The world is changing rapidly, from consumer preferences to new technologies to the kind of talent required to run a successful brand. But the fashion industry has struggled to keep up with the shifting global business landscape, and risks losing cachet if it fails to adapt.

Even the very concept of ownership is changing. The World Economic Forum has made a bold prediction that people won’t own anything by 2030, which has given rise to a new subscription-based model in fashion. Companies like Rent the Runway and Higher Studio allow shoppers to pay a monthly fee to borrow clothing from high-fashion designers like Prada and Maison Martin Margiela, opening avenues for customers to access brands that might otherwise be out of reach of their budget.

Embracing Technology and Diversity is no Longer Optional

Today’s business world is highly data-driven, and the most successful brands are intelligently collecting and utilising customer data to keep up with shifting trends in consumer demands. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are cornerstones of this data revolution, but the fashion industry has been sluggish in its embrace of these technologies. Many brands simply have not made the investment in the digital infrastructure necessary to harness the power of data, and find themselves behind the times with a potentially hefty investment needed to catch up to peers.

The culture shift around diversity, sexism and bullying has become front and center for many industries, but fashion still lags behind other industries in addressing these people-first concerns. To address this challenge, fashion needs to rethink the kind of talent it needs to thrive in today’s environment, both from a human resources and technology standpoint. Essential Retail says in the UK alone, 60,000 new technology roles will be needed in the fashion industry by 2020.

Up-and-Coming Customers are Watching Your Business Practices

There’s also an ongoing generational shift in who is spending money, and the emerging Generation Z is more aware of brands’ attitudes towards the environment, and not afraid to vote with their wallets for brands that promote sustainability. According to Business of Fashion, 31 percent of Generation Z have boycotted a brand over their lack of environmental consciousness. This cannot be ignored, and companies are responding with new sustainability initiatives at every step of the supply chain.

For an industry that changes so readily at the whims of consumer tastes, fashion would serve itself, and its customers, by evaluating its business practices in the same way. Otherwise it risks falling even further behind the times, which is the antithesis of what fashion is all about.

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