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The Fashion Industry of the Future

  • Richard E. Crandall
July/August 2017
This article is a sidebar to "Fast Fashion Speeds Up Supply Chain."

Because the fashion industry has evolved this far throughout the course of centuries, there’s no doubt that it will continue to evolve in the years to come. There are countless variations of the potential fashion industries of the future. Here are just a few:

Continuing confrontation: If conditions continue to evolve slowly, fast-fashion specialty stores will continue to eat away at department store sales. Supply chains will come under increasing economic pressure to reduce costs and response times. In addition, social pressures will increase to reduce negative environmental impacts and unsatisfactory working conditions.

Augmented acceleration: Gradual change will be replaced with disruptive change brought on by new forms of technology, especially in information flow and the short-distance movement of goods. These changes will put pressure on supply chains to transition to using these technologies, which may require breaking ties with suppliers who are not compatible with the new technology.

Social sustainability:  As concerns about environmental degradation and unsafe or unfair working conditions continue to emerge, consumers and end-suppliers will increase their efforts to correct the existing problems and design supply chains that can prevent surprises in the future. This may result in some reduction in geographically dispersed supply chains.

Economic equalization: Although there still are millions of people who live in dire poverty, it is generally true that economic conditions are improving in most of the world. As economic conditions improve, apparel sales increase. Countries that predominantly have been suppliers will increase their internal consumption. This also means that outsourcing in supply chains will become less attractive as wages in low-cost countries approach equilibrium with the sourcing country.

Culture conversion: Perhaps one day consumers will no longer view apparel buying as an exciting and fulfilling activity and instead will choose only quality items that they really like and keep wearing them for years to come. If this happens, supply chains can relax their speeds and focus on delivering quality items within a reasonable time frame. Or, consumers may instead decide to skip the retail model and start making their own clothes.

Total technology: Brick-and-mortar apparel stores will be more like service centers than sellers of finished goods. Shoppers can view clothing on a screen, with a video demonstrating the features and functions of the item, or don an augmented reality headset to virtually try on the item. From there, the consumer can customize the item and then enter a body-scanning compartment to have their dimensions scanned in order to ensure that the item will fit perfectly. Then, an additive manufacturing machine will produce the item while the customer waits. Alternatively, the shopper can opt to have the item delivered to his or her home via drone (Phillips 2017). Once the consumer no longer wishes to own the item, he or she can return it to the store for a partial credit, and the item will be shredded into scrap and recycled into a future item. For those who want more control over the process, a similar facility could be set up at home so that the consumer can 3D print items on demand. 


  1. Phillips, Erica E. 2017. “When Robots Take to City Sidewalks.” The Wall Street Journal, April 12.


  1. Adriana Mamuie November 01, 2017, 05:15 PM
    Could we have case studies examples?

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