Changing Consumer Needs and the Future of Fashion Business
Rapid international apparel trade liberalization has led to a complete decoupling of apparel manufacturing and marketing. Manufacturing companies in developed countries have been transformed into marketers and retailers. Large retailers have created hugely successful apparel brands with limited or no manufacturing operations. Manufacturers in Asia are increasingly looking at their national, more profitable, markets. The linear relationship between design, quality and price has been completely lost as consumers today are faced with a vast array of choices when it comes to buying clothes. The internet, blogs and the phenomenon of urban “tribes” are already causing fundamental changes in how consumers perceive fashion. Also, these consumers are increasingly aware of, and sensitive to, ethical manufacturing and environmental issues. Apparel businesses have some time to reflect on these developments as, after two years of turbulence, apparel manufacturing and international trade has reached calmer waters. The 24th IAF World Apparel Convention, to be held in Maastricht, The Netherlands, on October 29-31, 2008, will provide insights and ideas on these issues faced by all companies whose core business is fashion or fashion-related.
Letter from the IAF President
The concept of change has been an integral part of all IAF conferences in the past three years. In June 2006 in Thessaloniki, Greece we listened to interesting ideas on “Leveraging Powerful Change in the World Apparel Fashion Chain”. Last year in Taipei we discussed changes in Asia and how a consumer market emerges in a global apparel production zone. In October this year, in Maastricht, we’ll be talking about how changing consumer needs will shape the future of our businesses. In his excellent book “The slow pace of fast change”, Bhaskar Chakravorti of Monitor offers “a framework for anticipating the effects on the pace of progress of the increasing entanglement of our decisions with the decisions of others”. Although the book deals mainly with technological innovation, the writer’s ideas fully apply to our industry. Firstly because, although we are viewed as a traditional sector, innovation and change are as much part of the textile-apparel value chain as of any high tech industry. They include new materials and products, new marketing techniques and more importantly entirely new business models and paradigms that would have been considered unthinkable even ten years ago. Secondly, because the entanglement of our decisions with those of others (sourcing partners, competitors, customers) is increasing exponentially by the day. As you may see in the program we have brought together a number of excellent speakers from the entire apparel value chain as well as a number of eminent academics who will focus upon how the decisions of consumers affect our businesses today and in the future. Interestingly enough, this conference also marks an important internal change for the International Apparel Federation (IAF) as it is the first conference, in our 32 year history, that is hosted and organized by the IAF itself and not by a member association. That is why we are working hard to put together a program that will provide delegates, in addition to extensive networking opportunities, with challenging new ideas and food for thought. Also, in true IAF custom, those of you joining the Maastricht conference will have the change to intimately explore the cultural and gastronomy riches of the Limburg region where the tradition of Burgundy is still very much alive.
Last but not least, I would like to thank our sponsors for making this conference possible and the IAF team for their excellent work. I very much look forward to welcoming you to Maastricht in October. See you in Maastricht!
All the best,
I warmly welcome the delegates of the 24th IAF World Apparel Convention to the city of Maastricht. It is the first time that IAF is holding its conference in our city and I fully support this decision. The city was first established by the Romans over 2050 years ago and therefore is the oldest city in the Netherlands. History plays a large role in the allure of Maastricht, which can be found all around during your stay in the city. During the six centuries that Maastricht thrived as a centre of trade and culture, it was surrounded by strong fortifications. The old city walls, Roman excavations, the St. Servaas Bridge – the cultural history is all around and waiting to be explored.
Maastricht has long been known as a centre of tradition, history and culture. As times are changing and Maastricht is growing, it has also become a centre for stylish shops, contemporary designer clothing and trendy cafés. As old meets new, contemporary design and architecture have been tastefully integrated into the historic surroundings. Typically in Maastricht, funky shops rub shoulders with long established specialty retailers, and modern fusion cooking can be found right next to a traditional Mestreechs kaffeeke (Maastricht café).
It has become evident that Maastricht is famous for its class and allure. This includes the large variety of shopping opportunities available, attracting many visitors on a daily basis. The well preserved historic city centre is an ideal place to enjoy a relaxed shopping stroll, and the beautifully decorated shop windows are an attraction in themselves. Maastricht hosts a wide range of exclusive and specialized art, antique, fashion and delicatessen shops, which help explain its magnetic attraction. These range from the trendy Wyck district, known to some as the “Notting Hill” of Maastricht, to the oldest part of the city around the Stokstraat area, not to mention the many hip designer and trendy eateries found all around the city.
Maastricht boasts charming nicknames such as “Culinary capital of the Netherlands”, and “Europe’s smallest metropolis”. Perhaps the most distinguished of all is the title of “Best city in the Netherlands” which was granted in 2004. Whichever way you like to refer to Maastricht, one thing is certain: it is a welcoming city to locals and tourists.
I invite you to experience Maastricht at its very best and wish you all a pleasant stay and inspiring discussions during your convention about the future of your fashion business.
Mayor of Maastricht