The Future of Fashion by Li Edelkoort

Fashion Agency London

On Wednesday we introduced a fashion icon Reda Mickeviciute, a Lithuanian fashion photographer with an inspirational sense of style. Today I am delighted to share the most invaluable insights from a business fashion icon – Lidewij Edelkoort from Netherlands.

A world famous trend forecaster and socio-cultural expert with over 40 years of industry experience have been on the numerous lists of ‘most influential’ people in fashion over the years for a good reason – she is an expert on the future of fashion. Today, on the 2nd of December, Li Edelkoort was speaking live on stage at the Business of Fashion conference Voices, broadcasted live on BoF (you may still catch-up with it).

Lidewij Edelkoort by Rui ©
Lidewij Edelkoort by Rui ©

Edelkoort shared some incredibly interesting insights from her new book on the future of fashion.

On Sustainability

Edelkoort has been questioning fast fashion power to mix with designer brands and unsustainable ways the brands such as Primark work. She illustrates the case with a recent Primark advertorial in Vogue magazine, saying that Primark has blended in with the designer brands, advertising a £10 party dress alongside luxury brands.

Primark Christmas Advertorial in Vogue
Primark Christmas Advertorial in Vogue

“How can a party dress cost £10? How is it possible that the dress is cheaper than a sandwich?” – Asks Edelkoor. Something that has to be grown, harvested, cultivated, developed, produced, designed, manufactured, etc. can cost that little?

Fast fashion and unregulated prices (costing lives or wellbeing somewhere in the supply chain) is a big problem in the fashion industry/ Edelkooort offers a solution: to lobby for the regulated price point. Edelkoort thinks that fashion consumers are not the ones to blame for choosing the cheapest option available. Thus, Europe should set a minimum price for certain fashion products, based on their fair trade production cost.

On the new fashion system

Eldekoort claims that the fashion industry, although sometimes called fast, systematically is slow to change – it is still adapting the rules of the 20th century. It is not inclusive, secretive and prone to narcissism. She shares the solutions to the problems.

Inclusivity: The designers should give more voice to their team. In the movies, we see all the credits for people involved, even the drivers. In fashion, we see only one name.

Sayya collection at Dnepr Fashion Weekend

Collaboration: Designers should make fashion shows together, so we don’t have to go for 12 minutes and wait for another show. We should ask established brands to adopt young brands in between the main shows; the main brands should adopt up-and-coming brands and help them grow.

Retail Reinvention: All the methods we use in retail, even a concept store, are from the 20th century. Dover Street Market is the only entity of this day and age. Well edited, very small, selective.

Co-branding: Co-branding is a very big thing. Big collections are very oldfashioned; we want small collections and collaborations. Vetements is a great example– doing all their clothes with others.

On generation Z and new consumers 

Li Edelkoort emphasises that the way we consume fashion is changing dramatically, and the fashion consumers are different people now. The trends are set by Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs, young consumers or generation Z, and men.

The trend of non-fashion is set by the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley. They wear shorts and hoodies, they might own a tuxedo, but will not wear a suit; they don’t need a suit. Fashion brands need to think about them, tech entrepreneurs is a growing market, naturally.

Diligent Clothes AW16
Diligent Clothes AW16

On another hand, young people, generation Z, is completely different in fashion consumption. The sharing economy will be growing massively, and fashion has to be more sustainable and more durable. Young people share clothes – will rent or even buy expensive clothes together. For example, in Japan girls shop like twins together and buy one expensive outfit to share. Young people rent expensive items instead of buying, embrace hand-me-down clothes from their mothers and grandmothers. At the same time, the young designers in fashion schools are only interested in sustainability. And more importantly, the new generation is going to spend only up to 1/3 of their income on something fashion related.

However, there is a growing segment of fashion consumers which is men. The business of men fashion is going to expand. A new man is fathering the children (fathers are carrying the babies, pushing women to have women earlier, taking children to school), these are men that are more sensitive, more elegant. This future man will need a very new approach to fashion merchandising and there is an opportunity.

For more on the future of fashion, visit Li Edelkoort website. And tune into BoF Voices!