Research on Fashion Industry - The Path of Survival

  This article is written by Arnab Sen

Whenever we talk about fashion, we seem to discuss something that is very light and happening! Can there be anything serious about fashion?

Not really, except for the makers of the garments and articles! But then, that is their jobs that they are up to! Why should we, the end clients and students of fashion, be at all interested in anything serious about it?

By fashion products we generally refer to the apparels and garments of our choices that are trendy and eye-catching. Some of them have the latest technology of digital printing on them while others are made out of rich expertise of traditional artisans. We may go beyond this limiting definition to actually include the accessories like specs, caps, bags, belts and even household lifestyle articles under the umbrella of “fashion products”.

Research on the other hand is a deeply serious business! It involves a lot of intellectuality, logic and sometimes tools to get to a conclusion through research. And of course, it is not everybody’s cup of tea! So why bother a field as light and superficial as fashion with something as heavy and deep as research?

Why bother at all?

Research is a way to show the future. We take to various statistical tools in order to fetch information about the upcoming trends and colours, right? But these are all short term visions. For a deeper or long term perspective, we have no other route as tried and tested as research!

Research through statistical tools help us in gathering a huge set of data and mixing them together. When a proper logic is applied to this data set, what comes out is a set of observations, conclusions or trends. Practically, the results in future must be somewhere near these predictions. How far or near the results lie in comparison to the predictions depend on the logic and statistical tools used and the aptness or suitability of making them as the chosen paths. With a method of greater suitability, a better extent of accuracy may be obtained.

Fields to have benefitted from research

There is hardly any field left that has not practically benefitted from long term research. Take an example of chemical engineering. This specialization has the maximum extent of examples about research methodologies being successfully used to achieve better results in the industries. The same applies to IT and many other fields of engineering.

Why should we even restrict to engineering; is genetics, bio-sciences or management not being benefitted practically through thorough research every now and then?

Let’s make fashion a bit of a serious affair!

The global fashion industry gives bread and butter; and many other things as well, to millions. Besides the designers, there are the artisans, managers and ramp walking models; there are also the logistics, hospitality and event managers getting benefitted immensely as a part of the collateral businesses. So why not make it a bit more sustainable for one and all involved?

Fashion has many parameters that affect the flow of business globally and seasonally. From a designer’s point of view, there are factors like social paradigm, recent burning global issues, highlighting a particular geographical location, and many others besides their own individual creativities.

The entrepreneurs have similar important factors like the global and local economies, governmental rules and restrictions, inventory and logistics management, visual merchandising, advertising and many more in the gamut. The clients, artisans and raw material suppliers each have their own perspectives to look at the fashion world from their own viewpoints separately.

To cut it short, there are several hundred factors to choose from that probably or surely affect the fashion world. Some of them have a more intense effect than the others, but we do not have a clue about which factors are more important than the others, and why? We also do not have any idea about the interdependency of multiple factors on one another. An example may help in clarifying this issue.

If we have arranged for all the logistics but do not have any space in inventory just because of a delayed date of the stock clearance sale that was decided at the last moment, then does it affect that particular fashion business, and to what extent? Are there interdependencies among the three factors in this case- inventory, logistics and stock clearance sale?

Do we have the answers?

We do not have the answers to all or many of these questions, but perhaps an individual related to fashion can at least sense the probable benefit in getting these answers. And to reach to these answers, there is only one way out- research based on apt and appropriate statistical methods.

A deeper look into the subject may reveal certain methodologies like Central Composite Design (CCD), Box-Behnken, 2k and 3k factorials, and many more ways that scientifically help in dealing with a huge lot of data and come out with a predictably accurate conclusion as an outcome. Most of them try to involve at least 3 different affecting factors to get to the results, along with exhibiting how their inter-dependence also affects the resulting parameters. There are methods like 2k factorial design with single replicate that can actually help in dealing with more than 3 affecting parameters at the same time, along with their interdependence. All of them are steps ahead of the OFAT (one factor at a time) method that has been traditionally popular in dealing with experiments, but has the limitation of taking only two factors into consideration at a time.

In a field like fashion, such methodologies that help in involving multiple factors at the same time along with a reflection of their interdependence can be of immense help.

If we rather choose to keep fashion just a light-hearted superficial business as ever, we are just delaying the inevitable, which has to be statistical research-driven fashion. The ones taking this path will probably have better chances of making it as a big brand or designer; the others perish as per Darwin’s Principles that are sacrosanct!

About the author
Arnab Sen is an Assistant Professor, Textile Design, National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Bhopal, India. He is a B.Sc.Tech. in Textile Technology from the University of Calcutta and an M.Tech. in Fibre Science and Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. He has served the textiles industry of India as a teacher and a professional since 2001. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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  1. Research is a ultimate weapon to get progress in any sector :)

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