Is contemporary independent fashion the future of the fashion industry?
Over the past few years, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the fashion industry.
When global lockdowns were enforced in March of 2020, 27% of consumers said that they planned to spend “somewhat” or “a lot” less on luxury and fashion items that they had previously budgeted for. This is according to a survey by shopify.com. Though the luxury fashion scene was somewhat stunted, fast fashion brands saw an average of 33% growth during the second half of 2020, globally renowned fast fashion brand Sheins’ valuation doubling to over £24 billion, making it the world’s largest online-only fashion retailer.
But what about the brands that are in-between luxury and fast fashion? What about contemporary independent fashion? But first – what is contemporary independent fashion?
Let’s break it down.
Contemporary fashion is clothing that is accessible, both in price and in the way that people wear it. The contemporary fashion market contains more modern-style clothes, often a bit more current and younger than its high-end, luxury counterpart. It is often a blend of what is trending and what is created by its designer.
Independent fashion, whilst often against the ethics of fast fashion is not ‘anti-fashion’, but instead fashion conducted by those who wish to retain creative control of their work whilst developing and favouring close personal connections with peers and consumers.
Compared to global fashion houses, contemporary independent fashion brands are a little bit more under the radar. If global fashion houses are diamonds, then contemporary independent fashion brands are rare crystals – all unique and equally beautiful. Many of these independent fashion brands have been started by designers with clear motives and beliefs. Fashion has told a story but more recently, fashion is beginning to tell stories. Stories of transparency.
ELLE magazine listed 100 independent fashion brands, all with one common theme: combating mass production.
Sustainable fashion has seen a massive influx in recent years, consumers choosing to abandon trends and support brands that are actively combatting mass production both ethically and sustainably. 34% of consumers began shopping sustainably this year (2022) for environmental reasons, 81% of consumers saying they prefer to buy from brands who have sustainability at the forefront of their brands mission.
Though not every independent fashion brand’s sole mission is to be sustainable, through their mindful creation process and uniqueness, each item is immediately more sustainable. Consumers will invest in the uniqueness, the designer themselves and the story behind it thus purchasing an item that is no longer expendable. Contemporary independent fashion brands stop throw-away culture in its tracks by creating pieces that are exactly that – contemporary and independent – modern and rare.
Independent fashion designer Bill Skinner has had experience in both worlds, working with globally recognised brands including Van Cleef & Arpels, Asprey and Vivienne Westwood. Now, with his own small jewellery brand based in Kent, Bill said in ELLE magazines’ list of ‘100 independent fashion brands to shop now’ that “the unconventional and interesting are often the most beautiful and admired”.
In this same article, independent fashion brand HADES stated that “mindless consumption is ruining the fashion industry” and that “the pressure to endlessly churn out more commercial collections is being prioritised over creativity and quality”. Because of this, independent fashion brands have flourished in the sustainable fashion realm with people preferring to invest in unique designs that will be life-long editions to their wardrobes.
With this being said, 43% – nearly half of UK consumers – believe that independent fashion companies could do more to be available online as opposed to in store. There is still a long way to go before contemporary independent fashion brands become to go-to and marketing can play a huge role in this.
We have seen the downfall of major fashion brands – Arcadia, owner of Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, Debenhams, House of Fraser and most recently, online store Missguided. Many retailers have been forced into administration due to coronavirus lockdowns as well as other financial hurdles, but as mentioned at the beginning of this post – more companies have been expanding due to online marketing.
Late 2019, TikTok was introduced. A short-form video content app that has taken social media by storm. With over 1 billion active users, small businesses have achieved overnight success from behind-the-scenes video content, hopping on ‘trends’ or simply sharing their products. In fact, social media is one the best free online marketing platforms there is, particularly for contemporary independent fashion brands building connections with their consumers and breaking the status quo.
So, what is the state of contemporary independent fashion brands? A continued evolution of what fashion should be. The future.