We Face Crisis Across the Fashion Industry

In a new blog post on the Comms Women platform, David Ash, a student at the University of Alabama, College of Communication and Information Sciences, summarizes a new article by a fashion communication scholar, Sophie Johnson, from Nottingham Trent University in the UK, on the crisis in the fashion industry published in the Corporate Communications: An International Journal

In a new article published in the Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Sophie Johnson writes about the crisis in the fashion industry. She argues that with the evolution of technology social and professional communication has shifted to a more inclusive atmosphere for mass communication. Brands have to work more diligently to create brand awareness. Consumers of younger demographics are exposed to more brands than ever before. How do consumers distinguish which brands they are more enticed to purchase from? Social media exposes consumers to the external and internal factors surrounding brands in the fashion industry. This has led to an increase in crisis across the fashion world. With scandals becoming increasingly common amongst fast fashion brands and even high fashion Couture brands.

The increase in competition over consumer attention has led fashion brands to take more risks. Some have created scandals around their advertisements like Calvin Klein and Balenciaga with sexual representations in clothing becoming increasingly scrutinized for depictions of unrealistic expectations for women. PR representatives for brands like Calvin Klein have found ways to thrive off the scandals. Balenciaga on the other hand has faced scandal with the use of children in unpleasant and inappropriate clothing. This creates a crisis for their PR team. How can they maintain control of the situation? What will people say? Consumers are going to social media to voice their distaste and boycott the brand. Influencer endorsement and partnerships have also led some consumers to become more hesitant in some cases. They see the influencer as a paid employee of the brand and not expressing their true review of the products creating scandal online. While some of these companies have created negative brand awareness some are struggling to create any at all. According to an article in Corporate Communications by Sophie Johnson, Arcadia UK closed its doors due to a lack of awareness surrounding the brand’s positioning, the shift in attitude, and the demographics of its target audience. Brands have to invest in their brand image and allow their PR teams to produce a brand image that can follow shifts in consumer appeals.

Internal crisis has also plagued the international fashion industry for decades. Distribution has become more unstable. The increase in new entries into the fashion market has led to supply issues. Fast fashion brands aim to supply mass quantities in an efficient manner. This has created numerous ethical, and labor crises across the world. Children are put in sweatshops and poor work conditions to improve overall production efficiency while maintaining profit over their employees. In 2013, Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed killing many innocent workers. The lack of investment in the work environment and safety led to their death. Consumers have become more invested in this issue and look into brands’ internal factors when making their purchase decisions. Brands including high fashion couture are having to reevaluate their product production. How they can produce products that are cost-efficient for them while meeting consumer expectations? PR representatives should show consumers the work environment, wages, and source of material. Brands are more inclined to receive positive brand awareness, especially in countries like the United States whose cultures seek positive work environments.

The Fashion industry is set to reach $1.8 trillion by 2024 and increase 2.81% by 2028 (Statista, 2023). The fashion industry also employs more than 300 million people worldwide. That sounds pretty good in terms of profit and economic growth, but what about the long-term effect on the industry? Capitalism has led many brands to new heights, but with that comes a change in purchase behavior and economic development. The US influence of capitalism has led consumers in the fashion industry to accept a specific economic model. This model affects the way we see fashion as a whole. The change in demand has led consumers to want new and different products more than ever. Competition has led to an increase in fast fashion brands like Fashion Nova, Shien, and even third-party sources like TikTok shops. The effects of this system bleed into the longevity of trends and unpredictable shifts in brand popularity. Followed by the decrease in long-term quality to meet demand.

How do we address these issues that have created a crisis across the fashion world? This is where the true problem lies. The lack of knowledge on these issues has only fueled the fire. PR professionals in the fashion industry lack the tactics and insight to address these conditions, especially in a public forum. Having to address these issues and show change you have to admit to creating scandal damaging public perception. We have the articles and findings to create change and produce a better environment. We just have yet to compile the results into a concise model. Creating a model that fashion brands could follow would help to create better brand perception, safer work conditions, and higher-quality products. This would help consumers feel more invested in their brand and develop a willingness to pay for their product. A more developed crisis theory for the fashion industry would help resolve many of the issues surrounding fashion.

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