Refashioning Fast Fashion:
How Fast Fashion can serve the needs of customers and the planet

Across the global retail industry there is a growing momentum from retailers to tackle the mounting challenges being brought about by the climate crisis. With pressure for the industry to change also coming from consumers, governments, campaign groups and investors, retailers are increasingly aware of what radical steps they need to take if significant change is to happen.

Retailers are now embracing the move to cut carbon emissions to net zero, looking at solutions to packaging and production and in moving towards the circular economy. The circular economy is defined as being the transformational approach to production that eliminates waste and pollution, circulates products and materials and regenerates nature. 

According to the highly influential Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “the circular economy gives us the tools to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss together, while addressing important social needs. It gives us the power to grow prosperity, jobs, and resilience while cutting greenhouse gas emissions, waste, and pollution.”

One of the most scrutinised sectors of the retail industry is the fashion sector, and even more specifically, “fast fashion”. It has been one of retail’s biggest success stories in the way that it has made it possible for all consumers to buy the very latest fashion looks at incredibly low prices which has in turn encouraged people to buy frequently and in quantity. But with that success has now come a realisation that the fast fashion business model produces excess waste, enormous pressure on resources and as a result is regarded as bad for the environment and unsustainable as a business model.

Consumers too are driving change through switching to new ways of buying fashion, whether it be through resale, rental or exciting new concepts such as digital fashion and virtual fashion. 

The leading fast fashion retailers are actively embracing change in order to address all of these critical issues.

The Challenge

Against this background, the 2022 Future Retail Challenge will focus on the “fast fashion” retail sector and seeks your ideas and creativity in how it can rethink its current business model in a dramatic way to become more sustainable whilst remaining fashion-leaders who serve and fulfil the demands of their customers and the planet. 

To begin your challenge, each team will select a fast fashion retailer: ideally one that is headquartered in your country, but this isn’t obligatory, and it can be either online only, brick and mortar only or “omnichannel”.

Research and understand the fast fashion retailer you have selected, and specifically around its current policies and strategies to tackle sustainability.

The challenge is then for you to take your chosen retailer forward five years to 2027 and to show how you would generate 25% of income from activities that reduce or replace the consumption of new physical products, or through products that fully comply with the principles of the circular economy.

You should consider all of the consumer trends in the fashion sector that reduce or replace the sale of new garments and accessories—resale, rental, repair, and even burgeoning digital technologies involving virtual garments, NFTs, etc. 

  • How do you see these being adopted and developed in a creative and successful way by your chosen fast fashion retailer?
  • What new ideas can you think of that could generate income for your retailer but without a requirement to produce new physical products?
  • How would you place the circular economy at the heart of your business that meets the needs of the environment whilst creating prosperity and jobs for the wider industry?
  • How might these new approaches and services be offered to your retailer’s customers? Where relevant, how might they physically look and operate and equally if your retailer has an online presence, how would this look and work?
  • What are your recommendations for how your chosen retailer addresses the “unsustainable” elements of the business model to see radical changes by 2027?

What the judges will be looking for:

An overview of the fast retailer that you have chosen as it is today and the particular challenges you believe it faces regarding the tensions between the fast fashion business model and the urgent requirements of the climate crisis

Identify and describe the product areas that can build to 25% of sales by 2027 whilst reducing or replacing the sale of new physical products. Provide a breakdown of the different approaches and ideas and how they will contribute to your target of 25% of total revenues. 

  • How will you be able to develop each of these ideas to operate at scale and drive new sales?
  • How will you communicate these new ideas to your existing customers?
  • Outline how you would begin the repositioning of your chosen business away from being a “fast fashion” business over this 5-year period
  • What are the risks associated with such a change?
  • What are the financial implications ?

What you will need to do:

Produce a 10-page report that sets out your plans to meet the challenge. This should be submitted 10 days before the World Retail Congress which takes place on April 5-7th. 

The final of the Future Retail Challenge will be held at the World Retail Congress in Rome on April 5th and each team will give a presentation covering their ideas about how they will achieve the targets and goals set in the brief. The presentations will be given to a panel of judges and an audience of Congress retail delegates. 

The presentations will be no longer than 8 minutes with 6 minutes for questions from the panel of 4 senior retail industry judges. All four members of the team should be involved in giving the presentation.

The audience will also have a vote to select the team they feel has the strongest ideas and that will be considered by the panel of judges who have the majority vote

Presentations should seek to be informative and entertaining.

At the Congress, each team will be given a display area with panels setting out the key ideas that show how your chosen retailer can meet the targets set by the challenge. The Congress will produce the display panels and construct the display area but each team should provide us with the images and graphics that will be shown on the display panels.

The winners of the 2022 Future Retail Challenge will be announced on the afternoon of April 6th

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