We live in an unprecedented time. A time we have not chosen, a pause we have not asked for and a future we do not know. The Corona crisis has hit the fashion industry hard. In many areas, the ailing system has collapsed. Things have leaked to the surface that many in the industry have tried for years to patch up and hide, again and again, provisionally. And the pace has been accelerating. Some people have not had the strength to follow this pace for a long time. Especially since it felt more and more like a chase.
When the sea is calm, anyone can hold the wheel.Publilius Syrus (around 90 – 40 BC)
The pandemic uncovered, even exposed, all these septic wounds. Fast fashion with its throw-away mentality; luxury brands and designer fashion and the madness of travelling from one fashion week to the next; globalisation and the inhuman and environmentally harmful mass production we all clung to, but all knew to be wrong. It is wild, it has no rules, it has no ethics, it has no thoughts about people and the planet.
So it was only a question of time when the fashion system with all its different facets would break down. Everything has become slower, sometimes very quiet. Many finally had time to take a deep breath, to think, to rethink!
Rethinking. Now we have the opportunity to do it better: “Go back to go!” as it is the motto of Monopoly.
The Corona crisis marks the beginning of a long cycle of renovation. There is no going back into the world before. Corona, the shutdown has triggered developments that are not reversible. The restructuring of the fashion system is now the responsibility of global brands, those with the power to turn the wheel. And in the hands of luxury brands who should rediscover and redefine their old quality standards. What strengths we had – and what weaknesses. It is important to recognize these now.
It is not only the economy itself that is crashing and groaning through the Corona crisis: All subsystems of society are coming to their knees in an unprecedented global simultaneity.Matthias Horx – Zukunftsinstitut
A new era of entrepreneurship begins. What role do the young, independent fashion labels play in this? In times of massive upheaval, gaps and spaces of opportunity arise that will not return so quickly. The phase of crisis becomes the most entrepreneurial time of many decades. Every time at the end or after a crisis is the time of the visionaries.
Will this be the decade of many young independent fashion labels? They are more versatile, faster, more agile, more innovative and at the same time more adaptable. Is this their opportunity to take off? It is precisely their independence that makes sustainable thinking easier: small productions, hand-picked materials, fair processes. So, while it has a lot of challenges in this change, in this new pace, has new rules involved in it, it also has the same amount of opportunity.
Corporate & Startup Collaboration: The New Normal?
I believe, it will need both corporates and startups and they should work together. So, if we have the understanding and the insight to travel into this new normal, we can gain from this valuable collaborative nature of innovation. Corporates often struggle to innovate at the same pace as startups, but by cooperation and collaboration, they can learn from each other. And we have seen how big companies from one day to the other just disappearing because they were disrupted by better solutions. Also, we have seen the risk is not having the right people in your team, the right people in your company to just bring forward the needed innovation and bring things to market.
Corporates need to change because the old rules do not apply to the new rules.
Collaboration and co-innovation are key for a better future of fashion because solutions are now more and more complex. The days of an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley in the garage, developing a key solution that disrupts the whole market. Well, that was amazing when it lasted, but it’s no longer the case. The problems of the fashion industry are much greater than that which one company or start-up alone can solve. We have to look at the problem-solving processes from so many different perspectives to arrive at the best possible solutions. Things need to be integrated, they need a special context and that is done through partnerships. We need to talk and work and live with new and different partners to have new solutions on the market. We have spent enough time seeing each other as competitors instead of supporters. And, if we start now understanding and establishing our network, we can leverage the opportunities for a better, fairer and healthier future of fashion.
Photo by Tobias Rehbein on Unsplash