What will the next chapter of the fashion system look like? In a market reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic, brands must evolve their business models to adapt to the demands of a rapidly changing world. For industry leaders and change makers who gathered at VOICES on Thursday, virtual fashion, sustainability, animal fur and inclusiveness were top priorities.

The State of Fashion 2022

Despite sporadic retail closings and persistent travel restrictions due to the pandemic, 2021 has seen the global fashion industry get back on its feet. Fashion sales are expected to reach 96 to 101 percent of 2019 pre-coronavirus levels in 2021, according to the State of Fashion report released Thursday by The Business of Fashion and McKinsey.

The recovery has been faster than expected in last year’s report, which predicted fashion sales will only return to 2019 levels by the end of next year or even 2023. Now McKinsey predicts a 3-8% growth from pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

It is too early to change those assumptions based on the emergence of the Omicron variant, said Achim Berg, senior partner at McKinsey. “We don’t know how it’s going to play out. The fashion industry has recovered faster than expected, showing that things often don’t turn out as badly as they first appear.

However, the rebound masked divergent performances. Brands that were well positioned to capture the 2021 rebound, due to their expertise in e-commerce or a focus on winning categories, have gained the lead, while others have fallen behind. A record 69% of fashion companies generated negative economic profit this year.

Chef Balenciaga “Redefining luxury”

It has been a banner year for Balenciaga, who emerged from the pandemic, reactivating its legacy in high fashion while moving forward in digital fashion with its own fashion video game and a partnership with the gaming platform Fortnite.

“I often say that we have redefined luxury,” said Cédric Charbit, CEO of the brand. “We have become a platform where anything is possible. Various activations, from a special episode of The simpsons at a sewing exhibition at the Tank Museum in Shanghai demonstrate the brand’s “elasticity”, a key to its success, Charbit said.

Looking ahead, Charbit said he sees the metaverse as vital to the future of marketing and commerce as today’s consumers become “more active participants” in the brands they follow, announcing the formation of a new dedicated business unit. “Right now the highlight of interacting with a luxury brand is that you click like, comment or buy something,” he said. “I think we can take it to the next level.”

Can fashion become circular?

The fashion economy is decidedly linear: fibers are grown, harvested, spun into fabric and sewn into garments, which are then repelled and sold, worn and discarded. “The way we make and use things accounts for 45% of greenhouse gases and 90% of biodiversity loss,” said Dame Ellen Maccarthur, the record-breaking sailor and environmentalist, rallying the industry fashion to play its role in non-linear development. alternatives.

She presented a vision for an alternative ‘circular’ economy where the life cycle of clothing is extended through better design, including more durable and recyclable materials, and through systems at every step of the value chain for facilitate repair, reuse, and eventual transformation into something new.

This change would require a collective push from suppliers, designers, brands and retailers. “We have to work together to make this happen. You need the whole value chain in the room, ”MacArthur said. This challenge is also an opportunity: Circular business models, including resale and rental, are set to become a $ 700 billion market representing 23% of the fashion industry by 2030, he said. she declared.

The magazine She goes without fur

Brands such as Gucci, Chanel, Burberry, Valentino and Versace have all gone furless in recent years, with the entire Kering Group following suit this fall. Fashion magazines also have a role to play, as the images they produce help drive demand for controversial material.

At VOICES, Valéria Bessolo Llopiz, senior vice president at She and She Deco, announced that magazines will no longer print animal fur images, as the policy applies to both advertisements and editorials. “Animal fur is no longer aligned with our values,” she said.

But PJ Smith, fashion policy director for the Humane Society of the United States, said brands need to go beyond just shedding fur if they are to tap growing consumer demand for non-furry fashion. cruelty.

Major investments in material innovation suggest that brands could replace exotic hides and possibly leather itself. “The alternatives only get better,” Smith said.

Tommy Hilfiger Foregrounds Inclusivity

Tommy Hilfiger, American designer and founder of the PVH-owned brand that bears his name, joined three of his recent collaborators on stage to talk about what makes intercultural fashion partnerships authentic.

In the ’80s and’ 90s, Hilfiger was at the forefront of brands engaging with rap and hip-hop artists, determining the tastes of the emerging streetwear scene. He recalls pushing retailers to embrace the oversized cuts and large logos that helped shape the look of the era.

More recently, he has focused on ‘adaptive’ fashion, working with models like Jillian Mercado to produce clothes that better meet the needs of people with disabilities. He has also collaborated with “Pose” star Indya Moore on a flowy clothing line and has worked regularly with Halima Aden, the barrier-breaking high fashion model who wears a hijab. Mercado, Moore and Aden all joined Hilfiger on stage.

“It upsets me to see big companies not opening doors to the world,” Hilfiger said. There is also a practical dimension to inclusiveness. “The more people who can see themselves in your clothes, the more interest you are going to generate,” Moore said.

VOICES 2021 is made possible in part thanks to our partners McKinsey & Company, Shopify, Clearco, Klarna, Brandlive, Flannels, Break, Getty Images, Soho House and The Invisible Collection.