12 Questions on the Future of the Fashion Industry
Ten Kickstarter creators share their predictions for where apparel, retail, and wearable tech are headed in the coming years.
In honor of the dynamic community of designers, tailors, artisans, retailers, and fashion archivists on Kickstarter, we asked a group of creators to share their thoughts on where the fashion industry is headed. Our contributors—a smart-apparel innovator, the founder of a collection of nude bras for all skin tones, and the designers behind a versatile sports hijab, to name a few—shared some truly thought-provoking responses. Read on for insights about the future of ethical fashion, independent design, wearable tech, and more.
Veronica D’Souza: Founder and CEO of Carcel, a fashion label from Copenhagen, Denmark, produced by women in prison and made from 100% natural materials.
Cara Bartlett: Cofounder and CEO of VETTA, a line of curated, mix-and-match capsule collections promoting a streamlined wardrobe.
Breanna Moore: Founder of LaBré, an apparel line that “embodies West African and diasporic aesthetic,” handmade in Ghana.
Andrew Mobley: Founder of Mobley Denim, a line of selvedge denim designed and manufactured in the U.S.
Danai Pointer: Founder and CEO of TruNude, a collection of custom bras created to match any skin tone.
Fatimah Hussein and Jamie R. Glover: Cofounders of ASIYA Activewear, a line of sportswear created by and for Muslim women.
Luis Moreno: Founder of Mamahuhu, a line of leather footwear handmade by artisans in Colombia.
Sky Cubacub: Founder of Rebirth Garments, a line of gender non-conforming wearables and accessories for people on the full spectrum of gender, size, and ability.
Veronica D’Souza: Fast fashion is the second dirtiest industry in the world after oil. We need to slow down, make quality products that last, use better materials, and create sustainable supply chains for people and planet.
Cara Bartlett: The biggest challenge right now is accountability. With globalization and many brands chasing the lowest price around the world, the industry has extended its impact without extending its responsibility.
Breanna Moore: The industry needs to incorporate marginalized and non-mainstream styles and designs into the center, not the periphery, of fashion. Instead of replicating designs from developing nations, the industry needs to aid them through investments that will allow them to sell their original designs and get the necessary exposure.
Danai Pointer: I think and hope we’ll see more brands tackling issues of diversity, revamping antiquated labels, democratizing sizes, and customizing the fashion experience.
Fatimah Hussein and Jamie R. Glover: We see an opportunity for the fashion industry to recognize women from different cultures, such as Muslim women who wear a hijab, and provide an environment of inclusion.
Luis Moreno: Balance between quality, price, and social impact. The fashion industry is struggling to find the right spot. De-globalization will be the main question.
Madison Maxey: I think we need to solve the technology and manufacturing challenges that will enable smart textiles to get to scale.
Andrew Mobley: I think American manufacturing is going to continue to gain steam. The quality and pride associated with U.S.-made products has become a selling point for brands.
Cara Bartlett: I think the idea of a lean or curated wardrobe will be around for a while. The excess to fast fashion has had dire consequences on people and the environment, and shoppers still don’t feel satisfied with closets filled with cheap clothes that quickly go out of style.
Luis Moreno: Positive social impact on manufacturing. Customers will want to know who produced each item and what impact it had in their community.
Fatimah Hussein and Jamie R. Glover: Western brands are beginning to look to other cultures for design inspiration, which we believe could lead to different cultures being accepted more broadly and provide influence across the industry in the long term.
Sky Cubacub: I’m hoping the the current “trend” of representing folks with disabilities will stay, and eventually become second nature.
Veronica D’Souza: Transparency to customers, and quality over quantity.
Andrew Mobley: Small brands telling compelling stories will continue to grow and be successful. Consumers want to be part of a story, not just another number.
Danai Pointer: I think the issue of what “nude” means in fashion is a hugely underappreciated concept. It should be about representing all people and making them feel welcome and wanted.
Fatimah Hussein and Jamie R. Glover: Consumers are increasingly showing interest in seeing ethical practices in the apparel industry. However, they are still buying based on low price. The industry needs to provide a solution so that consumers can turn those values into purchasing decisions.
Luis Moreno: Traceable manufacturing.
Sky Cubacub: Plus-size fashion. Yes, there is more plus-size representation now, but it is not enough!
Madison Maxey: Hopefully we will start to perceive clothing as something ubiquitous and utilitarian. I’ve stopped saying “fashion” because making great clothes can be art (“fashion”), but it can also be design and problem-solving. I’m hoping that the latter concept will gain traction over time.
Veronica D’Souza: Underground and independent designers have always been there to shake the system or add inspiration. The internet, smartphones, and social media have opened a window for even the smallest design studio to show their work to the world. I think we will see a lot of new creative business models emerging this way, and remaining sustainable as well.
Cara Bartlett: Independent designers and direct-to-consumer brands can have more freedom to be creative and focus on delighting the customer, while larger, more established brands might have more incentive to play it safe and keep doing what’s worked before. With that freedom comes innovation, and independent designers can be creative in solving problems for their customers.
Breanna Moore: Although we aren’t able to reach the masses, we will set the trends that will be replicated by influencers at the top. It will lead to bottom-up change in mainstream fashion.
Luis Moreno: Local production and sourcing is the main trend being created by independent designers. They [often] don’t have another way to start, but they [soon] realize its huge positive impact.
Sky Cubacub: Rewriting ableist, sexist, racist, queerphobic, and fat-phobic beauty standards is the only thing that is truly groundbreaking. I think we as independent designers are the only ones doing this work.
Veronica D’Souza: Customers don’t only look to magazines for the “new thing”; they now look to bloggers and Instagrammers, too. The fashion industry is no longer season-specific, so traditional magazines and Fashion Weeks need to be able to adjust quickly.
Cara Bartlett: I think independent brands will become more serious players alongside the mainstream media. I can see a future where the major Fashion Week brands still show on the runways, but there [will be] other outlets for emerging brands — like the presentations we have now, but more organized and creative.
Breanna Moore: Mainstream media has already started giving independent creators and designers features and exposure. The next step will be to invest in and partner with them.
Andrew Mobley: More coverage needs to go to the up-and-comers. It’s so hard to become visible in this industry; all it takes is one shot.
Fatimah Hussein and Jamie R. Glover: The lens will need to broaden. Independent creators are contributing fresh [ways of] thinking that may require a more niche approach [to covering fashion] that ranges across cultures and geographies.
Luis Moreno: More inclusion of talent, less investment in being present at Fashion Week. More importance [given] to fashion startups.
Sky Cubacub: The mainstream fashion industry has to question its beauty standards and consider how much damage it does to the world. The fashion industry is a direct representation of who we as a society value in the world; this gives the it a lot of power, but it has all been wasted so far. We as independent creators will have to force the change.
Veronica D’Souza: Kickstarter has been a fantastic tool for us to launch our idea and get our first customers. Social media and access to customers worldwide will be our biggest tools in creating a market.
Cara Bartlett: I really love how Lenzing found a way to process Tencel fabric in a closed loop so that the solvents are recycled rather than being released into the environment. I think that fabric equipment and processes will be improved in the future to reduce environmental impact.
Andrew Mobley: The internet. New ideas are all around you.
Danai Pointer: I’d have to say the smartphone. There’s so much power in the palm of your hand, and so much innovation that can happen fashion-wise just by tapping your screen. We’ve thought of ways to do digital color-matching and make shopping for intimates easy and enjoyable using a smartphone.
Jamie R. Glover and Fatimah Hussein: The internet! We’re able to reach a global market with our sports hijab and connect with women around the world.
Luis Moreno: Kickstarter has been a great tool for us. It has allowed our brand to present itself to the world.
Cara Bartlett: I think wearable tech will play a bigger part in sports, both in athletes’ performance and in the experience of watching the game. I also think that virtual reality will make smart glasses more mainstream in the entertainment industry.
Fatimah Hussein and Jamie R. Glover: Everywhere!
Sky Cubacub: I hope that better prosthetics will be more accessible to folks who need them.
Madison Maxey: I’m hoping that we will just call wearable tech “clothing” — it should be integrated into our lives.
Veronica D’Souza: We are heading away from physical capitals and toward global communities. I think the next wave will be better characterized by a movement than a nation.
Cara Bartlett: There are some really cool fashion ideas coming out of major cities in Australia right now, like Sydney and Adelaide. I would also add Cape Town, South Africa; Stockholm, Sweden; and Los Angeles, California to that list.
Breanna Moore: Definitely West Africa and South Africa.
Andrew Mobley: I may be biased, but I hope to see some more coming out of the U.S.
Danai Pointer: I was recently in Kenya, and I learned about how much fashion is imported and how little capacity designers there have to develop their own brands. I think there is an appetite across the continent for African designers to create new lines, serve local consumers, and enter the global market. The fabrics, ingenuity, and craftsmanship I saw there are unrivaled, and I think there will be a lot of attention paid to African designers in the coming years.
Luis Moreno: Medellin, Colombia; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Barcelona, Spain.
Cara Bartlett: Consumers are starting to realize that fast fashion in its most extreme form creates poor-quality clothing that exploits people and the planet. Brands need to provide better alternatives by committing to responsibility, quality, and transparency.
Fatimah Hussein and Jamie R. Glover: Human rights and fair wages need to become a priority. We can’t sustain this industry if we don’t reassess how we approach the supply chain.
Luis Moreno: Positive social impact, traceable manufacturing, and eco-friendly materials.
Sky Cubacub: Human rights and fair wages. Fast fashion is killing […] people and the world. I think recycled fashion and custom clothing that lasts will become more and more important.
Veronica D’Souza: Social media allows for direct engagement with customers and brands. I believe the future is in having a dialogue about designs, process, and vision with customers, while still maintaining the mystery and surprise that fashion provides.
Cara Bartlett: There’s a really exciting movement right now around body positivity and loving yourself for who you are. The more brands can celebrate people’s differences, the better.
Andrew Mobley: Throw the norms out the window!
Breanna Moore: Provide opportunities through investments and partnerships with non-mainstream designers.
Danai Pointer: When fashion designers start to realize what women really look like, in combination with their enormous purchasing power, hopefully they will start thinking about ways to include them in the ideation phase and in the grander context of what is fashionable.
Fatimah Hussein and Jamie R. Glover: Fashion leaders can broaden their styles to be more inclusive of diverse body types and cultural preferences.
Sky Cubacub: I think empathy is extremely important […] Listen to actual disabled people. Hear what they have to say about [the clothing you’re making] and what changes can be made to be better for their bodies. Think not only about people with visible physical disabilities, but also those with invisible ones, emotional or psychological.
Veronica D’Souza: I believe strongly in the power of a global community [to foster innovation]. That’s not to say that institutions and organizations don’t have an important role to play, but I see the frontrunners as influencers, celebrities, magazines, and public and private institutions all over the world.
Fatimah Hussein and Jamie R. Glover: We admire brands like Patagonia, who emphasize quality over quantity and the value of a carefully managed, ethics-driven supply chain and manufacturing process.
Luis Moreno: Kickstarter.
Sky Cubacub: Sins Invalid, a QueerCrip performance art group. Their intersectionality is just what we need!
Veronica D’Souza: Power to the people.
Cara Bartlett: Thoughtful.
Breanna Moore: The East.
Andrew Mobley: Technology-compatible.
Danai Pointer: Individu-all.
Luis Moreno: Socially conscious.
Fatimah Hussein and Jamie R. Glover: Open.
Sky Cubacub: Slower.