Pentland Brands boss Andy Rubin imparted a chilling forecast this week: that the fashion sector will never know it as good as it did through the credit boom earlier this decade.
While this is a frightening prospect for the branded sector - both suppliers and retailers - it shouldn’t come as a massive surprise to those trading in this part of the market.
This downturn has changed the shape of the industry forever - consumer confidence has been irrevocably knocked. Uncertainty around the general election and future taxation coupled with the fallout and lack of trust following the banking collapse and MP expenses scandals means shoppers, while still spending, are doing so in a much more considered manner.
OK, so cheap as chips retailers such as Primark may not be affected to the same extent, but for the rest of the market product is working best where there is exclusivity or personalisation. Shoppers want items that work hard in their wardrobes and there looks to be a return to classic, minimal and unfussy dressing, judging by recent catwalks.
At the same time, there are promising developments for retail on the horizon. Mobile phone shopping, multichannel strategies and the return of quality fabrics are exciting prospects - and ones likely to be led by the industry’s next generation of talent.
Drapers was fortunate to hold an exclusive event for some of that talent last week (see pages 25 to 36). Our inaugural Next Generation Academy, which welcomed 100 ambitious delegates at an early stage of their career, was eye-opening both in terms of content - Rubin was one of the keynote speakers - and in terms of the drive to succeed among so many young employees in the sector who, let’s face it, are trying to build their careers in challenging times.
What was clear, though, was that if and when growth does return, there is a real pool of talent ready to lead the future of fashion.