Let’s kick this off by talking about stock. If you’ve ever attended one of my Rockett Fashion events or a client strategy meeting, you’ll know that stock is an unimaginably huge problem in fashion. Just thinking about how much stock is in the stock rooms of just one store in one city makes me feel a bit sick. I actually started my journey into the fashion industry working in Harrods, and I can personally tell you that they have a huge amount of stock in teeny tiny stock rooms.
So, what have we learnt about stock in 2020? Well, I think the key learning is that uncertainty, unpredictability and unreliability hugely affect the prediction methods the industry relies upon so heavily. Is there a solution to this? Yes: make less, make better and utilize other methods of production. From experience, this is much easier said than done, but we can learn a lot from looking at the innovative methods that independent fashion brands take to produce, pre-order and manage their smaller, more efficient stock.
The second aspect that I want to talk about is risk. A lot of the work that we do at Rockett Fashion, particularly with our luxury fashion clients, is to talk about risk management and mitigation. As a business it’s essential to take risks but still important that they’re controlled and informed. You need to make sure that decisions made align closely to your values, the vision for your business, and your mission. If you stick with your purpose, your plan, and your target audience then you are automatically reducing your risk.
Up at number three is adapting. You might know the sales strategy, marketing tools, and approach which worked for your business in February 2020, but have those methods had to change since then? What have you done different in the months since, what changes have you made, and why? If you want to make it in fashion, you must be able to adapt, to change the way that you sell when we face another lockdown, to change the way that you market when Instagram and Tik Tok are constantly competing with each other.
Our number four lesson of 2020 is our reliance on the outdated systems in fashion. This links closely to adapting, stock and risk. A lot of fashion brands rely on sales through wholesale which are placed every six months after a showcasing period. Buyers then order from you, typically give you a deposit for the production, and then you deliver to them a few months later. The main issue with this is that designers usually end up with really small margins. If we learn one thing from 2020, it would be great if designers could see the potential to move away from the wholesale system towards more direct-to-consumer and commission-based sales, so they can make more money from each piece.
We’ll finish up nicely with point five: digitisation. I for one completely underestimated the digital system which existed before 2020, it wasn’t until this year that I actually understood how many amazing tools we have available to us. This might have included anything from design software, AR and VR try-on methods, digital sampling, to selling your garments in games. As someone who doesn’t have the first clue about the world of gaming, this one thing that I’ve had to spend some time getting my head round this year!
Personally, I’ve started to make a note of what I’ve learned each month, and I’ve really enjoyed the process. Having launched my businesses in January and March 2020, I’ve learned a huge amount in the year that inverted a lot of what we knew and understood about our lives. A huge amount of change in the industry has been accelerated by the pandemic and hopefully this will give the fashion industry the boost it needs to shift towards a more sustainable future!