What's Next In The Fashion Industry? 2023 and beyond


Emily Lane, Bret Schnitker


November 22, 2022


Bret Schnitker  00:02

So transparency is a huge part of that people want to know, all the way up the supply chain, what's going on? You know, we had a big evolution in almost a revolution in food where farm disabled became like, that was the thing right farm to table. I was doing it. We're seeing similar things happening in our industry where people want to know Hey, who's growing the cotton, you know, is there Fairtrade certifications in that are are the sewers? You know, do we have certifications, and people that are watching to make sure that sewers and factories around the world are being treated ethically and fair?

Emily Lane  00:52

Welcome to clothing culture, a fashion industry podcast at the intersection of technology and innovation. I'm Emily lane.

Bret Schnitker  01:00

I'm Bret Schnitker. We speak with experts and disruptors who are moving the industry forward and discuss solutions to real industry challenges.

Emily Lane  01:08

Clothing culture is produced by Stars Design Group, a global design and production house with more than 30 years of experience. Welcome back to another episode of clothing culture, we are once again at the world headquarters of Stars Design Group, and I'm joined by Bret Schnitker. Welcome, Bret for this conversation.

Bret Schnitker  01:30

Thank you Em.

Emily Lane  01:31

So the concept for this conversation actually came from a recent visit at a university and we were meeting with hopeful, bright students of fashion. And at the end of that conversation, we had, I think, a really wonderful question. It's what's next in the industry. Everybody wants that crystal ball. Everybody wants to know what's on the horizon. But we are seeing some really exciting trends in the industry, and thought that this would be a really cool conversation today. So let's kind of start at let's talk about what's happening in the world of textiles and clothing. What do you see on the horizon, Bret?

Bret Schnitker  02:13

Definitely purple everywhere. Okay. I think you see, as we're we have this ongoing conversation about the evolution of the industry. And I think, you know, from a star standpoint, from conversational standpoint, with academics and people in the industry, technology is a huge trend that's going on today, it continues to be more and more and more integral part of apparel than ever before, not only in systems and production, but also in the integration into garments themselves. You know, we say in one of our presentations, it's not enough that a garment looks good or feels good anymore, everyone wants it to do something,

Emily Lane  02:51

even if they don't know what that something is, you're right.

Bret Schnitker  02:54

And that's pretty prevalent. But that technology and fusion is at all levels, even to the go to market strategy, the interface where the customer technology is interfacing our industry at a pace like never before. That's true.

Emily Lane  03:09

And it is amazing. That technology in the infusion of garments, some of the things that we're seeing with garments that can monitor health and correct posture problems and all kinds of things.

Bret Schnitker  03:22

Yeah, the fibers that we're using to accomplish that the evolution of those fibers that are going on, you know, there was a little known substance years ago called graphene. It's, it's one of the strongest substances in the world, it's basically kind of a single layer, cellular layer of kind of graphite, and, and they're using it at all types of applications all over the world, but it's found its way into the apparel business. And there's a lot of amazing properties that graphene can apply. In addition to providing a lot of strength. It also has a conductive element. So, you know, reading body information and things like that is not that far off in the too distant future.

Emily Lane  04:03

Yeah, additional science and fiber and materials used to make garments, we're looking at, you know, things that are lab grown now, absolutely. Mushroom leathers and all kinds of interesting things. It'll be curious to see at what point some of these materials are available at scale. Because right now, it's still pretty prestigious and tough to get your hands on.

Bret Schnitker  04:24

Yeah, I think that's one of the other big topics about you know, we talked about these big trends and, and two of the other ones are, you know, and they're really kind of a little hand in hand, they they mean subtly different things, but, you know, reducing environmental impact on the earth and sustainable practices. Everybody. You know, there was a statistic recently that talks that 80% of people want to buy sustainable, they talk about sustainable, they buy it, the reality is far different. You know, we've mentioned in previous podcasts that about 13% of the material that we use every year isn't ailable in anything sustainable at all. And so while there's a lot of exciting new innovations, from this eco friendly, sustainable kind of shift, they're just not at a scale that that we're going to see wholesale changes in our industry yet,

Emily Lane  05:17

are there any of these materials that you would consider are a little bit more available, I've heard a lot about spider silk and, you know, other Earth built materials,

Bret Schnitker  05:27

I would say the majority of them, just by nature of the percentage available, if you combine them all at 13%, are still really nascent in terms of scalability, we're seeing a lot of traction and recycled fibers. You know, I think the school's out on whether or not we're just pushing that issue down the road, or are really making an impact by doing recycled fibers. But you know, that's, that's gaining steam, it's, it's, it's probably the most tangible evolution for something that many consider to be more environmentally friendly. But others, you know, other other treatments, cellulosic fibers that can hopefully one day replace polyester, they just they've just got a ways to go before we see full scale adoption.

Emily Lane  06:15

Yeah, you know, the sustainability initiative is, of course of utmost importance, and one that is on everybody's minds, consumers want it as an industry, we're just not quite there yet.

Bret Schnitker  06:25

I think it's one of our biggest failures as, as, as an industry is, is accomplishing the needs that sustainability requires of us.

Emily Lane  06:25

You know, there was a staggering figure that we learned the other day, which was kind of looking at the arc of the number of garments being produced a year versus the number of garments being tossed in the landfill. And it was like, happening at the exact same rate.

Bret Schnitker  06:51

138 million metric tons end up in landfill from throwing away garments. And we're producing somewhere around 111, next couple years, 238 million metric tons of new product, right that's coming in, and we're throwing away about the same in landfills every year.

Emily Lane  07:08

So something that doesn't fill up landfills, of course, pixels. Sure, right. And one of the things that we've really seen on the rise is the metaverse coming into play, AI, AR all of these things, there's a whole new realm out there for clothing, I'd love for you to talk a little bit about how you see this fitting into the future of fashion.

Bret Schnitker  07:28

Sure, I think again, it's nascent and like with every nascent technology, it has its ups and downs, you know, NFT's are a rage now everyone that has bought an NFT, I think the values dropped precipitously. And I think as consumers really understand this whole arena a little bit better. And as applications evolve, where I've spoken in previous episodes, where an avatar can be moved from your Zoom meeting, to your Microsoft Game, and everywhere else, the avatar becomes an extension of you, therefore, buying apparel, as an extension of you becomes a lot more relevant. It's happening within games, it's happening in decentraland. And in other spaces, and there's a modification or monetization to that. And it continues to grow, there's some surprising revenue that's being thrown off from this whole digital twin conversation. And what I mean is the digital twin is, you know, there'll be a, you'll buy up a designer brand top, let's say in the real world, and then you will get an NFT so that you can own the digital twin, right for, you know, a virtual environment. And so, you know, as all of those technologies continue to develop, I think that that has every ability to grow exponentially, I think the brands that are well known, will fare the best to begin with. And, and it's an exciting space. You know, in the apparel industry, we're always going to far flung places, trying to keep costing reasonable working on, you know, making sure deliveries are happening. And we deal with all the crazy shipping logistics that's happening globally today, to be able to shift and get a little piece of that Silicon Valley action where you're actually creating digital apparel is a very exciting concept. So

Emily Lane  09:21

yeah, we always talk about, you know, being all over the world and having offices everywhere, and we don't quite have one in the digital space yet. Something we will have to figure out. Take a note. Yeah. So thinking about that digital space, you know, looking at AI and that influence on trend forecasting and even its ability to help personalize this shopping experience for a consumer. I think that that's another play that technology can have a strong influence.

Bret Schnitker  09:56

AI is going to be everywhere, you know, And it certainly finds its way into the apparel world, for sure, yeah, we, we have an integration in what we call a PLM project lifestyle management system that helps us walk through a ton of different product. And AI is used in that to help move things much, much quicker, you know, figure, you know, the computer learning, figuring out how to move major tables and fill fields much, much quicker. And, and we're gonna find that continuing to evolve through obviously, social media and marketing and, you know, and all of that type of thing.

Emily Lane  10:35

We even have aI having influence in robotics and manufacturing.

Bret Schnitker  10:40

Absolutely. You know, it's, it's, it's an interesting time, where many years human labor in third world markets were always less expensive than the investment in machinery, and robotics. There is a rapid change where robotics are now human labor cost has increased. And you find all over the world replacement of robotic assistance, supporting human labor everywhere. And, again, very nascent Lee, there are fully robotic facilities, but they're still putting together pretty simple garments. Sure. So

Emily Lane  11:22

there's still a lot of people involved. Yes, yeah. looking kind of now, the whole the industry as a whole, from a making standpoint, let's talk about transparency blockchain, we ourselves are involved in a big project to bring transparency all throughout the process for our clients. There is an increasing demand in this space, would you shed a little light on this?

Bret Schnitker  11:51

Well this is also an extension of the Sustainable conversation, because people are one of the arms of this whole sustainable initiative that's going on, you know, it's not only treating people more ethically, it's making sure that there is this constant ability to make sure that the sector is healthy. And and so transparency is a huge part of that people want to know, all the way up the supply chain, what's going on, you know, we had a big evolution in almost a revolution in food, where farm disabled became like, that was the thing right farm to table, I was doing it, we're seeing similar things happening in our industry where people want to know Hey, who's growing the cotton, you know, is there Fairtrade certifications in that are are the sewers? You know, do we have certifications, and people that are watching to make sure that the sewers and factories around the world are being treated ethically and fair. And, and so technology plays its part in that too, it hasn't been fully automated from the computer point of view, again, there are human interactions with that. But the assistance to be able to understand the whole supply chain in a much faster time than before, helps clients understand where they're at, in that whole chain understands where the source of some materials come. We had a conversation a few weeks ago in terms of some restrictions in cotton out of China. And so the ability to to trace, trace ability, even all the way up the chain requires technology,

Emily Lane  13:30

right? Yeah, I loved your your farm to table analogy. I mean, we we have a relationship with a leather producer, who is literally farm to fashion, which was quite an upstanding accomplishment in that space.

Bret Schnitker  13:45

You know, sustainability is one of these frustrating topics that I continue to talk about, because I just don't think we're far enough. And there's not enough, there's not enough availability, and it's very, very expensive. And the time is ticking, you know, time is running out, we've got to make massive changes. But but you do see these pockets of hope around the world where, you know, a billion dollar leather company decides to have an amazing sustainability initiative from California word and, and those are positive signs. And, you know, all these groups that we've spoken to Spinnova out of Finland and many others that that are that are fledgling innovations in fiber and sustainability. It's exciting. And maybe, maybe the future will be made up of a ton of these small to medium operations that together make an impact on our 111 to 138 million metric tons a year. And so, you know, we'll see what happens it just, you know, I remain hopeful that, that that stuff is happening.

Emily Lane  14:50

Well, I see hope, certainly in shifting consumer behavior. You know, we are seeing trends in the United States that are following that of Europe of, you know, wanting higher quality, wanting a deeper relationship with who they do business with. And, and so I think that having intentionality about what you're buying and the quality that you're putting into your garments and things of that nature, we're seeing an evolution in that space. And the consumers driving a lot of that,

Bret Schnitker  15:20

Again, it's, it's not to the level that I would like to see you, you have the offset of that of someone like Shein out of China where they pump out, I don't know, 10s, if not hundreds of 1000s of styles every week, it is just astounding a deluge of products. And while maybe certain countries are embracing the need for sustainability and have the awareness that sustainability is empirical has to happen. There's a shift in consumerism worldwide. And you know, we talked about China becoming the number one consumer in the world in a couple of years. And, you know, fast fashion is alive and well in that country, you know, for things to change, the global economic powers all have to get together and decide that this is truly something that's important. And that's outside of apparel, I mean, we probably represent 10 to 20% of the pollution that exists water pollution and air and all that, that exists in the world. So there are a lot of issues, but we are the second, I think, most polluting industry after oil, in general. So, you know, I think I think we just we've, we've got to understand that while there's these initiatives, where buying less product, evolving to a better price point, doing better quality, that European model, if you will, there is still that whole thing about fast fashion and consumer is. And you know, the other big trend that's going on right now is the Amazon effect. Right? Right. You know, everyone Oh, my God, you you order it, it's here tomorrow, some places, some places you order, it's here the same day, there was a comedian talking about, you know, that we want to have it delivered before we think we want to buy it. The ultimate goal, like it's AI is learning our habits, and it just delivers the product before you. That's when we'll finally end this madness. But you know, that is a behemoth that that shifts consumer behavior, that it's just so easy to get goods, you don't even have to get in your car, you don't have to drive and go shopping, you can just glance on line, click the button, and it shows up. And so there's a lot of yin yang going on, right in this entire industry. And, and I think that, you know, from my perspective, we have to decide, are we filling the gap of the sins of our past by doing recycling, etc? And trying to keep up to speed on that? How are we fixing the input? Because there's a lot of dress on output. There's a lot of thought about how do we do this, the the level of that shift is just not there yet.

Emily Lane  17:58

So when we were talking the future's so bright, we gotta wear shades. I'm feeling that this is ending on a rather bleak note Bret?

Bret Schnitker  18:06

Well, there are some wonderful cellulosic together building new sunglasses. So those will be biodegradable sunglasses in the future. So if you do want to wear shades, there is some eco friendly shades out there. Look, it's a complicated topic, we, as human beings, are using natural resource across the globe. And so, you know, how do we balance the use? And I think it was something like 1970, we passed the point of balance so many, many, many years ago. So it's not going to be fixed anytime soon.

Emily Lane  18:42

Right? Well, is there one other, you know, final spot of hope or brightness, perhaps that you see on the horizon of our industry that maybe we could wrap this up and tie it on a positive note today?

Bret Schnitker  18:55


Emily Lane  18:56

no? Well, technology is ever evolving, right? And

Bret Schnitker  19:03

I think, you know, we always like to joke that adversity breeds creativity. And so adversity brings technology, we will reach a point where there's enough groundswell, and there will be enough innovation to tip that scale, I think,

Emily Lane  19:17

and I have a feeling you're gonna be at the front edge of that you are one of those early adopter types. So I can't wait to have this conversation maybe a year from now and maybe things are a little brighter.

Bret Schnitker  19:27

Yes. So it's 10 or 15 years from now we'll be in like hazmat suit.

Emily Lane  19:32

Those will be made on fully recycled materials. Well. Well, thank you so much for this conversation. I really appreciate your insights even if they were a tad on the dark side. Don't forget to subscribe and stay apprised of upcoming episodes of Clothing Coulture

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What's Next In The Fashion Industry? 2023 and beyond