E-commerce plays, a new emphasis on experiential spending and the decline of brick-and-mortar aren’t the only things fashion firms have to contend with these days. According to experts, the rise of fast fashion and an increasingly social-media-obsessed culture are creating new hurdles for footwear and apparel brands and retailers.
“We live in a culture where people will see something on Instagram or on a celebrity and they want that immediately,” Elizabeth Cline, author of “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion,” said during a panel discussion this week at the American Apparel & Footwear Association Executive Summit in Washington, D.C. “I see how ferociously the pace of trends move now and that has definitely been driven by the internet.”
The intense pace at which trends — perhaps “fad” is a more accurate word —emerge and then fade may be giving way to a new threat to the fashion industry: a lack of trends altogether.
Generation Z consumers — most of whom are age 20 and younger — devour popular clothing and shoe styles just as quickly as they surface. While previous generations may have used quality clothing and high-end labels as a status symbol, social status for younger consumers is more so linked to owning an abundance of the moment’s “it” items.
Further, many young consumers post their every move to social media on a daily — if not, hourly — basis. And a desire to avoid breaking the cardinal rule of not being seen in the same outfit twice means this group is ditching many of their clothes and shoes within seconds of hitting the “send” button on Instagram.
The result, according to Cline, is a fashion industry pressured to create massive volumes of disposable merchandise — an environmental nightmare— while craftsmanship and quality also fall by the wayside.
What’s more, many independent designers and brands with a focus on craftsmanship are struggling to find ways to sell their creative and sustainable wares.
But according to Cline, a saving grace for such brands and retailers could be the simultaneous rise in consumer demand for accountability from corporations.
“We’re seeing a backlash against fast fashion from consumers in the millennial generation,” Cline said. “They’ve come around to this place of saying, ‘My closet is full of stuff, but I’m looking for a more positive story behind my [clothing and shoes], whether its social consciousness or sustainability … I see great marketing potential [with this group].”