Fashion 4.0
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The fashion industry is on the threshold of a revolution. Global fashion companies ranging from luxury brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton to ZARA, H & M and Uniqlo are threatened by emerging startups that are eroding their market share. Today, fashion is the fastest growing global industry, totaling $ 1.3 trillion in yearly revenue. Consumers around the world buy five times more clothes than they did 30 years ago. Fashion survives only by being more sensitive to the rapidly changing tastes and needs of consumers than any other industry.

Emerging startup fashion and beauty companies have succeeded in attracting consumers to online shopping platforms by appealing to younger consumers´ values ​​and by presenting products appealing to contemporary tastes. To counter this trend, big fashion brands are investing in technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence and automation. For instance, Amazon is quietly implementing fashion design automation by combining fashion trend prediction and artificial intelligence. Already being the largest retailer in the US, Amazon analyzes trends based on trending images and on data of online purchases. Big Internet companies including Google and Baidu are keen to enter the fashion industry with their massive data collections. Their argument is that they regularly analyze the results of consumer shopping trends and can suggest styles, fabrics, and colors to designers.

Two of the world´s largest apparel makers, Zara and H & M, experienced a drop in sales in the last two years. Feeling a crisis, ´Zara´ has built a flexible production system that can produce new items within 7-25 days until new products hit store displays. While the two global fast fashion giants are experiencing a decline in sales, emerging startups such as ASOS and Boohoo are eroding the legacy brands´ market share with new styles and e-commerce marketing strategies that target the tastes of new consumers.

Since 2018, millennials (born between 1980 and 2004) in the United States are outpacing the baby boomer generation. The global population continues to grow, led by China, India, and Africa, in addition to the US. This change in global demographics will be the decisive factor for future fashion trends.. By 2030, the fashion industry will attract 80% of the world´s future population of about 8.5 billion (2017 global population: 7.5 billion). Apparel consumption is expected to double - if it is able to attract new consumers with a strong desire for self-expression.

The key tools of emerging fashion startups are emotional marketing and marketing based on Internet social media. The future vision is to break down the boundary between the physical and digital worlds and lead to a digital world where multiple technologies are fused.

After the oil industry, fashion is the industry that causes the most pollution and waste. Environmental studies have shown that there are more CO2 and pollutant emissions from the textile and apparel production than from all international aircraft and ships combined. This is a problem for fast fashion, as for more and more consumers, environmental awareness and corporate ethics have become a required standard for choosing brands.

For example, Everlane, a urban-style fashion brand founded in 2015, has a policy that discloses the entire process from design, fabric supply, production and distribution. The start-up ´Aday´ offers futuristic ´high-tech apparel´ from recycled natural fabric and waste plastic.

The competition between creative emerging startups that are leading the trend and conventional companies is expected to continue for the time being. Perhaps, one day algorithms can predict future trends. But until then, creative vision, insightful creative direction, and creative design creation will remain the key skills to succeed.

Text by Jina Park.
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