• Lyndal Wallis

The role of emerging brands in fashions new ecosystem.

Contributed by Laure Nicolai

The unprecedented crisis of the coronavirus pandemic has plunged the fashion world into a maze of uncertainty and raised questions such as: is fashion too polluting, disconnected from humanity, a monoculture and meaningless? The never-ending race for profits, fed by the success of the ‘fast fashion’ movement, has transformed the magic of creation into a dangerous ‘always more’ spiral. Now is the time for emerging brands to assert their place and their importance in the creation of the new fashion ecosystem. And as in every ecosystem, the survival of all depends on the harmony between the ‘big guys’ and the ‘little guys’.

Here is my advice on five key steps your brand can take:

Let's be conscious

It is encouraging to see more brands adopting an ecological manifesto, prioritising quality, and sustainability. Thanks to the emergence of numerous ethical labels and certifications, it is now possible to choose non-polluting or less polluting fibers; production sites that are respectful to workers and human ethics; local sourcing, production, and expertise to reduce ecological impact. We are also witnessing the rise of new fashion planning models such as customizable collections, consumer pre-order business models, annual collections, and additional capsule collections, and collaborations. These trends are all leading towards a common message of ‘buy better, buy less’.

There is ample room for improvement, and it will take a continued effort in order to find a profitable solution for brands, as well as a workable model for the manufacturers who are currently set up to manage the traditional manufacturing rhythm from retailers and brands.

Previously, the main goal of many fast fashion brands was to spoil the consumer with choice, promising them more return for less expense. Now, these brands face the challenge of educating customers on why their T-shirt that used to be 2€ is now priced at 20€ - because it is a hemp fabric and was made less than 600kms from their home.

Let's be transparent

To participate in this change, we must also explain what is going on. I am not a huge fan of 'educating the consumer,’ which places the brand and consumer in a somewhat dubious hierarchy. I prefer to speak of ‘awareness of consciences’.

How can we change a mechanism the inner workings of which we know nothing about? The food industry has been on this journey for a long time and has done an excellent job of explaining where our products come from, encouraging us to consider how our chickens are raised and where our December tomatoes come from in France. It doesn’t radically change buying habits but it raises awareness and places the consumer in a responsible adult position, able to act in full consciousness.

Transparency in fashion means sharing as much information as possible with the consumer about the product they are buying, the brand's strategy, the brand’s ambitions, but also the points that can still be improved (because transparency also means admitting weaknesses). Transparency leads to honesty. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate value. Explaining the monetary value and showing the life cycle of a product increases emotional investment in the purchase. As Li Edelkoort said in her “Anti Fashion” Manifesto published in 2015, “How can you feel the slightest attachment to a t-shirt that cost you the price of a sandwich?”

During the Fashion Revolution Week, the publication of H&M’s 2020 transparency index places the brand as ‘the most transparent brand of the year’. Transparency doesn’t mean that you are blameless, but it is a great first step.

Let's be innovative

Today the consumer seems to be becoming more aware, is interested, is engaged, rethinks their consumption, while also dreaming of a more frugal and minimalist life. According to the study conducted by TLC on the behaviour of French consumers after the coronavirus crisis, 22% declare that they will consume less than before; 53% promise to resume their habits before confinement while 25% will let go of their consumption to fill their frustration. It would therefore be unproductive for brands to pursue the ‘buy better, buy less’ buyer philosophy as they would only target 22% of the population.

To take a deeper look into our first point: let's be conscious while staying innovative.

Research is constantly offering new solutions such as:

New fibers - made from pineapples, recycled from ocean waste, to name a few.

New design methodologies - entirely 3D modeling, clothing created with a single thread to be completely recycled.

Platforms highlighting the re-use of materials and over-stock from big brands - fabric reserves, stocks, etc.

Manufacturing alternatives - atelier promoting reintegration, assistance to migrants, people with disabilities, etc.

Clothing recycling - fiber recycling, reuse of textiles to make building bricks, etc.

This list is not exhaustive, brand-new solutions could make your life even easier and save the planet a little more.

Finally, we must not forget the importance of digital and the influence of social networks, payment by apps and e-markets. Digital is an excellent window to the world, offering solutions for all budgets, thus allowing total visibility, even in times of crisis.

Circular system - vegetable food waste new fibre

Frumat-apple leather

Food Textile -4food waste dye

Let's be creative

Let's not let the weight of these challenges dull our creativity. Clothes are utility but fashion must always be a dream. Through your history, your storytelling, your choices and also your concepts, the emotions stimulated by fashion must remain a priority. If you are here I believe it’s because you have convictions and because you are passionate. This is the strength of your product: the transmission of your passion, the unveiling of who you are. It appears through the design of the product itself but also in the way you communicate, the way you share your creations and mostly the way you understand the world.

Volleback biodegradable jersey

Let's think collectively

This coronavirus crisis has affirmed the importance of collective strength: we are moving from individualism to altruism. How can we continue this collective effort? Over the entire life of the garment, from the fiber production to product recycling, including its design and the consumer’s purchase. Let's share our sources, our solutions, collaborate, make concessions, compromise, exchange our contact books, share the work of those who inspire us, those who work near us.

There is probably no single, universal ideal model, no miraculous solution to the challenges facing our industry. However, these five points are universal and meaningful enough that all new and emerging brands can adopt them as guiding principles to enhance their brand strength and never give up on their vision. The greatest revolutions have always been led by a minority of small voices full of courage and ambitions!

My questions to you are:

- What will be your first action?

- What would be the possible problems to solve to optimize your brand?


​This article was created by trend forecaster Laure Nicolai.

You can learn more about Laure and her trend work here.