Monday, 31 July 2017

Designing for the future: trends we need to consider now

As a print designer working for a fast fashion brand, designing for the future is a daily dilemma of mine. In the fashion industry we are expected to present garments to consumers, predicting what they will like in 4-12 months time. If designing for a fast fashion market has taught me anything it is that fashion consumers at the relatively inexpensive end of retail are fickle. Brand loyalty doesn't exist- they want the best design for the cheapest price- a bestselling garment in February could be repeated in March and cause a monetary loss. So how can we design for a fickle future? 

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Some of the many fast fashion brands on our high streets. Photo taken from: https://www.trustedclothes.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/fastfashion.jpg

The more time I spend working at this end of the fashion chain, the more I question whether the speed of the fast fashion manufacturing chain and this level of mass consumerism is sustainable? In short...it isn't.


Fast fashion infographic borrowed from ecouterre.com

Ours is the generation that wants everything at lightening speed,  we have grown up in the digital revolution where we can expand our horizons, and our wardrobes, at the click of a button. Millenials have been raised to be the ultimate consumer. We see, we want, we buy(on credit) and on and on it goes. 

To understand the future of fashion design we have to have a firm grasp on how fashion trends were dictated in the past. With our ever changing society this is becoming increasingly difficult. Gone are the days of 'make do and mend', we now dispose of garments as readily as we dispose of leftover food scraps. In fact only 15% of consumer used clothing is recycled, this is disgusting (https://www.thebalance.com/textile-recycling-facts-and-figures-2878122).

The world our grandparents lived in has all but faded away- a society based on the rules and guidance of the 10 commandments, has been replaced by hedonism and consumerism. Bygone generations revered and rejected the '7 cardinal sins', we have entire industries, fast fashion included, embracing them and exploiting them as a business strategy.  As the consumer we are taught to lust after new products we can't afford, we hate and envy others who have the lifestyle and material possessions we yearn for, then become greedy in an attempt to amass enough of these products to appear successful. After obtaining the things we so desired we have pride in our possessions and then, after a short time, we become despondent and in a state of despair when the products fail to give us the satisfaction we had expected....and repeat...The only 'deadly sin' exempt from this chain is sloth and, looking at the Western society I have grown up in, there is no shortage of laziness and misused talent.

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Barbara Krugers' famous comment on fashion consumerism and how we use material possessions to create our identity and validate our existence.

Modern consumerism has sub-consciously conditioned us to believe that we need things; garments, products, technology and that this will provide us with a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction so that we can post photos of our material lifestyle on instagram and gain validation from our peers. The little buzz we get when we go onto instagram to find out how many 'likes' we have soon fades and we continue the search for something that will reignite that feeling. This is very basic psychology, but the media  has been so effective in ingraining this into the modern human psyche that changing the cycle is no small feat. 

In an effort to keep up with this cycle, manufacturing industries have been exported to distant countries, China and Bangladesh being the main culprits. Very few garments in the fast fashion industry are locally produced, the closest production hub is probably Turkey. Not only is this bad for Western clothing manufacturers, who are being constantly undercut by 'competitive' prices in the East, it also has devastating effects both on the climate and on the workers whose rights are undergoing constant violations.  Is this to be the future of fashion and textile design? Will we continue to design in the West and source in the East showing little regard for the workers and environments that are being affected? This is the present state of the fast fashion industry but it doesn't have to be the future.

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Photo taken from: http://www.sleek-mag.com

Finally we are seeing individuals starting companies that raise the profiles of these problems, forcing the consumer to care about the creation of their garments and the consequences of their consumerism. Ever since the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013 we have seen a huge increase of people championing ethical fashion and a massive push encouraging the public to question the origin of their clothes. The fashion revolution movement(featured above) has been a huge social media motivator for this. Perhaps the future of fashion design will embrace a huge shift towards ethically sourced fabrics and products? Hopefully we will see an increasing number of small, independent brands offering collections that use organic and sustainably sourced products, manufactured in a way that has no human rights infringements without compromising style/design aesthetic. I sincerely hope this happens.

Infographic showing Millenial statistics. Image taken from: http://www.nielsen.com/eu/en/insights/news/2015/green-generation-millennials-say-sustainability-is-a-shopping-priority.html

I stumbled across this amazing infographic while researching this post which shows that, when asked a series of questions in relation to fashion, 66% of millenials asked(of 30,000 across the globe) said that they would be willing to pay more for products and services that come from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact (http://www.nielsen.com/eu/en/insights/news/2015/green-generation-millennials-say-sustainability-is-a-shopping-priority.html). 58% said that they would be willing to pay more if the product came from a company known for being environmentally friendly. This demonstrates that the Millenial generation of consumers like to think that they place ethics over aesthetics. If this is so then it renders fast fashion a dying industry- how can the future generation of consumers be ethically minded and follow fast fashion when these two aspects of the fashion industry are mutually exclusive?


Personally I see two viable trend directions the long term fashion and textile industry could move towards- both include a massive downscale in wardrobe size. There will be those of us who move towards a more ethical and sustainable form of fashion where we either shop locally and independently or we pay more for quality items produced overseas- slow fashion. On the flip side there will be the fast fashion remnant who have aged but retained the mentality of fast fashion and opt for advanced technological fashion. How far into the future this split will be is something I am completely uncertain of!

Gender neutral high street collections, left to right: Zara, H&M, Selfridges. Photos taken from google images.

It pains me to say that this is the path I see current fashion veering towards. With the advent of gender neutral clothing we are seeing shapeless garments and neutral colours gaining traction. Practicality takes precedence over aesthetics. This is a print designers worst nightmare. 

Perhaps this is a fad, perhaps not. What will be interesting to see in the future of fashion and textiles is how smart textiles will begin to play a role in design. Gender neutral clothing creates the perfect blank canvas for this. For a generation raised to fight for equality, creating uniformity in clothing is just another extension of achieving this. Every sci-fi movie/book/vision of a dystopian future that I can recall has guided us to expect that the future of fashion will be a bland, minimalist, functional collection of garments, it has, in essence, promoted the idea of uniformity. Void of personality, geared for practicality. 

Clockwise left to right: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Ex Machina, Passengers, The Matrix. (All photos taken from google images).

As I am tentatively making steps towards setting up my own business I am very aware of how the production decisions I am making at this stage will affect the business later on. I do not want to start a business which contributes in anyway to mass consumerism, I am keen to be on the ethical side. I want people to buy my products because they appreciate and treasure them as a hand crafted item. I want to create heirlooms not disposable goods.

When discussing future design trends there is a huge veil of uncertainty....but one thing we can be sure of - the power of the people. The consumer can make or break the fast fashion chain. Maybe one of the trends we need to consider for the future of fashion/textile design is how we shop, who we are supporting and what future we are creating?



The way I see it we have two options for the future of fashion and textiles: 

- shop independantly, shop locally, support small business and celebrate traditional methods of manufacture...OR...

-follow fast fashion and watch it advance into digital fashion.


I know which future I would prefer to create. 



“This blog post is a part of Design Blogger Competition organized by CGTrader 







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