A huge part of my job is examining how both industries and people connect – from understanding how we communicate, to leveraging synergies between two seemingly different worlds. While my love of fashion definitely comes from a place of personal appreciation, my interest is also business-minded. It’s an undeniably massive industry with a global market value of $3 trillion. And when you start to pay attention to how the industry is changing with the introduction of more technology, one can only expect this value to climb.
I still remember when attending New York, Paris, Milan or London Fashion Weeks was the only opportunity to see the new collections before the public – and before the creations made their way into stores. After all, it really wasn’t that long ago. However, these days, the minute a new design steps out onto the runway, it’s available for the entire world to see, as thanks to social media, information now travels at the speed of our thumbs.
"I still remember when attending Fashion Week was the only opportunity to see the new collections before the public...now, thanks to social media, information now travels at the speed of our thumbs"
MJZ spring/summer 2020 at PFW
I see this democratisation of fashion as both positive and detrimental. On one hand, it’s no longer reserved for just those privileged enough to gain access to this exclusive world. In essence, fashion is now for everyone. The downside, however, is that fast fashion no longer needs to wait several months for new pieces to land in store and subsequently be copied. In fact, it’s becoming more common for the high street to have knock-offs for sale before the originals have even hit the market, making it increasingly difficult for luxury houses to make their money. And while the larger brands can often protect themselves with copyright lawsuits, many of the smaller, younger houses cannot.
This levelling effect isn’t just leading to seismic changes on the manufacturing side, it’s also creating big shifts on the consumer end. Not only are we able to see designs before they hit stores, but we’re also increasingly discovering new sources of inspiration from our peers. With social media, especially with Instagram, our contemporaries are the new tastemakers. Here, we can see what everyone is wearing and consuming 24 hours a day, all over the world. We can access different body types, ethnicities, cultures and lifestyles. And we can personalise and curate who we are influenced by, simply by who we choose to follow.
But the access that new technology has given us goes far beyond just influence alone – it’s becoming more and more actionable. From Instagram introducing a shopping feature where you can buy items directly off a feed, to forays into tech that allows you to discover where to buy clothing, even from a street-style photo, the latest and greatest is constantly at our fingertips.
This new level of instant gratification is fascinating to me. But as it grows, it’s also interesting to note a burgeoning trend of resistance in the form of both the slow and sustainable fashion movements. As the market churns out more and more product at an ever-increasing rate, there is a growing number of consumers who are rejecting speed consumption in favour of a less-is more and quality-overquantity approach. From the rebirth of vintage as a trend to customers wanting to be involved in the stories and processes behind their clothing, value is being placed in a more holistic point of view.
For me, as it is with almost everything in life, fashion is all about balance. I’m just as impressed with the progress that we have made in the accessibility of it as I am in the determination to maintain the artisan history behind it all. More than anything, though, I’m in absolute awe of how these two rising trends inherently balance each other out. With this trajectory, the future of fashion is going to be an interesting place indeed.
From the November 2019 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia