Controlling the Uncontrollable: Fashion Gets to Grips with the Weather

Fashion brands get to grips with the weather

There are plenty of things fashion retailers can control about their business. Stock levels, window displays, prices, sale items and product lines can all be chopped and changed to suit the changing demands of their customers. So what does that leave? Well, one element fashion brands have absolutely no control over is, well, the elements. To counteract the unseasonal temperature fluctuations that are increasingly damaging retailers’ bottom lines, a major fashion school has started to teach its students about the weather.

When is the right time to start displaying those summer swimsuits? Or swap the short shorts for the autumnal knitwear range? The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City, with notable alumni including Calvin Klein and Brian Atwood, has recently overhauled its curriculum to include more topical business issues. With the weather becoming increasingly erratic and having a sometimes dramatic impact on sales, there are currently no more topical issues than the weather.

The impact of unseasonal temperatures

Weather fluctuations are increasingly putting fashion brands and clothing retailers on the back foot. Scientists have said that thanks to climate change, what we consider to be ‘normal’ weather is a thing of the past. There will be milder winters, wetter summers and more inconsistency across the board, making this a problem that’s only going to get worse.

Such are the notoriously long lead times in the fashion industry that products are often ordered months in advance based on the seasonal weather fluctuations. However, with climate change blurring the lines of typical seasonality, clothes which are completely unsuited to the weather conditions are increasingly being left on the shelves. They are then often discounted, leading to a fall in sales.

Making better commercial decisions

FIT wants its students to make better decisions about fashion design and buying through the use of predictive weather tools. This will give designers additional insight into the fabric weights to use, while fashion buyers will benefit from more information about the products they should be buying, and when.

Some fashion labels have decided to take the weather out of the equation completely, designing season-less clothing, with garments that are neither too heavy nor too tight. It can then simply be layered by the wearer to dress appropriately for the conditions.

An example of this can be seen in the recent collection of fashion designer Jason Wu, and the label Vince. In Mr Wu’s latest spring collection, he used wool, a fabric normally associated with autumn and winter, for a number of runway looks, while the label Vince is relying on layered looks to provide the warmth its wearers need.

The impact of weather on the fashion industry

At the end of 2015, shoppers in the UK and the US shunned traditional winter clothing lines due to the unseasonably high temperatures. Sales of outerwear were down 10 percent for the season, while sales of hats gloves and scarfs in the UK plunged by 32 percent.

Research from the retail consultancy, Planalytics, found that clothing retailers in the US lost the equivalent of an estimated £500million as a result of the balmy temperatures. In the UK, the cost was estimated to be around £100million. Clearly, given these figures, it is perfectly understandable that fashion brands would want to do whatever they can to reverse the trend of lost revenues. There’s also the opportunity for retailers that incorporate weather forecasting into their business model to gain an all-important advantage over the competition.

Putting you in control

You might not be able to control the elements, but with the help of commonKIN, you can regain control of your fashion business. We offer a wide range of business support services to free up your time to focus on the creative side of things. For more information, please get in touch with our team today.