• Circular Economy
  • Manufacturing Supply
  • Digitization
  • Apparel Industry

Staying Ahead in the Fashion Race: Who Will Be the Mass Customization Winners?

Vincent Hoen
Nov 21, 2018

Connectivity 5

This blog was co-authored by Maurice Quant

For decades, the apparel industry has been relatively unchanged. Vertically integrated apparel brands and retailers have dominated the market and customer choice has been limited to what is offered in stores and online. In recent years, digitization, changing customer needs, sustainability, and new technologies have opened a window of opportunity for the apparel industry to transform itself. Five key trends have emerged that mark the beginning of the industry's transformation.

Five Major Trends Transforming the Fashion Industry

Fast Fashion

Established apparel brands, such as C&A, H&M, and Zara, are continuously releasing new garments for affordable prices. Driven by marketing and trends, fast fashion drives brand awareness and creates a customer urge to buy new products and visit shops. Whereas the traditional production cycle used to be 6-18 months, fast fashion retailers can produce new garments in as little as 1-5 weeks.     

Online Platforms

The apparel market space has broadened itself with the emergence of e-commerce as an additional sales channel to brick and mortar. Consumers are increasingly buying their clothes through online platforms, such as Amazon, Boohoo, and ASOS. Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are struggling to keep up with the comfort and ease of online shopping. Besides retail, the emergence of the sharing economy has also given rise to digital trading platforms, such as Villagelux or Swapstyle, where users can connect and share clothing items. 

Customized Tailoring and Size Measuring

Besides some brick-and-mortar retailers, e-commerce companies are focused on customized tailoring/size measuring. ZOZO, a Japanese company previously known as Start Today Co, enables custom clothes via an app and body scanning suit. Similarly, Gap’s DressingRoom app allows customers to try on clothes in augmented reality. Amazon patented an augmented reality mirror using technology allowing for remote body scanning. MTailer allows consumers to scan their size using an app. Within 5 weeks customers receive their new garments. Customized manufacturing may lead to a higher speed to sale, fewer unsold items, less discounting, and a stronger relationship between seller and buyer. Customized tailoring companies prefer higher manufacturing and delivery speeds but still largely rely on traditional manufacturing. On-demand manufacturing may offer solutions. 

On-Demand Manufacturing

Another disruptive trend shaping the apparel industry is on-demand manufacturing. Bombsheller, a Seattle-based clothing company, produces leggings on-demand. Hence, it keeps no inventory or overstock and minimizes manufacturing waste. The company aims to create fashion that is sustainable and better suited to the customer. On-demand manufacturing fits in a sustainable future where less unsold stock is destroyed, a common practice for luxury brands.  

Circularity and Transparency

Lastly, circularity and transparency has become a tool for fashion companies to reduce risk and appeal to new client segments. Over 150 companies have committed to the circular economy and companies are developing new business models accordingly (e.g., Noronna, Avalane, Looptworks, Better World Fashion). The focus on better upcycling and recycling has led to an increased need for detailed insights in materials and transparency.

The apparel industry is undergoing major changes that will shape it in the 21st century. Just like in the printing industry (e.g., Cimpress), this may lead to the emergence of a mass customization online platform. With changing customer preferences and environmental pressure, fashion companies will have to rethink the way they serve their customers. Navigant will soon launch a full report on trends and innovative business models in the apparel industry. 

For any questions please reach out to Vincent Hoen or Maurice Quant