Every Cloud has a Silver Lining - An Expert Opinion on Retail

BY ARIANNA CINI

Taking a look at the experts' opinion on the future of retail.

We have the honor of announcing that two very talented women, Muchaneta Kapfunde and Sophie Benson, have recently joined the panel discussions at LDC's The State of Retail for Independents event on the 4th of February. The free event will explore what the retail industry's future looks like in 2021 and beyond, after a tumultuous last year that sped up the rate of change in the industry. Let us introduce these two  new speakers:
 
Muchaneta Kapfunde 
is considered one of the leading influencers speaking and writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology; she has already given talks at events like Pure London, Premiere Vision, #FashionTech Berlin, Munich Fabric Start and Look Forward. Her extensive experience and accomplishments within the fashion industry led to the launch of FashNerd.com in 2015, one of the most followed digital magazine focused on the intersection of fashion and lifestyle with technology.

Sophie Benson is a freelance writer and journalist with four important focuses: sustainable fashion, workers' rights, the environment, and consumerism. What is a great credit to this journalist is the fact that she talked about sustainability from the very beginning of her career. Many editors were initially not interested in these topics, and Sophie's unique point of view allowed her point of view to stand out.

COVID-19 has completely changed our lives and everything around us that we used to take for granted; it’s an understatement to say 2020 was a difficult year for fashion; its landscape is undergoing drastic changes that will most likely be felt for decades to come. About 32.000 department stores closed, independent labels shuttered, and consumer spending tanked - what the fashion world has undergone can be considered a real existential crisis, which has put the fashion system to the test.

The fashion industry had to reinvent itself and it was done in the best way thanks to advanced technology. The help of technology in fashion was essential: we have to remember that thanks to this fashion weeks, which are the cornerstone of fashion, hasn’t been cancelled.
Another important point to which you should draw attention is that lots of labels had to adapt themselves to the new normal and were pushed into the new e-commerce era; in many countries the launch of online shopping hasn’t been easy because of underdeveloped infrastructure and the inability of consumers to use electronic payment. You can imagine that the change wasn’t rapid, but it was forced by COVID-19’s disruption.

“They have therefore retooled the fashion industry with technology designed to help them not only to continue operating but to also adapt to the new normal and build a more robust outlook capable of taking them forward.” - as the first speaker explains.
Another positive outcome that Muchaneta Kapfunde pointed out to us is that 2020 made fashion fluent in accountability and responsibility. According to her point of view, the real superheroes have been the innovators - we saw a great step towards innovation and the celebration of inventions that were not previously taken seriously.

Sophie Benson analysed another positive aspect of the pandemic crisis in her interview, which concerns the conditions of workers. She explained that. “there’s still a long way to go but we're on the cusp of better protections for garment workers. Remote working has also opened up the creative industries to those who've previously been priced out by the London-centric focus, and of course, you can't talk about 2020 without acknowledging the work and determination of Black people within the industry to unravel the embedded racism and create parity and opportunity.”

We are going in the right way, we were able to get the best out of the baddest situation and we hope 2021 will be even better! The key to making 2021 a better year is going into it with the right mindset; and this is the mood we have to keep.

There are lots of resolutions for 2021 and we talked with our speakers about them; both the interviewers underlined the importance of sustainability and recycle. Muchaneta Kapfunde suggested a very innovative idea for fashion: we are speaking about “Brands becoming the Netflix of fashion” - an approach that not only promotes the idea of not owning anything, but also pushes today’s retailers to take it a step further - as she explained. This model gives you the possibility to subscribe to fast fashion stores like for example Zara or H&M renting new clothes every month. Like Netflix you can subscribe whenever you want, and the best thing about that is the you can also cancel the membership at any time.

This system would create a new method within the fashion world: as we all know, it would be impossible to delete fast fashion chains permanently, but this new method would reduce consumption and improve the environmental impact.

Sophie Benson's vision for 2021 also focuses on recycling and sustainability; while Muchaneta Kapfunde presented an alternative method regarding the sales method, Sophie Benson focused on the way of production. “Brands need to think carefully about everything from pollution to packaging to ensure consumers don't feel environmental and ethical responsibilities are being shunted down the chain” - she explains, emphasising the importance of low environmental impact and sustainable packaging.

This very unusual year has shown us that every cloud has a silver lining and that together we can make a difference. Union is strength, isn’t it?
We are going in the right direction and hope that these small but big changes will go some way to improving our impact on the environment around us.

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