Today we had the opportunity to have a guest lecture from a professor at Cattolica University. The focus of our lecture had two parts. The first portion focused on the different types of business models within the fashion industry, while the second portion focused on sustainability. Both aspects were intriguing, especially the fashion business models. I have a prior great interest in sustainability, therefore, it was interesting to be shown so many different perspectives that I had no previous knowledge of regarding the business aspect of fashion. However, I was also shocked to learn how potentially influential the fashion industry can be in a move towards more sustainable production methods.
The fashion industry does not just consist of expensive clothing and inexpensive clothing, as I have always approached fashion. There are different sectors within this industry, which is why fashion is appealing to nearly everyone on the planet. The professor told us there are four main components to this industry: luxury, designer, premium, and retailer. Luxury brands focus on timelessness, heritage, and exclusivity. Their target audience is not only those with a large budget, but those with an appreciation for specific type of style. Designer brands focus on prestige, their image and name, seasonality, and high quality. People who look for a variety of clothing at a high price with the same type of style tend to purchase designer clothing. Premium brands was a component that I had never thought of. These are brand labels that focus on the image of their brand, reasonable price to quality ratio, and customer service. The private labels attract audiences who are only looking to have a “name brand” hanging in their closet. Finally, the area most people shop at is retail. Retailers focus on fashionable merchandise that is easily accessible to a great variety of audiences. This breakdown of business models I found quite interesting. What is even more interesting is how these components have continued to last through changing economic times. While they may experience rough patches it seems that there will always be an audience for each sector.
With the breakdown of the fashion more clear now, it is easier to see where all my favorite shops and clothing preferences fall into the scheme of things. I tend to shop at retailers and may buy from a premium brand occasionally. These retailers, such as H&M and Zara, are considered to be “fast fashion”. They are constantly changing their stock based on current trends and attempting to predict what will be trendy next. This comes with the inherent risk, will they predict correctly? In order to minimize this risk, they produce their clothing in small batches. This is called the scarcity effect. By producing relatively small amounts of each product, they are then driving the demand up for the product. If customers don’t act fast enough, the design will be gone. This has changed the purchasing habits of consumers. Instead of visiting stores once or twice a month, people are visiting weekly to stay on trend. The trends have become more important to people rather than the traditional seasonality of clothing. From this, I think that in order to be successful in fashion with today’s economy, it is more important to focus on strategic business planning and consumer psychology rather than the product itself. If a company can figure out how to get the customer into the store weekly purchasing something new and have the supply chain to keep up with it, they are destined to succeed.
Consumers are likely to purchase clothing more frequently now, but they are also more likely to purchase clothing with sustainability in mind. People are looking to fashion companies to make changes in the way they do business to help improve the environment. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry (it is second only to the oil industry). It is expected from the UN that by 2030 they make noticeable changes. I found these statistics fascinating. How can something we see as so ordinary and necessary be making such a negative impact on our world? The fashion industry encompasses all areas of production, from farming all the way down to maintaining retail stores, but it can be more sustainable. If we take on the challenge of a greener society as a journey rather than a PR stunt, hopefully we begin to make the necessary changes. I had never imagined that the fashion industry held so much responsibility in world pollution. However, we were informed that companies are beginning to take these steps (such as Zara, H&M, Stella McCartney, etc.). In order to be successful though, they must take on all aspects of sustainability: economically, socially, and environmentally. Fashion companies will be forced to make these changes with a focused society and media tracking all their moves.
It was a great experience to learn more about the technicalities of the fashion industry because I had never realized the amount of work it takes to not only produce a product, but successfully profit from a product. The fashion industry is needed for much more than making a t shirt, now it is needed to help make the world a more sustainable place.