FashionUnited takes a look at how the role of a fashion buyer is entering a new era, one where social distancing comes with a multitude of challenges as well as newfound social responsibility post Covid-19.
Normally, the job of a fashion buyer requires traveling to tradeshows, attending pre-collection showrooms and fashion weeks from London to Shanghai. Pre-pandemic, buyers would scout new trends by visiting stores and meeting emerging designers. Like many industries, the coronavirus has propelled the fashion industry to adopt new norms and digitize faster than ever before. With trade events postponed or cancelled, B2B trade has had to face new obstacles and having the right information has never been more crucial for fashion buyers.
Streamlined fashion calendar and quality line sheet/images
Tiffany Hsu, fashion buying director at Mytheresa said in a recent interview, “There is something special and magic about the amazing venues and the atmosphere of fashion shows that is hard to reproduce through digital. However, the Covid-19 pandemic led us all to reflect on ourselves and the way we live, and I think the digital fashion weeks are a great proof that the fashion industry is capable of reinventing itself and adapting digital innovation to best fit our needs today. However, I do feel market dates can be much more streamlined in the future to reduce the amount of back and forth traveling for buyers and sellers alike.”
When asked about what needs to be modernized or digitalised when it comes to buying, Hsu added that the quality of the line sheet and the images that are available to buyers has room for improvement.
Navigating digital fashion weeks
The starting point is data-To begin, buyers will be analysing any relevant data they have at hand to get a reliable overview of what is selling online, what has been marked down and for how long, and which product categories are performing. They will be watching London Fashion Week unfold via online presentations, conversations, films, live discussion, and podcasts. They will be monitoring social media influencers and voraciously reading and researching what the industry’s tastemakers are posting online and saying in the media.
Shared social responsibility as a buyer
As buyers all over the world had to cancel orders due to the crisis, the most affected were those working in the supply chain. Bangladesh, which is the world's second-largest garment exporter behind China, employs approximately four million workers in around 4,000 factories. Fashion retailers have come under heavy criticism since the outbreak of Covid-19 after many revealed they would be cancelling large orders from suppliers. “The factories may collapse. They will not be able to pay key costs and may not be able to run again. That’s a major problem,” Bangladesh commerce minister Tipu Munshi told ITV News.
There is also a new sense of “we” that will fuel a renewed debate about responsibility in the supply chain. After the coronavirus crisis, fashion buyers, brands, manufacturers and retailers will have little choice but to rethink their businesses from top to bottom.
Reduce overstock and the rise of resale
It is now the era of being a conscious consumer, where more and more people are becoming particular of the brands they are supporting. Over the past three years, reselling and thrifting has grown 21 times faster than the actual retail apparel market, which means that there are more secondhand shoppers than ever before. The demographic that is leading this change are millennials and Gen Z, with a 45 percent growth in buying second-hand in the past two years. The recent exponential market growth of resale culture may be a feasible solution to putting a cap on fast fashion’s devastating carbon footprint.
Post-pandemic, the traditional values of the fashion industry may become obsolete giving way to consumers placing a newfound value on sustainable fashion and the resale industry instead. Fashion buyers may find themselves sourcing vintage or unsold clothing to be reworked by designers to reduce overstock. A successful example by H&M has been it’s Hacked campaign-Dutch designer duo Van Slobbe and Van Benthum reworked leftover batches from fashion production and through collage techniques, embroidery-the pieces were granted a second life.
Global B2B Marketplace for fashion
In an ultimate attempt to unite the fashion industry and connect even more professionals, FashionUnited launched a B2B Marketplace providing apparel buyers with unique trend insights and brand collection overviews. The Marketplace offers an efficient and transparent online overview of what fashion brands have available in current and future collections. Everything focused on providing the best possible information for buyers in the fashion industry. Fashion brands can quickly and easily connect to the Marketplace with their existing B2B webshop from anywhere.
Images: courtesy of Tiffany Hsu / Mytheresa, courtesy of Trendstop