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The future of fashion: Revolution between fast and slow fashion

The fashion industry is massively influenced by the change in social values. Which trends can be observed and in which direction is the fashion future developing - an excerpt from the Retail Report 20231 by Theresa Schleicher.

The fashion industry is massively influenced by the change in social values. Which trends can be observed and in which direction is the fashion future developing - an excerpt from the Retail Report 20231 by Theresa Schleicher.

The fashion industry has been slowed down by the global health pandemic and further affected by the measures taken in the wake of the Ukraine war: Fragile supply chains, increased transportation and energy costs, and rising prices are having an impact on the globalized fashion industry. Those who were moving the fastest are being hit the hardest. Fast fashion based on the principle of "faster and faster, cheaper and cheaper, more and more" - which has been in the fast lane for years - is now experiencing an unprecedented crash. Even without these momentous events, the fashion system would have reached its limits. What could have developed evolutionarily is now being revolutionized. Now and in the future, it will be particularly difficult for brands and retail companies that do not have a sharp profile or that have lost many customers in the attempt to offer mass-produced goods at prices that are still lower than those of their competitors.

New value paradigm in society - also for fashion
While fashion retailers and fashion brands are focusing on expanding online and have been putting their foot on the gas pedal since the corona pandemic at the latest, a parallel change in values is taking place in society. Many behaviors that have been practiced, tested and lived for months will continue to shape our consumer behavior and lifestyles in the future. The uncertainty in society as well as a shrinking economy and rising consumer prices as a result of the Ukraine war will further contribute to this shift in values.

The old paradigm was "primarily shaped by pragmatic factors such as price, quantity, safety and convenience, so consumer behavior was predominantly based on relatively simple cost-benefit calculations." The new value paradigm, on the other hand, is more strongly influenced by "soft factors". For example, the quality of a product is defined more holistically. In addition to price, "ecological, [...] ethical and social aspects are also taken into account. It is about positive or negative experiences that one has had with producers and about the visions that they pursue with their companies". This new value paradigm is forcing the large chain stores in particular to rethink. They have to develop their business models further in the direction of sustainability, transparency and responsibility - and show attitude. The influence of the neo-ecology megatrend combined with the push towards the sense economy is reshuffling the cards in the fashion industry.

The most important driver for the change in consumer behavior is climate protection, which is also becoming personally more important to more and more people because they are feeling the effects of climate change themselves in their everyday lives. The transition to a sustainable, bio-based and circular economy is accompanied by fundamental changes in the technical, economic and social environment.

Circular fashion as an opportunity for fast fashion
The development of the fashion industry - especially the fast fashion industry - towards a more circular economy is not a short-term trend, but one of the most long-term and at the same time forward-looking trends in retailing of all.

Even before the pandemic, a growing proportion of consumers placed value on sustainably produced clothing instead of constantly shopping the latest trends. A reset is needed, but the fashion industry faces a difficult question: How can it respond to the demand for new trends without neglecting its responsibility for the environment?

The solution for reducing emissions and conserving raw materials and resources seems obvious: produce less. On average, 2,700 liters of water are needed to produce a T-shirt - that much drinking water would last a person for two and a half years. In Europe, each person buys an average of 26 kilograms of textiles per year - and disposes eleven kilograms. Of this, almost 90 percent is incinerated or ends up in landfills. Overproduction, precarious working conditions during production and the use of non-sustainable materials are the major problems of the fast fashion industry. It is time to slow down fast fashion.

Fashion recycling by Design & Recycling as a Service
A first step towards keeping fashion and textiles in the cycle for longer is to recycle materials properly. In the future, recycling must be considered as early as the design stage - not only for sustainably produced fashion, but also for fast fashion. The H&M Group, for example, developed the Circulator for this purpose: The digital evaluation tool guides the designer through materials, components and design strategies that are best suited for the product depending on its purpose, and evaluates them in terms of their environmental impact, durability and recyclability.

However, more and more young companies are specializing in offering recycling for textiles as a service. They work directly with fashion retailers or fashion brands to enable the best possible recycling, re-circulation or even upcycling. Until now, it has not been worthwhile for large textile companies to invest in their own recycling systems. But Recycling as a Service is a market of the future, led by innovative start-ups such as Resortecs that are tackling previous hurdles in our recycling system. In the future, more and more new service providers will pop up around returns and recycling and help fashion retailers to align their material cycles more sustainably.

Secondhand conquers the fast fashion market
Another way to extend the life of clothing is to pass it on to new users. We are witnessing the triumph of vintage, retro and more - chic secondhand stores and chains like Resales and Humana are popping up everywhere. The renaming of secondhand to pre-owned or pre-loved also illustrates the increased appreciation of worn clothing. The trend toward secondhand also pays off economically for companies: The number of platforms whose business model revolves around the resale of clothing is increasing, and secondhand fashion is arriving in the middle of society. The luxury segment and especially vintage fashion are stable in price because the availability of these unique pieces is limited. Fast fashion, on the other hand, is available in sufficient quantities and is particularly interesting for price-sensitive customers, as secondhand is considered one of the most sustainable forms of consumption - meaning that fashion can be shopped with a clear conscience - and is usually even offered at a lower price than new goods. The second-hand market will continue to professionalize and become more socially acceptable. As a result, the fast fashion industry will also be forced to produce higher quality clothing in order to become or remain part of the circular system.

Slow fashion gains momentum thanks to technology
The development and orientation of fast fashion towards circular processes is also changing sustainable fashion. In the future, fast fashion and slow fashion can learn from each other to fully exploit their potential: fast fashion will become more sustainable, while slow fashion will focus on faster availability and delivery and make the customer experience as pleasant as possible. Fast and slow fashion are no longer compelling opposites - because the sustainable fashion movement can also benefit from technological innovations that are being established above all by the fashion platforms, and lift slow fashion to a new level.

At the same time, Sustainable Luxury is a new form of luxury consumption - especially in the field of designer fashion, sustainability is becoming the all-important criterion. Sustainability as a means of distinction for true luxury and sustainability as a basic prerequisite for a functioning fashion industry are increasingly converging. This is where the transition between a slowdown of fast fashion and an acceleration of slow fashion takes place.

Trend Sustainable Luxury
Luxury is defined less and less by the object and its possession and is increasingly becoming an expression of one's own lifestyle and values. Consumers' understanding of premium and luxury has changed - not least driven by the neo-ecology megatrend. In the future, it will no longer be just about owning something as expensive and ostentatious as possible. What began as a rebellion against careless consumption of luxury brands that promise high-end products but accept unfair and environmentally damaging manufacturing conditions in the process has increasingly become accepted as a value attitude. Luxury products have no less a claim than to improve the world.

Sustainable and ethical products and services made from innovative materials that have the power to solve problems and make the world a better place. At the same time, this highly ethically and morally charged form of sustainability is turning into a means of distinction: For the materials are so new, the manufacturing processes still so experimental, that the products are unique and often only available in very small quantities or on order. And this exclusive sustainability naturally comes at a price. After all, a company that pursues a mission is not concerned with simply cutting costs - certainly not at the expense of others or the environment. Instead of leather and fur, luxury fashion is now made from oranges, pineapples, hemp, cacti: there are more and more new, innovative and sustainable materials from which unique garments and accessories can be made.

Predictive, Pre-Order & Made-to-Order
Artificial intelligence and Big Data analysis can help predict fashion demand. Fast fashion leaders like Shein are characterized by agile production which is supported by AI algorithms for trend prediction fed with data from TikTok and other social media services. This could sustainably reduce overproduction and unsaleable goods in the future. As critical as Shein's practices are, the automation of processes also offers immense opportunities for a more sustainable fashion industry, as production only starts when goods are in demand.

AI support in the design process can be used to produce more sustainable fashion - and make it available more quickly. In a future of an avatar economy and in the world of virtual influencers, it may even be possible to dispense with part of the production process: Fashion will remain virtual - and thus more resource-efficient. Digital fashion will become increasingly important as the metaverse is built.

5 Key Takeaways on the Future of Fashion

  1. The current crisis in the fashion industry is an opportunity to move more in the direction of circular fashion. Above all, the new value paradigm in society, understanding quality more holistically and consuming more mindfully, is providing a push towards fairer, more ecological and more social fashion. Fast fashion and sustainability are not mutually exclusive.
  2. There are already first approaches to keep fast fashion in the cycle longer or to return it to the cycle. One important development is to consider recycling or reuse as early as the design and manufacturing process - known as recycling by design. In addition, there is a growing number of start-ups specializing in the optimized recycling of textiles and cooperating with major fashion players.
  3. Above all, the booming online trade in used fashion, often communicated as the pre-loved or pre-owned category, is making secondhand respectable for the mainstream. Such fashion, with a story and an aura of uniqueness, is also a cost-effective but more sustainable alternative to fast fashion.
  4. But slow fashion is also changing, especially due to the dominance of new technologies. Slow fashion can also benefit from processes that are currently manifesting themselves in the online fashion market, such as fast delivery or pre-order services. Slow fashion thus becomes more convenient, better and faster available. It will be easier for sustainably oriented fashion enthusiasts to consume according to their values and attitudes.
  5. The trend toward sustainable luxury continues: Sustainability as a means of distinction for a new form of luxury enables alternative manufacturing processes and innovative materials in the luxury fashion market. These are being showcased by an avant-garde and, if they prove successful, adapted by fast fashion.



Retail Report 2023 | Theresa Schleicher, Janine Seitz | June 2022

Photo: pixabay

momox fashion presents Second Hand Fashion Report 2022

  • Representative study with almost 8,000 participants regarding the second hand fashion market in Germany
  • Second hand replaces new: 84 percent have bought less new goods due to second hand shopping
  • 71 percent have spent less money on new goods because they have bought second-hand clothing
  • For just under one in two (45 percent), buying second-hand clothing has become a matter of course
  • When buying second-hand fashion, sustainable production is more important (60 percent) than the brand name (48 percent)

Second hand replaces new - that's what 84 percent of second hand shoppers in Germany say, stating that buying second hand items has replaced buying a new clothing item for them.

  • Representative study with almost 8,000 participants regarding the second hand fashion market in Germany
  • Second hand replaces new: 84 percent have bought less new goods due to second hand shopping
  • 71 percent have spent less money on new goods because they have bought second-hand clothing
  • For just under one in two (45 percent), buying second-hand clothing has become a matter of course
  • When buying second-hand fashion, sustainable production is more important (60 percent) than the brand name (48 percent)

Second hand replaces new - that's what 84 percent of second hand shoppers in Germany say, stating that buying second hand items has replaced buying a new clothing item for them. Another 71 percent state that they have spent less money on clothing because they have bought used items.** These are the results of the current Second Hand Fashion Report 2022, for which the second hand online store momox fashion has conducted two studies for the third time in a row: A representative survey in cooperation with the market research institute Kantar as well as a customer survey among momox fashion customers to get detailed insights into the second hand clothing market. A total of 7,826 people took part in the surveys.

Buying second hand clothes has become a matter of course for every second person
The representative Kantar survey shows that buying second-hand clothing has become routine: 67 percent of Germans have already bought second-hand clothing at some point - an increase of eleven percent on the previous year. More than one in two (56 percent) do so regularly - at least once a year. For 45 percent, buying second-hand clothing has become a matter of course or very much a matter of course. In addition, more than half of Germans (53 percent) estimate that their closet consists of up to 20 percent second-hand clothing.*

Second hand clothing is not only shopped online, but also sold
The most popular way to buy used clothing is online shopping: 44 percent of respondents buy their second-hand fashion pieces online. Around one in three (28 percent) go to second-hand stores in search of their next favorite second-hand item, followed by flea markets with 14 percent. Surprisingly, the 50+ generation in particular likes to buy online (44 percent). Generation Z (under 25s), however, prefers second-hand stores (30 percent).*

But it is not only second-hand online shopping that is popular. Almost one in two (45 percent) resells used clothing, preferably online (76 percent). Only 11 percent sell at flea markets and 8 percent at second-hand stores.*

Sustainability remains main motivation for buying used clothing
To find out more about the reasons for buying second-hand clothing, momox fashion conducted a customer survey among almost 7,000 participants. The main motivation for buying second-hand clothing continues to be the sustainability aspect with 87 percent. 83 percent buy second-hand clothing because of the price savings compared to new goods. Around one in two (49 percent) goes in search of clothing in second-hand stores because the desired items are no longer available in regular stores.**

Almost all respondents (91 percent) generally consider sustainability and environmental protection to be important or very important when buying clothing. This is also reflected in consumer behavior: Around three quarters (85 percent) try to buy second-hand whenever possible. 58 percent make sure to purchase sustainable clothing. And 31 percent use environmentally friendly products for the care and cleaning of clothing.**

Sustainable production or brand name - which is more important?
For more than half (51 percent) of the respondents, the brand name is less important or unimportant when buying used clothing. Whether the clothing was produced sustainably, on the other hand, is considered by 60 percent to be very important or important. Especially for the 60+ generation (75 percent), sustainable production of second-hand clothing is very important or important.**

Second hand clothing is especially popular among parents
However, second-hand clothing is not only bought for oneself, almost every fifth person (18 percent) also buys it for his/her children.* Among the parents of the second-hand shoppers, 85 percent buy second-hand clothing for their children. Online stores (58 percent) and online marketplaces and second-hand online stores (51 percent) are the most popular. 43 percent buy used children's clothing from friends. 33 percent like to go shopping in second-hand stores and another 23 percent in stationary children's clothing stores. At the same time, 63 percent of respondents say they buy more second-hand clothing since becoming parents.**

Jackets and coats are second hand top sellers
Second-hand jackets and coats (70 percent) are the most popular items, followed by sweaters (60 percent), dresses and skirts (56 percent) and pants (49 percent). Pants and sweaters seem to have become more popular among second-hand shoppers compared to the previous year (previous year: 46 percent and 51 percent). Younger shoppers (18-29 year olds) prefer to buy their sweaters second hand even more than jackets and coats (80 percent).**

* Kantar survey
** momox fashion survey
Kantar survey: number of cases (n=1,037), target group: 16-64 years; method: online survey in the survey period (13.-16.11.2021), conducted by Kantar Deutschland GmbH on behalf of momox AG.
momox fashion survey: number of cases (n=6,789), survey period (21.-26.10.2021), target group: momox fashion customers aged under 18 to over 60; method: online survey, conducted by momox AG

Download of study (in German)