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Mar 09, 2022

It will not be
business as usual

Where does the future of the industry lurk? How did we get here? And are we any better off for it? These are just some of the questions everyone asks now, in fashion. Actually, the pandemic has changed how we think about globalisation and raised questions about its future. As the Director of Education at London’s Istituto Marangoni, I took on questions from the Kemmler Kemmler creative agency, tackling everything from what the new post-coronavirus consumer behaviour looks like, to the rise of second-hand and subscription markets.

KK: It might be useful to begin thinking about the day after Covid-19. What will the new post-coronavirus consumer behavior look like?
AAM: On the consumer level there has been much talk that the pandemic will shift overall behaviour, but I think this discussion has gone too far. It is very unrealistic to assume that a health crisis, no matter how large, will fix the many failures in corporate policy that exist in our society, or enhance rational consumer behaviour in any meaningful way. For example, there was an overhyped discussion around revenge shopping – the idea that people would over-consume following lockdown in order to make up for the time they missed – but in realty this ended up being very temporary and not substantial to base any future prediction about it.

KK: In your opinion, how did the pandemic affect how and where people choose to shop?
AAM: Although there has been an expectation that the pandemic will intensify online shopping, this is not the whole story. More and more consumers have started looking for different ways to engage with the experiential side of retail, which has led to the boom in virtual fashion, NFTs and other forms of digital identity. Meanwhile, physical retailers must now rethink their business models to ensure that post-pandemic stores offer not only safe shopping environments, but smart and experiential ones as well. In short, the physical and digital worlds need to work together – not compete against each other – if they want to move forward.

KK: How has the growth in second-hand fashion on one end, and luxury on the other, affected consumption habits?
AAM: As consumers are becoming more aware of sustainable and responsible aspects of retail, their voices have become stronger, which is great. Consumption habits already started shifting before the pandemic hit thanks to the increased availability and emergence of new markets, such as second-hand and subscription, which disrupted various areas of retail. Concepts like the sharing economy and collaborative consumption have been shaping that consumer behaviour, yet it is difficult to predict where this going to end up, as the whole “circular” business model is currently under question in terms of its ability to actually create more responsible practices.

KK: What will be the biggest blow for the world economy?
AAM: The increase in government debt resulting from the economic bailout packages during the pandemic will push inflation even higher, which, in my opinion, is one of the biggest threats. This will be the biggest blow for the world economy, as costs of living will be drastically increased, and discretionary spending will be squeezed. We have started seeing that in various Western economies, accompanied by a decline in the currencies of emerging markets across several South American economies and in Turkey, for example. Interest rates will increase overall, and we have seen the UK moving in that direction in recent times. This will put more pressure on purchase power as consumers are hit by a decline in the value of their money.

KK: How do you see advancements in Artificial Intelligence, VR and Augmented Reality starting to affect the fashion industry?
AAM: The fashion industry has been reactive to advancements in technologies, and this has been felt strongly in areas where AI and mixed realties have affected the way business models and value chains work. Data is crucial; it is not just a helpful tool anymore, but a resource that directly feeds into how fashion brands perceive value – and how their value as a company is perceived. We have also seen recently how the LVMH, Richemont, and Prada groups have collaborated to launch a blockchain platform tracking the life cycles of their products, and we might see more collaborations of this type in the coming years.

appeared on

Abdullah Abo Milhim,
Director of Education, London