Stay Still, We Are Still Resetting
It takes stillness to discover the strength that lies within us.
The current crises highlighted problems that have been sitting there, at the back seat of our fashion industry, for a while now. We are living unprecedented times. We are all forced to be home and I’ve noticed a generalized behavior of people turning inwards and trying to reconnect with themselves. While doing so, we are asking ourselves existential questions on what’s meaningful to us in life. We are thinking about what aspects of our old reality we want to retain as part of our new normal and what we would like to change coming out of this humanitarian crisis.
The world we live in is obsessed with innovation. Don’t get me wrong, one of the main things I do as a consumer trends researcher is to scan for and collect exciting innovations in order to create patterns that might expose hints of possible future directions. But because of this obsession we have with innovating, sometimes we cross out and forget about old practices that were actually just fine as they were. The old ways we did things in fashion, such as sourcing, creating and selling locally, celebrating craftsmanship, valuing labor and showing two collections a year, have all changed and evolved- but not necessarily for the better.
At the moment there is a current generalized obsession with how the “new normal” will look like once the dust has settled. Collectively, we can’t stop thinking about how the consumer of the future will shop, we keep trying to understand what they will care about and how their emerging expectations will shift as a consequence of the COVID-19 crises. The constant search for immediate answers, aligned with a generation used to instant gratification, also might align with a concept in psychology referred to as Cognitive Closure, which refers to the human desire to eliminate ambiguity and arrive at definite conclusions (sometimes irrationally). It feels like this is what we are all trying to do right now. We are all trying to find solutions too fast instead of observing.
Reflecting on the past and present in order to re-examine our new direction
For me, it’s impossible to live through the first months of 2020 without reflecting on all this. I can’t get my head away from the ways I think about the past, my attempts to get a glimpse of the future, and the nagging question of where we should go from here. What we are going through at the moment has no precedent in the lifetimes of most of us. And now, more than ever, it seems to me that the new world we’ve built, and the industry I’ve been a part of for over 10 years, demands a new value system.
During this journey of innovation and progress we embarked on, we’ve created a single world-system, a model that has never existed before. If freedom was the value at the heart of our social-economic system in the 20th-century, then today we must build a new system that deals with the central fact of this new world: interconnectedness. How can we protect one another in an interconnected fashion industry in which many systemic problems are pushed under the carpet and humans are overlooked? How can we recover from a fashion system which is formally connected but humanly out of tune?
Today we are witnessing the fact that an economic crisis, a supply chain disruption, or a viral outbreak in one part of the world has a near-instant, domino effect for the whole system. And let’s not forget, especially with earth day around the corner, that global warming doesn’t respect borders either. These issues draw attention to the fact that a single global connected planet, and the overwhelming complexity to which it gives rise, is the central challenge of the years to come.
We must rethink how we can rebuild a fashion industry that will become mindful about these challenges we are now facing. Now is the time to create new ways of operating which take advantage of global interconnectedness, while doing a whole lot more to protect our industry from the harms that result from a globalized world. Think about the small designers suffering from cancelled orders, think about the workers working under atrocious conditions that now won’t even get paid their unfair wages as brands cancelled their order at the factories they work at. How can we create a more mindful system? We should preserve the inheritance bequeathed to us by liberal democracy: freedom, tolerance, and dignity of the individual.
We are still resetting
While a big portion of the world is still in lockdown, I start to identify a common sentiment (at least among the fashion industry community I’m connected with) which is that many people have finally come to understand that we should change our behavior and consumption patterns. But also, the Covid-19 world crises has already accelerated many of the behavioral changes we were already seeing: an increase in digital penetration, a growth in the virtual experience economy, more people/organizations collaborating by open sourcing solutions, wellness and wellbeing in the center of the conversation, a foreseeable growth of a-commerce, the adoption of flexible work spaces (#WFH), and an increase of low-touch at-home experiences.
Now it’s time to find new ways of turning back to one another and to bring humanity back to the equation. It’s also the time to find new ways of reprioritizing those around us outside of phone screens and news feeds.
We have in our hands a unique opportunity to think and analyze what fashion means to the world, to the consumers we are connecting with, and to identify how we can better serve their needs and desires. We are the ones that need to check the metaphorical temperature of consumers, understand their priorities, and realign the industry to match their new sentiment.
Deep crises usually result in the creation of innovative tools that transform industries in radical ways. It’s ok not to have every answer right now, and it’s ok to have dual thoughts, but ultimately we, as an industry, have to reflect humanity and reality in an authentic way. It’s the time to collaborate with one another and dream of a better future together.