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5 Digital Trends Reshaping the Business of Fashion

Digital trends are transforming almost every facet of fashion – from design and sales, to the launch of disruptive new digital brands and business models that can save the planet (yes, keep reading.) What do these digital trends and business models have in common? To a large extent they are enabled by digital technology. Smart brands are paying attention to these digital trends and evolving their businesses around opportunities created and imperatives uncovered.



Little known fact: Emissions from clothing exceeds those of all maritime shipping and international flights combined. Now there’s a broader push to make the fashion industry less damaging and digital trends are helping. Sustainability is increasingly seen as a commercial opportunity, with calls for the word ‘sustainability’ to be synonymous with success in the sector.

Several digital services, for instance, are bringing a circular economy to the fore – an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. It’s all about post-consumer recycling, finding new life for garments that would otherwise go to landfill. The demand for ethical clothing has increased exponentially, with 66% more searches for ‘sustainable fashion’ occurring since 2018, according to fashion search engine Lyst.

Some now call it peer-to-peer fashion commerce. The RealReal – valued at over $2 billion – and Farfetch’s Second Life are active in this space. Then there’s Mudseller, which offers a choice between buying jeans or leasing them. Vestiaire Collective, Poshmark, ThredUp, Grailed, Rebag and Tradesy are a handful in this space raising investment in the tens of millions of dollars. Subscription clothing service Stitch Fix is embracing digital technology to do for clothing what Spotify has done for music. They’re all trying to get a slice of the $20 to $28 billion resale and second-hand market — expected to more than double in the next four years.


FaaS with Sass

Clothing rental aims to reduce apparel consumption while addressing the ‘not wanting to be seen in the same outfit twice’ issue customers want to avoid. There’s also a rising emphasis on sharing rather than owning – a trend made easier with digital technology.

Consider Rent the Runway, a New York-based, privately owned start-up now valued at $800 million. The company rents clothes, handbags, and jewelry – think of it as Fashion as a Service (FaaS). Its dry cleaning warehouse is the world’s biggest, processing 2,000 items per hour. RTR started with women’s formal outfits for weddings and other events. Now nearly three-quarters of its nine million clients across the U.S. use it for work clothes. Membership starts from $89, allowing members to choose from thousands of designer pieces.


The Rise of DNVBs

From Boohoo to Bonobos, MM. LaFleur to Everlane, Misguided to ASOS, these digitally native companies with direct to consumer (D2C) offerings are transforming the face of fashion. They’ve promised new and better ways to shop. Above all they’re about content and storytelling, hyper-focused on the customer.

A leading digital trend, DNVBs in fashion have been able to commercialize a highly differentiated product offering, seducing younger consumers by giving them convenience, value for money, or just something different. Their core business mostly lies in the digital world, although some of these brands have now opened retail outlets.

Launching these businesses requires huge amounts of capital. They have had to do everything from designing and manufacturing clothes to sales and marketing, creating whole supply chain mechanisms from scratch. DNVBs have also tried to unlock a tremendous amount of cost savings in the supply chain.


Many Shades of Social

New apps are popping up with social commerce at the core of their business. Users can discover products and brands in Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, then buy natively in those apps, or download a separate app to explore a full collection. These apps allow product discovery, either through unique independent fashion labels or product recommendations based on a user’s social activity. But social commerce is just one social application changing the fabric of fashion.

IGC – Influencer Generated Content
Young consumers want more personalized communications and IGC helps with that. When IGC leaders align themselves with popular social movements such as body-positivity or diversity and inclusion, this helps foster communities around brands.

When targeting 16- to 30-year olds, focusing on digital and social media rather than traditional forms of marketing is crucial. Alongside high-profile influencers, fashion retailers are also capitalizing on smaller-scale influencers Think Boohoo, in the form of student ambassadors. The most effective influencers aren’t always the ones with the most recognizable names. Companies also look for savvy consumers who might have a smaller social media reach, but more engagement with followers

Online social proof
Social proof – that is, photos of a garment being worn by real people in a positive way – is enough to drive shoppers. Boohoo encourages consumers to ‘shop the feed’ with a focused ‘Instashop’ on its website. Companies are increasingly trying to ensure that shoppers can easily buy items found and featured on social media feeds such as Instagram, while also sharing customer photos, hashtag campaigns, and reviews directly on eCommerce sites.

Drop culture
Fast fashion + social media = drop culture. Drops involve posting a picture of a garment on social media, alongside its release date, ramping up interest in its release. Limited edition garments, select outlets, and short timeframes are all tactics used. The idea is to create a sense of urgency and illusion of scarcity. The drop model is used by Adidas, Gucci, Nike, Louis Vuitton, and Alexander Wang among others.


Virtual or Digital Clothing

Now consider digital clothing, a radical departure from physical apparel. Norwegian company Carlings has developed a digital-only collection called Neo-ex. It launched last November. After you purchase an outfit from the 19-piece collection, a group of 3D designers digitally ‘fit’ the look onto a photo of the buyer, ready to post on the likes of Instagram.

Customers share the design on social media, without ever owning a physical garment. The digital collection sold out within a week. It follows on from the gaming industry; players of Fortnite rack up millions of pounds on skins for their avatars, why not fashion followers? Digital clothing could be fashion’s next frontier. It also paves the way for a more sustainable business model. Digital clothing has a zero-carbon footprint.

Yes, fashion is in the midst of transformation. The perfect storm of social media, eCommerce and other digital trends have super-powered the creation and speed-to-market of garments and trends. To learn more about digital trends and technologies changing the fabric of fashion, LiveArea’s Future of Fashion.