SUMMER 2018: PRONOUNCED
The most talked-about collaboration of the moment is the appointment of Virgil Abloh, the founder of streetwear sensation Off-White, as men’s artistic director of Louis Vuitton. This encapsulates the massive change taking place in fashion at the moment and shows how luxury brands are looking to the cultural energy and business model of streetwear to stay relevant.
The question everyone is asking is whether all this truly heralds a new age of luxury streetwear, permanently changing our understanding of clothes. Certainly a ‘Millennial mindset’ is taking hold across the luxury market. Generations Y and Z are now the main growth engine of that market, driving 85% of luxury expansion last year, according to Bain & Company. By 2025, they are expected to account for 45% of total luxury goods spending. Each generation has its cultural touchstones and Millennials are clearly more in tune with hip hop than red-carpet glamour. They want brands that reflect what they consider more authentic cultural associations.
What’s more, these generations were brought up on the internet; they live a socially networked life which streetwear, with its graphic visual approach and irony, can so much better reflect than formal fashion. We are also living in the age of drop marketing, with its constant flow of new product releases: street and athleisure are much better at providing a stream of novelty at Instagram speed than traditional luxury fashion. Most important of all, streetwear exists within a culture of collaboration, and collaboration models are one of the biggest factors driving innovation at the moment.
We have crossed the frontier. 2018 will see major growth in the use of Artificial Intelligence as a tool to re-shape the fashion business with major AI innovations to be expected in predictive forecasting, capacity planning, merchandising, automated production and delivery. However, the possibilities with AI go much further than that as developments move its potential way beyond the mechanical into the creative. For example, Amazon is on the verge of creating the first AI designer, with the development of an algorithm that designs clothes by analysing images, copying popular styles and using them to build completely new designs. Meanwhile, enriched data will allow for new opportunities in customer relationship management, improving customer insights and, last but not least, much more reliable demand projection thereby reducing forecasting errors. Twenty percent of executives who took part in the Business of Fashion-McKinsey Global Fashion Survey believe that the use of AI to “reinvent design, merchandising and marketing” will be an important trend. However, there is still a significant number who remain dubious about AI’s lack of flexibility and intuition for it to be a major player in fashion’s deep creative process. This division of thinking is at the forefront of our A/W 19/20 forecasts where we ask the question: “Should the fashion industry be led by algorithms?” and make a strong case for accidental fashion. Above all, we look at fabrics as tools serving fashion as a whole, enabling designers as well as users to mash up looks, to create their own interpretation of garments.