Serge Carreira in Bulgaria at ASVOFF 9, close to nature.
Dear Shaded Viewers,
Please read the lecture below between Serge Carreira and Premiere Vision Paris:
Consumers’ desires today are undergoing profound and unprecedented changes that fashion brands must respond to in order to remain desirable. Serge Carreira, head of emerging brands at the Fédération de la Haute Couture and lecturer at Sciences-Po Paris, provides an update on these upheavals.
The desires of consumers are undergoing a profound change, further accelerated by the recent period. How would you define it? And how does it manifest itself?
There is, more than ever, a demand for integrity on the part of consumers. It is a demand for transparency, consistency and accountability. This demand comes on top of an ever strong appetite for novelty. Fashion must combine accuracy, authenticity and creativity. Already, we can see that consumers are becoming increasingly selective, turning away from brands and retailers that they perceive to be out of step with these new expectations.
Has the virus only accelerated things or has it also been a revealing factor?
In fact, acceleration is the consequence of this awareness. This moment of forced pause will have led everyone to reconsider everything around us. There is a search for meaning, a need to make things useful.
Eco-responsibility now seems to be an essential, unavoidable parameter. What does it transform in the production chain and how should houses be transformed to adapt?
Environmental responsibility is gradually establishing itself as one of the determining criteria in consumer choices. This is becoming stronger and more established over the long term. And it is not simply limited to the nature of the textile, it is the entire chain that must adapt, from agriculture for natural materials to technological innovations for recycling materials to energy consumption in shops. For most houses, it is a question of adopting a global strategy. And it’s not just a question of image. While it may seem like an investment, it’s also a way to streamline systems and generate long-term savings. The houses hold the key to their development; in fact, their own interests meet those of the consumers.
Upcycling is also a rising value. How can brands adapt and fight back?
There is no opposition. The question of recovering unsold and waste is crucial. Apart from regulatory constraints, outright destruction, which was a way for some houses to dispose of their surpluses, is no longer acceptable, as some recent scandals have shown. Upcycling is a responsible creation and production process, but it is not the only one. It is undeniably successful and designers such as Marine Serre, for example, have made it one of their signature products. Houses are also adopting it to experiment with new ways of creating, following the example of Weston with its project to repair old models. Some brands, on the other hand, favor other modes of responsible development, such as innovative fabrics and natural fibers.
In addition, there is a growing movement towards more sober consumption. How should the fashion world adapt? By producing less? But better?
One of the difficulties is that the word “fashion” includes both designer brands and fast fashion, even though these two models are diametrically opposed. Fast fashion is based on volumes and low prices – sometimes with social and environmental costs – and on the acceleration of cycles. Creative brands, on the other hand, produce, for the most part locally, small volumes compared to those of the fast fashion giants, with long development and creation times. Global production, and therefore largely that of fast fashion, must definitely be reduced.
Many houses are engaged in these transformations, but isn’t there a communication deficit? Does the consumer know today what he is really buying and which houses to turn to in order to be in line with his convictions?
As in the world of food, there is a need for transparency. Brands are going to have to align themselves with these requirements. For them, the challenge is to find the right tone in order to share information on product traceability, while keeping a part of the dream.
On the other hand, there are still fashion addicts out there. Will their numbers be inexorably reduced? Changing behaviour is also a matter of pedagogy, who do you think is responsible for this?
There is still a strong appetite for fashion, especially among the younger generation. It’s not a question of decline, but rather the emergence of a more selective, committed and thoughtful mass consumption. New ways of “doing fashion” will guide behaviour.
Fashion is also attractive because it is synonymous with the avant-garde. Isn’t it strange to see it today overwhelmed by these developments that it has not necessarily anticipated?
Today’s transformations are unprecedented. From digital to the new expectations of consumers, many phenomena in gestation are accelerating. Some players may find themselves overwhelmed. The bankruptcies of several American distributors, well before the crisis, show that this was already happening. Some creators, in particular, are already at the forefront of today’s challenges.
In any case, many designers share this desire for change, particularly in terms of the pace of collections…
This question does not arise in the same way depending on whether the house has its own distribution network or not. In addition to the need for greater rationalisation of the supply chain, with in-depth development times at the service of creation, one of the major problems is the lifespan of collections in the stores. The constant anticipation of sales over the last ten years or so, particularly in the United States and in e-commerce, has considerably shortened the length of time it takes to sell at high prices. This generated an ever-increasing need for novelties to replace what was being sold off a few weeks after delivery. The idea of products that can remain undemarcated for several months is, however, beginning to be imposed by more and more design houses.
But the sales remain a long-awaited moment!
It is the distributors who have created this – almost addictive – dependency on customers who are at the point of sale, with the incessant need to make room for new arrivals. We need to restore the value of the product, its “fair” price. It must be revalued. The success of limited editions and strong products shows that consumers are willing to put the price up when the perceived value is high.
I am also thinking of the question of diversity, which is a major issue in today’s society, a question that has been largely avoided for years. Hasn’t fashion missed a major movement here?
For some years now, the sector has been undergoing a transformation on the issues of respect and diversity. Admittedly, much remains to be done, whether in terms of parity, equality or the visibility of diversity. It is first of all a question of changing mentalities. From this point of view, the younger generations are at the forefront. They are committed to issues of gender, acceptance of sexual orientation and respect for diversity. Beyond benevolent speeches, consumers expect action from brands but also from the media and advertisers.
Has fashion experienced such upheavals in the past? Do you think it is capable of adapting?
If a historical parallel could be drawn, we could compare the current period with the 1920s. Everything had to be rebuilt on the ruins of the First World War. It was a time of innovation, experimentation and creation that accompanied and amplified the evolution of morals and behaviours at the time. Modernism was a radical change from the world inherited from the 19th century.
Do you think these essential changes are compatible with what we all love in fashion, namely creativity? Is it a driving force or, on the contrary, a hindrance? Can fashion still make people dream?
I would say even more. If fashion is a dream, it is because through creation, it is able to reflect its times. Of course, we are obviously witnessing breaks with certain pre-established patterns, but it must, on the contrary, be a driving force to stimulate the imagination of designers. Only those who show agility in integrating the challenges of our time will continue to be desired.
In your opinion, what are the demos of fashion?
We can’t ignore the fact that the times to come in the short term will be extremely difficult. Nevertheless, I am convinced that what is happening is an exceptional opportunity for houses that authentically carry strong values such as design to find new opportunities.