In the face of the new pandemic, bridal fashion companies have to prepare themselves to compete in a new environment marked by social alienation, accelerated digitisation and a reconfiguration of global supply chains. This is one of the results from the study “Bridal Fashion, Sustainable Style, Conscientious Business”, commissioned by VBBFW, which also warns that the bridal fashion industry has to start a transformation process so as to gain access to new demand sectors, not only by overcoming the digital challenge, but also by implementing processes focused on sustainability and ethical consumption to satisfy an increasingly conscious and demanding society.
The study “Bridal Fashion, Sustainable Style, Conscientious Business” that Valmont Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week has commissioned from IESE Business School professor José Luis Nueno, an expert in the fashion industry and doctor in Business Administration from Harvard University, has been carried out in collaboration with the wedding specialist website Bodas.net. The study was conducted through a questionnaire addressed to 2,597 newlyweds in Spain, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Brazil. At the same time, surveys have been carried out with entrepreneurs and professionals in the industry, so this study currently represents the most comprehensive document on sustainability in bridal fashion.
According to Professor Nueno, “Among many other consequences, the complex situation generated by Covid-19 has accelerated the process of digitisation that has been under way for some time and that the younger generations (Z and Alpha generation brides) will demand. In this context, companies and retailers must work together to find new ways to reach and create a positive impact on the end consumer. On the other hand, sustainability, he adds, is not a passing fad; it is here to stay and this fact has been confirmed to us by the consumer. It represents an opportunity for differentiation for many brands today and in the medium and long term it will be a “must have”. Those who have not yet started to work on it must seek help to gradually begin doing so”.
The crisis is driving a change towards sustainability
In facing the COVID-19 crisis, responsible consumption and caution are two values on the rise. In a cross-cutting way, society as a whole has verified the vulnerability of the planet and generated awareness about social and environmental sustainability. This context will mark the future and companies will have to compete in a new environment where it will be necessary to communicate the purpose of the brand and its commitment to the safety of customers, staff and the various stakeholders in the industry with the aim of proving sustainable to a more demanding customer.
In fact, the results of the questionnaires carried out with Bodas.net show that 18% of the newlyweds surveyed have acknowledged having paid attention to the sustainability of the product, buying a dress made with sustainable materials or being interested in the social and/or environmental commitment of the company. On the other hand, the majority (three out of four brides) believe that clothing brands should be responsible for what happens in the manufacturing process, and that they should take steps to ensure that the clothes are made in an environmentally friendly way. Some 93% of the interviewees consider that the work and decent salary of the company’s employees is the main variable in importance. This is followed by the brand’s environmental commitment (78%) and the use of sustainable materials and fabrics (77%).
Generation Z (those who are now between 18 and 30 years old) brides are the most active when it comes to searching for information on sustainable bridal fashion brands, tripling the number of searches carried out by their Generation X (between 46 and 60 years old) counterparts and buying dresses with sustainable materials. The younger Millennials (between 31 and 45 years old) behave similarly to Gen Z, while the rest assimilate to the behaviour of Gen X, showing less interest in sustainability issues. Therefore, over the next few years, as Gen Z establishes itself as the main customer in the bridal fashion industry, interest in sustainable clothing and the search for information about whether the brand meets its sustainability standards will grow.
Thus, if attention is paid to the changes that are taking place in consumer habits, a change of attitude on the part of the industry seems necessary because it is clear that the commitment to sustainability will be one of the differentiating factors in the future of companies. And although bridal fashion is still at an early stage in the process, we can already see the change in some companies that are adapting to the needs of demand: 40% of the surveyed companies declare that they have started the transition towards sustainable processes, 29% of them already have a specific department in place and 11% plan to do so in the next 3-5 years.
On the other hand, aware of the complexity of a multi-faceted concept such as sustainability and the difficulty of rapidly bringing about such diverse changes in the production chain, the study suggests that a first step for companies would be to partner with NGOs or other entities that lead projects related to at least one of the core themes of sustainability, joining their cause or participating in the realisation of some of their programmes.
Digitisation of the processes in the retail channel, a necessity
The study also analyses what changes need to be made to processes, not only by the companies that produce, but also by distributors and shops, in order to overcome this particularly complex time: just as the consumer will have to learn to live with the virus, so will the retail channel have to learn to “work with it”. In this sense, the study does not foresee a significant increase in the purchase of wedding dresses online as a result of COVID-19, but it does predict the need for a digital transformation, capable of generating a new experience for the bride in the purchase process, both in the initial search and selection of brands to visit and beyond, or creating virtual showrooms and prior appointments with stylists by video conference with the bride who will travel to the point of sale or atelier only at the end of the process.
In this context, there are also data that lead to optimism: according to the latest available data, almost all the weddings planned for 2020, which could not be held due to the health emergency, have not been cancelled but postponed. Another positive point for this industry is that all indications are that the dress will continue to be a priority among brides.
A new ethical paradigm
This is the fourth study that VBBFW has commissioned from Professor Nueno with the aim of offering updated information of high added value to professionals on the state of the industry, its perspectives of evolution and market trends. This year, the study focused on sustainability by analysing its role in the bridal fashion business and as one of the vectors of a new ethical paradigm, which considers respect for people and their environment to be the key to social development and consumption in the future. The VBBFW itself shares this vision and collaborates with the NGO Save the Children as an example of its involvement in issues that defend inclusion, diversity, child protection and human dignity, especially in the current environment, marked by the consequences of the health crisis.
On the other hand, the event has achieved a great promotion through its digital platform that has been launched this year to adapt to the situation generated by COVID-19, confirming itself as the leading international event of its speciality that, thanks to the application of technology, has allowed to give great visibility to the bridal fashion 2021 collections and has supported the industry in the revitalisation of the market at a global level.
Barcelona, November 2020
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