We are witnessing a shift at this time in the fashion industry, a rapprochement to the tech industry, opening up opportunities in distribution and marketing models that were not possible before the internet. From the fashion industry side, we've barely tapped into the potential of this alignment. The challenge is finding a way to introduce the concept of endless possibilities to the fashion community in terms of technological tools and innovations, and the endless possibilities of branding through design (back and front end) to the tech community getting their toes wet with fashion companies.
Fashion companies are accustomed to the idea of "anything is possible" in terms of realizing a creative vision, but when it comes to compromise concerning industry pain points, there is a consensus that generally accepts things to remain the same. Why can't we imagine our businesses with the view that anything is possible– design our businesses with the same precision and care with which we design our garments?
Emerging product based technology doesn't need fashion designers for the time being because the most important and relevant innovations are in the health and fitness realms where tech-y looking things are ok. The innovation in online platforms is mostly coming from the tech and business side and acting as distribution models or branding 'basics' by adopting an existing aesthetic identity and ameliorating the experience through technology/online. There is an available space here for brands with unique and distinctive creative identities to step in, answer to a lifestyle and also define the direction of that lifestyle by carrying it into the future. That being said, there has to be a point of entry, a place for the consumer to connect with the product from where they stand, but for the brand to take the consumer away from the predicted trajectory–the rote of the fashion cycle, for example–and into a better and more highly designed, curated, and cared for experience.
What is the difference between a brand and a distributor?
A brand has to have a creative ethos & a specific customer they create products for a lifestyle. It's about the aesthetic and the narrative.
A distributor speaks to a specific lifestyle through its curated selection of products from a variety of wholesalers. It's about range and customer experience.
Naturally, a bridge of similarities exists between the two and the obstacle is the status quo of how products reach the end consumer. Technology offers the chance to create a model the benefits of both: reinforcing the brand identity through the methods of lifestyle curation pioneered by distributors.
What can the brand do beyond the creative ethos to add value?
A distributor focuses on experience, and hierarchy amongst distributors is determined by the quality of service and the level of personalization. Distributors take on characteristics of a brand when they capitalize on consistency. The narrative power of the distributor is in the brands they use to help tell their story. Again, rather than existing as two separate entities, the benefits of each to the other can be realized in one hybrid business model.
If the brand could provide a service that became a powerful acquisition tool, the product can tell a narrative that strengthens the ethos of the distribution model. It's something like a perfect storm of design, experience, online, offline, service, and communication. Empowering the business to prioritize all of these things through the use of technology. In places where digital can be more effective than brick and mortar, for example, the online experience will differentiate itself from the offline experience and already create two different demographic appeals.
That bridge between brand and distributor is as real as the bridge between fashion and technology, but we're still swinging across the divide one by one, and even then it's only a brave few. In many cases I believe the fashion brands of the future don't exist yet and what we know of the industry today will get stuck in it's own vicious cycle. We adventure and explore more easily with lighter loads, so if brands start experimenting while small and agile rather than follow the predetermined business model of fashion brands which seems more certain at the time, we'll see some exciting changes in the way consumers engage directly with brands to get their hands on beautiful things while sharing a beautiful experience.