Paris – Political and economic situation, figures on the evolution of the fashion market, potential for recycling and second hand… On Thursday, December 1, 2022, the fashion ecosystem was invited to the annual seminar of the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) to “rethink fashion”. Rethinking, reinventing or literally “rebooting” a system that (definitely?) no longer works as before.
“Covid, war in Ukraine, energy crisis… Today, can we continue doing business as usual? asks Lucas Delattre, a former journalist now a professor at the IFM, handsome presenter of this seminar. “No, answers the first guest Alain Frachon, a journalist for Le Monde. It is the end of the golden age of globalization, the verification of our dependence on certain products and, by extension, the rise of protectionism”. How to change the business fashion situation so far based on relocation and import? Undoubtedly.
“Everything, everywhere, all the time, probably already happened immediately and we must prepare for two years of recession”, explains the second speaker, Denis Ferrand, CEO of Rexcode*, who gave a relentless explanation of the current concern: inflation. “During the confinement, everyone stopped producing but the income was maintained. Result: post-Covid, people wanted to spend, companies wanted to invest, except there were few, if not more, products on the market. The tension in the supply generated a slide in prices, which became a shock with the energy crisis”. However, CQFD Denis Ferrand weighted his showing with the fact that today, with stagnant demand and rising supply, prices will necessarily start to fall again. According to him, inflation should not settle beyond 2023.
What lessons can fashion professionals learn from the geopolitical and economic situation?
The clothing market slowed down in 2022: €26 billion compared to €27.8 billion in 2019 (the only reliable comparison year). Before proposing lines of thought for the future, Gildas Minvielle, director of the IFM’s economic observatory, indicated the result of quantified studies, capable of guiding fashion actors. Among the positive facts pointed out by this professional, we can mention: the renewed momentum of department stores (+35 percent), which is understandable given that the international clientele has returned; the increase in male demand (which occupies 30 percent of the market share compared to 50 percent for women); and a growing average basket seen by 53 percent of merchants.
This enthusiasm must be weighed against other data: store traffic and conversion rate are down (47% and 50% of retailers respectively): independent multi-brands, department stores and hypermarkets blame strong declines (19.4%, 11.1%, 17.8% percent) even if sales of pure players and those of large distributors increased (+1.7 percent for both).
Forget the growing years, show resilience, reinvent yourself, show solidarity
Among the new perspectives, Gildas Minvielle points to the boom in second-hand clothing (38 percent of retailers have implemented it), recycled clothing (36 percent) and rental (9 percent): “In By 2022, 44 percent of consumers have purchased an eco-responsible product, 42 percent are concerned about potential product toxicity, and 38 percent have environmental concerns.” Could the near import route be the way to go? No, because although Gildas Minvielle notes a drop in Chinese imports, they rank second in volume (19 percent), just behind Bangladesh (28 percent) and ahead of Turkey (13 percent). to make you dizzy… Actually, the explanation is simple: the French are full of good intentions but, when the time comes to pay, they no longer have the same frame of mind. Don’t we say “the French have their hearts on the left and their wallet on the right”?
According to Franck Lehuédé, director of studies and research at Credoc**, purchasing power remains THE main concern of the French. The economic situation has deteriorated, especially among the most modest populations (-1,500 euros per month), single-parent families, but also, and this is what worries this specialist, among families, artisans, merchants, and businessmen. The French are asking questions about income policy, and social media, flooded with posts about the high cost of living, bear witness.
Also the famous “consume less” does not necessarily mean “consume better”, but also “consume even cheaper”. The proof ? Made in France in fashion represents 3 percent of purchases, while hard discount is gaining market share. All this amounts to a questioning of our consumer society and an observation: the French have monopolized second-hand products, 38 percent of them to be precise. A reality that the fashion ecosystem will have to take into account.
From the era of possession to that of use through upcycling and second hand
To remedy the fact that upcycling does not benefit from a glamorous and dreamlike image, the IFM invited Leopolda Contaux-Bellina, founder of Sed Nove Studio. His poetic presentation intended to demonstrate the intangible value of upcycling: “Upcycled clothing bears witness to a history, it is based on the sum of the values that precede it (the original with the raw material, know-how, the prestige of a brand… ).” And to cite fashion phenomena such as bootleg (reappropriation of what brands do to create a new product), logomania or even the event facet, and therefore rare, of an upcycled capsule.
On this subject, Jean-Marc Bellaiche, president of the Printemps Group, of course echoed his Second Life space, boulevard Haussmann. “They call me Mr. Wow because, in my opinion, you have to find the wow effect of the in-store shopping experience,” he says. To re-enchant him, he counts on the rise of second-hand skills, but also on restoration, the humanization of customer service and a live shopping channel orchestrated by his personal shopper.
The 2022 seminar obviously addressed the issue of digital (the good use of Tik Tok, web 3.0) in addition to other topics such as the relationship with beauty or the effects of the Covid zero policy in China. However, the conclusion was for Fanny Moizant, founder and president of Vestiaire Collective, as an invitation to consider that circularity is, for now, the path that fashion must take to reinvent itself.
With 24 million members in 80 countries, $1.7 billion in sales, five million catalog items, and a market that has tripled in the last two years. Vestiaire Collective, the eleventh French unicorn, stands out as a path to the future. “Vestiaire Collective took advantage of its dusty side and inscribed the codes of luxury (photos on a white background) and did many curations to create an inspiring universe”, explains Fanny Moizant. I dream that the second hand can compensate the sale”. To do this, the manager has launched several projects: offer solutions to brands to accelerate their own circular economy; no longer resells fast fashion items; be implemented in the chain of blocks that will allow the traceability of clothing through a digital identification; lobbying the Ministry of Ecological Transition…
Does activism pave the way for the politicization of fashion? Answer in a future article regarding a study, presented this Thursday, December 1, in advance, by Caroline Ardelet and Benjamin Simmenauer, IFM professors.
Reexecode: research center for economic expansion and business development. Credoc: research center for the study and observation of living conditions. Sed Nove Studio improves idle leather stocks through experiential workshops.