Afterpay details why optimism endures in the fashion industry, even after the challenges of 2020.
When COVID-19 swept around the world, the impact on the Australian fashion industry was immediate. From store closures to shipping delays, the effects were seismic.
And, yet, there is still cause for optimism.
For Genevieve and Alexandra Smart of Australian fashion brand Ginger and Smart, the pandemic meant not only grappling with store closures, but also putting their plans for global expansion on hold. But the pair are looking to the future. As Genevieve points out, “this industry is built for change and it will keep morphing, evolving and re-imagining.”
Afterpay stands ready to help support that evolution. After all, says Rachel Kelly, EVP ANZ Sales and Global Instore of Afterpay, it was the Australian fashion industry that gave Afterpay its first break. “Now, it’s our turn to support the industry in which we grew up.”
In 2021, Afterpay will become the new title sponsor of Australian Fashion Week and deliver unprecedented kinds of support, from covering the cost for designer participation as well as registration and attendance fees for industry delegates.
“In addition to ensuring Australian fashion thrives in a new era, we are deeply committed to ensuring the themes of accessibility, diversity, inclusion and sustainability are at the forefront of Afterpay Australian Fashion Week.”
Kelly adds that the pandemic has pressed fast forward on many already-emerging trends, from a shift towards online shopping to a move away from credit, with more than 90 per cent of Afterpay customers linking a debit card to their account*.
As Ragtrader celebrates women in leadership in the fashion industry, and we look to 2021, we spoke to four women about the year that was and the future of fashion – and where they see opportunity and optimism, whether that’s in conscious consumerism, collaboration or investment.
“Sustainability is more of a driver than ever”
Alexandra and Genevieve Smart of Ginger & Smart on fashion’s environmentally mindful future
"It’s an understatement to say 2020 has been a challenge for the fashion industry, but it’s also been a time to reflect and change the way we do things, from production to processes, and team-building to technology.
"We planned to open more stores and grow our business in 2020, but instead we’ve become more consumer and digitally focused. Since the bushfires and COVID-19, there’s definitely been a shift towards conscious purchasing and away from fast and furious shopping.
"People are investing in their personal style - and sustainability is more of a driver than it was even a year ago. Customers are seeking it out." Alexandra Smart
"When I sat down to design the collection during bushfire season late last year, I was looking to find the joy in fashion - and that sentiment remains. Our resort collection drops at the end of this month and it talks to escapism, summer and sustainability.
"We’ve used forestry-certified viscose for a long time and it’s now deeply embedded in our brand, but we’re excited about new fabrications that actively do good; like hemp and seaweed, which both sequester a huge amount of carbon from the atmosphere into their roots.
"Much like forestry-certified viscose, we hope seaweed and hemp will merge into everyone’s practices. Innovation takes time. This industry is built for change and it will keep morphing, evolving and re-imagining, hopefully into something more sustainable and ethical." Genevieve Smart
“Australian Fashion Week has a new title sponsor – it’s an exciting time”
Rachel Kelly, Afterpay EVP ANZ Sales and Global Instore, on maximizing the platform’s power for designers
"The fashion industry has been instrumental to Afterpay’s success. Fashion labels like Cue, AJE, Ginger & Smart and Spell gave us our first break, and we’ve never forgotten that. Now, it’s our turn to support the industry in which we have grown up.
"For the first time in 25 years, Australian Fashion Week has a new title sponsor in Afterpay. This is an incredibly exciting time as it represents a reset and the next chapter for designers and retailers.
"Covid-19 has been devastating to the fashion industry, which is why we are investing in this partnership, including covering the cost of designer participation fees as well as the registration and attendance fees for industry delegates. We want to ensure the next generation of emerging designers and entrepreneurs have every opportunity to achieve success.
"We will be working hard to ensure that our mission for Afterpay Australian Fashion Week is fulfilled, which is to ensure the future of Australian fashion has no limitations or boundaries.
"In addition to our partnership as title sponsor of Australian Fashion Week, we will work with key members of the industry on how the future of fashion will evolve, and what additional role Afterpay can play in ensuring the success and sustainability of the industry." Rachel Kelly
“Collaborations are the future of fashion”
Julie Shaw, the founder and creative director of Maara Collective, on embracing diversity
"Collaboration is the essence of my brand – and, I think, the future of fashion.
"Last year, I travelled to Arnhem Land in a tiny plane to meet the Yolngu women of the Bula’bula Art Centre.
"I showed Mary, Margaret and Evonne some samples, fabrics and sketches of the resort collection I was working on, and we discussed creating beautiful wide-brimmed hats to go with the pieces. They harvested pandanus leaves to make the hats and made natural dyes by grinding plant roots with rocks.
"Everything was done by hand, with local knowledge and ancient tradition. That collaboration won the Community Collaboration award at the inaugural National Indigenous Fashion Awards in September, and it was such a proud moment for me.
"Partnerships are a really beautiful way to showcase other people’s skills and stories. Working together as a community is such an inherent part of Indigenous culture and fashion, and it’s exciting that the broader industry and consumers are starting to take notice and engage with our art.
"I’m hopeful that the future of fashion will look more inclusive and diverse, and that we see a greater appreciation for the hand-made and crafted pieces - involving human touch, authenticity and considered design." Julie Shaw
To read more stories about the Australian fashion retail industry and discover profiles of designers, as well as insights and intelligence, head to Afterpay Access, Afterpay’s new content home. https://access.afterpay.com/
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*Source: Afterpay data & Afterpay Gen Z Report (2020)