2021 Outlook: Three Questions on Fashion

Ed.’s note: Our agency leaders recently took a beat to ponder their beats. The following is a look back on the year that was in fashion, and thoughts on what lies ahead for the industry in 2021.

What has this past, unprecedented year taught you as a communications professional most about the fashion space?

The fashion industry was in trouble long before the pandemic, but this year forced and accelerated inevitable change. From supply chain to production, from inventory to sustainability, from the grueling (and outdated) fashion calendar to New York Fashion Week, most facets of the industry had stopped making sense and were starting to unravel long before the appearance of COVID-19. The lack of diversity and inclusion in the industry was another topic fraught with peril. While there was no choice but to address these layered and very complicated issues head on this year, 2020 was a good reminder of how important communication actually is. Starting a dialogue, speaking up, questioning the status quo, taking action and coming together in solidarity is the only way real change happens. It’s refreshing to see the industry come together, globally, to problem solve and chart a new path forward.

What do you believe separated the struggling brands from the more resilient brands in fashion during this past year and why? 

Authenticity and accountability. This year has created a shift in all aspects of consumer behavior — how we dress, what we buy, where we work, and our core values. The effects have brought heightened consumer expectation from brands as the customer has become more discerning. Brands that have had the most success have stayed true to themselves, their community, their mission statement and their product offerings. Authenticity, transparency and accountability is what has resonated most and will continue as important tenets as we come out on the other side of this.

What will be the biggest communication opportunities for fashion brands in 2021 and why?

The answer for most brands, regardless of the industry, is digital. The adoption of all things digital has soared over the past year. Brands that were holding off on going fully online or only considering digital integrations had no choice but to reprioritize their investments. Beyond that, the fashion industry has always been about creativity, innovation and self-expression, and once we have the opportunity to get back together IRL there will be a huge amount of pent up demand to express ourselves through the clothes we wear — and the ones we bought during quarantine with nowhere to go! There will also be an explosion of personal expression as soon as we’re allowed to be together again and there will be endless ways for brands to capitalize on that. 

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