To define what will characterize the future of fashion is not easy–Lectra gave it a try at their recent Fashion Forward event in Bordeaux last week. The French technology company based in Cestas, a small town near Bordeaux, invited representatives of several leading fashion producers and brands from around the globe such as Columbia, Calvin Klein, Under Armour and Adidas to exchange about the path that fashion and fashion technology will lead in the next years.

One of the key speeches was held by Edouard Macquin, Lectra’s Executive VP Sales, who named four topics to be key in the future of fashion:

  1. Technology
  2. Industry 4.0
  3. Millennials
  4. China

When it comes to technology the challenges and opportunities are bigger than ever. Virtual and Augmented Reality, the Internet of Things or Data Analytics are just some of the buzz words that Macquin mentioned to describe that technology has already and will further take over to optimize production processes.

It is therefore connected to what is now called Industry 4.0. To understand the latter it is easier when looking at the steps before and the industrial revolutions they intend: Industry 1.0 defined the industrial era when steam was used to make the machines work, followed by Industry 2.0 when electricity took over. Industry 3.0 was ruled by electronics whereas Industry 4.0 is dominated by a complex system of smart manufacturing using automation and data exchange. “It’s all connected, Industry 4.0 is about total visibility and transparency. Data starts to speak now, and it all leads from mass production to mass customization having consumers’ needs in focus,” Macquin points out.

Lectra - master fashion solutions.
Photo: Lectra
Lectra - master fashion solutions.

In terms of consumer groups the Millennials is the most important one, generating about “40% of retail’s business”, as Macquin says. What defines them is the search for quality, not quantity: “They look for high quality products. The problem is that the Millennials are not willing to pay for this high quality,” as Macquin puts it–creating a dilemma for the industry and brands. The Millennials tend to rather rent items instead of owning them, and they want the full user experience which means the seamless combination of all offline and online channels. 

Last but not least “China” keeps its position as the leading market. Macquin even talks about a “new China” and a “new Chinese consumer”. This is due to changing habits and production cycles: for example is China no longer mainly an export nation–while once the Asian country produced 75% for the export it is only 25% today. The main goal is to deliver goods to its domestic market, even transferring production out of China. At the same time the Chinese middle-class is evolving no longer focusing on shopping and luxury products only, but also exploring sports, domestic traveling and–in combination to the fashion sector–active and athleisure wear, all trends that are also led by the Chinese Millennials.