What Will Fashion's New Normal Look Like?

Undeniably, the global pandemic has brought humanity a lot of terrible things. But it also gave us a fantastic opportunity to look in the mirror and assess what was truly going on in our homes and in our businesses. With an unobstructed view, one of the biggest realisations for many fashion-lovers was that the fashion industry should no longer continue as it had before the pandemic. Millennials the world over are now calling for a radical shift towards a new normal for fashion, one that is inclusive, sustainable, and circular.


Lockdowns helped accelerate the demand shift towards sustainable fashion

Once people came to terms with the reality that lockdowns were here to stay, it became harder and harder to justify spending dollars on items that may only get worn a few times, if at all. Physical distancing measures also kicked us all into a new reality of virtual experiences. Everything from meetings, job interviews, dates, weddings, and now even fashion shows are being hosted online.The loss of events and opportunities to enjoy fashion showed itself through pop-culture memes and a popular TikTok trend with women sharing outfits that they love but couldn’t wear this year:

Now, with vaccines finally rolling out across Hong Kong and the world, many have been left to wonder, what changes are here to stay and what the future of fashion looks like? 


Radical shifts in motion before the pandemic that are here to stay


The end of ownership as we know it

The shift towards non-ownership models started before the pandemic driven by a growing appetite amongst younger generations to enjoy more quality and variety in their style while embracing sustainability. The market is expected to double in size by 2025. And Startups across the world like Rent The Runway, Style Carousel, Gwynnie Bee, Le Tote, and more have driven acceptability of renting and provided consumers unparalleled access to this new type of style experience.


In more and more fashion categories, savvy and stylish consumers are choosing not to own items, and instead rent clothing, dresses, and bags. Think of the way that Netflix replaced video stores. This is the fundamental evolution that is taking place today in fashion and will continue to shape the industry in the years to come.

Digital experiences will define how we interact with fashion

With so many of us rotating between our small screens and big screens during this pandemic, it’s no surprise that digital adoption has soared during the pandemic.


Luxury brands have been making a shift towards digital experiences for some time, but this has accelerated at an unprecedented rate, and for the first time we were able to enjoy digital fashion show experiences from top fashion houses. Chanel unveiled their first online fashion show to replace the cancelled Cruise show in Capri in the summer which also spurred a variety of other brands to follow suit.


As online experiences become the new standard, consumers will continue to demand more sophisticated and engaging digital interactions.



Social justice and fairness

With garment workers and in-store sales staff working on the front-lines of the crisis with little to no compensation for their efforts, consumers have increasingly become aware of their plight and demand changes towards a more equitable future for all in the fashion value chain.


This momentum for change has been fueled by grassroots campaigns across the globe to end exploitation. These in-person and online campaigns have influenced more consumers to demand dignity, security and justice for fashion workers while directly lobbying their favourite brands to do better. 


Consumer activism will continue to be a key change-maker in the industry for years to come.



Changes that will soon become the new normal


A recent report from PayPal shows that nearly 50% of fast fashion retailers have reported a decrease in customer purchases as consumers prefer brands that take actions to be more environmentally sustainable. This trend will continue with every brand across the fast-fashion and luxury spectrum taking actions towards sustainability.



Circular business models will no longer be optional

More and more consumers demand a circular experience with their fashion. This is putting pressure on brands across the spectrum to think about enabling ways to return purchases after they have been worn by customers. Armed with more data than ever before, consumers are sceptical of big brands making circularity claims and have started to question the sustainability of initiatives like H&M’s garment collection program


With more brands following H&M’s model, having a circular business model will become a standard in fashion. The key differentiator between brands will be the quality of the circular experience.


“As soon as some brands enable great ways of returning your garments into a circular cycle—not having to carry them back to the store but having them picked up, without any hassle, at your doorstep—and with a brand actually knowing what you have in your wardrobe, bidding for that, and sending you reminders of what would be great to bring back into the circularity cycle, then the experience will become so pleasant that mass participation of consumers will happen.” - Karl-Hendrik Magnus, Senior Partner at McKinsey

The new normal for fashion 

Our normal is evolving at a pace unheard of before. Despite the many challenges ahead, the fashion industry is shifting towards greater acceptability and standard of sustainability.  Our new normal for fashion is one that was long overdue and is warmly welcomed.

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