve our carbon footprint and the urge to save money since being hit by a recession could push consumers the other way. M&S launched the ‘Shwop’ campaign, which aimed to encourage clothes swapping and discouraging throwing clothes away. So if other companies follow this, it is possible that fashion will slow down and people may reuse and swap clothes more.
There are many aspect of the fashion industry when considering its change, and currently some aspects such as demographics of consumers that will inevitably change the industry. There are also aspects that should be improved on to give fashion a more ethical stance in the market, such as manufacturing and production of materials, although they aren’t a guarantee. Then there are aspects such as technology where one cannot at all predict what it will hold within the future of fashion, but judging from the findings showing current developments, there will be many changes there too.