IN BRIEF: Borrowing a title from one of the most iconic science fiction novels was a good way to talk about the future of fashion. Between our concerns about the invasion of technologies, our desire to slow down a consumption that is disastrous for the environment and our appetite for innovation, it is difficult to know at this pivotal moment whether we are on the right or wrong footing. To analyse this eventful period, we spoke with Lucas Delattre, journalist and teacher at the IFM.
Fashion has always been a question of temporality. Designers capture the spirit of the times, borrow from another era, or reflect on what we may be wearing in a few seasons or even decades. But it would be deceptive not to say that in recent years, the concept of innovation has dominated the industry. What will be the fashion of tomorrow? The designer of tomorrow? On the one hand, large groups and young brands are looking for more technical fabric, whether to develop new clothing styles or to improve what already exists. On the other hand, fashion schools have become large-scale agoras that are driving tomorrow’s designers and today’s researchers to think about fashion in a more inclusive and ethical way.
To learn more about how we are thinking about tomorrow in the present, we met Luca Delattre, a journalist at Le Monde, but also a fashion management teacher at the IFM, who will be permanently working with l’École de la Chambre Syndicale de la mode et de la Couture for the next academic year. A prestigious school which will be the first in France to offer a 360° fashion training. It is interesting to interview Lucas Delattre because he does not come from the fashion world. What interests her in the industry is that she is at the crossroads of several disciplines so that she can anticipate where the future lies. Interview.
What interests you in the fashion industry?
Lucas Delattre: The beauty of fashion is that it is a discipline that borrows from all the others; it is so rich because it is inspired by everything. With more culture, the more people are curious, the more they are open to different fields and the more interesting it becomes. Next, there is an essential creative dimension that brings fashion and art closer together, which also interests me.
Tell us about the course you teach at the IFM….
Lucas Delattre: I am involved in the specialised Master of Luxury Management as well as in the International Master of Luxury Management. I have several strings to my bow: communication, writing, mastering the expression of the message, oral and written rhetoric, the sense of images… In addition, I coordinate many things around the digital economy, innovation and finally a lot of culture in all fields of design.
Who are the students you have to work with today?
Lucas Delattre: They come from many different fields, from business schools or engineering schools, from legal, literary or even creative backgrounds. We recruit doctors, archaeologists… And also, we have about 40% international students. The diversity of backgrounds contributes to the richness of the courses, in addition to the contact that my Master’s students have with students who are engaged in pure creation. It’s invaluable.
Do you see an evolution in the interests that this generation of students have in their courses?
Lucas Delattre: Absolutely. The awareness of sustainable development is an obvious fact that is more evident year after year. Everyone wants to contribute in some way to a minimise the degradation of resources. Beyond that, the reality of the world of work is not necessarily the one they desire, so they have to make compromises.
Notwithstanding, the industry has been changing. We can see this with the inclusion of technology that has gone from an adjustment in social networks to a real digital revolution…
Lucas Delattre: There are quite a few possible approaches to address technologies in fashion courses. For us at the IFM, there are two. A practical level that aims to understand how creation can use new digital technologies, with connected fabrics for example. But it’s very slow, because even within the industry, we are at the early stages of understanding the potential of technology in this area. The area where everything has changed is marketing, communication, logistics, retail, customer experience… We endeavour to make our students understand the challenges in these innovations. There is an economic and philosophical approach and another more concrete and operational one, which they need to practise their future professions.
Do you have the feeling that these innovations will change what is defined as a fashion designer?
Lucas Delattre: Not essentially. All possible tools and technology are considered as an aid, a support tool for creation. Everything that can be invented and imagined offers additional features, but creation is completely beyond the scope of technology. Moreover, in the projections of changes in the trade and skills, creation is the field least affected by technological upheavals. Technology will offer more time for non-technological creation. As paradoxical as it may be, the paintbrush has never been a painter.
One of the concepts that interests you strongly is the concept of connection…
Lucas Delattre: Fashion that focuses on fashion is not interesting. These connections that we can see today make it possible to respond to an increasingly complex and connected world. Behind the idea of connection are two things: information and people. Bringing the two together and multiplying combinations without bringing together things that have obvious similarities, that is what technologies make possible and what opens up new creative fields.
It is interesting to see that at a time of great technological innovation, the human being seems to be increasingly occupying an important place.
Lucas Delattre: Humans are a great paradox today. Everyone has the feeling of being in a world that is getting colder and colder, more and more dictated by algorithms… There is a strong tension between our connected life, through the screens, multiple digital demands and the preciosity of our humanity that we fear will be set aside by invasive technology. This is not just a fashion thing; it is a common subject in everyday life. For me, technologies can enable real human connections. What machines provide is intelligence, but intelligence does not replace human intelligence.
We have witnessed the emergence of new influencers with artificial intelligence…
Lucas Delattre: Lil’ Miquela has less influence than Kim Kardashian, I think. The fantasies of a film like Her have not yet arrived.
The arrival of these AIs is also explained by a re-examination of the distribution system as we know it today.
Lucas Delattre: Today, we are moving from transaction to experience. Shops are becoming information centres and we order online. Today, especially among young brands, many prefer to open showrooms. This is what technologies can provide, a more refined balance between desire and offer. When you eliminate stocks, do production on demand, allow people to see and discover the parts, there is a reduced need for space. However, it is not a total dematerialization as our feelings about clothing are always primordial.
What place does fashion occupy in this technological future?
Lucas Delattre: The sense of fashion has been the same for 2000 years: the support of personal identity, the display of a status, a form of freedom… It’s the power of fashion, we all crave style. So the requirements of style have changed, but the fundamentals remain the same. And this is interesting.
Consumption patterns are evolving the way they are with rentals for example… Everything is more fluid, there are fewer statutory requirements, more demand for experiences and people. The whole economy is shifting towards this.
Is the same true in relation to environmental issues?
Lucas Delattre: The digital transition is faster than the ecological transition. However, everyone knows that the latter is inevitable. The problem is that no one knows how to do it.
Yet it is a subject that obsesses the industry…
Lucas Delattre: Everyone talks about but it is difficult to distinguish between rhetoric and reality. Yet I do not think you can say that people are not sincere, but it is a difficult transition. Fashion, so the permanent replacement completely opposite of the slow fashion values. But everyone knows that we must act. As a teacher, my job is also to help students distinguish between “blabla” and reality.
Textile research is one of those innovations which aim to leave as little impact as possible on the environment.
Lucas Delattre: It’s something I’m ready for: vegetable leathers, new linens, organics, and the recovery of plastic to make sneakers… These are interesting things, but we’re not there yet. Fashion is full of talk, but unlike other industries, it is a little late.
What impact will these innovations have on the curricula of fashion schools, particularly in this new great school, where the IFM and the l’École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Mode et de la Couture merge?
Lucas Delattre: The union of these two schools is a political question, a way of affirming that France has a fashion school at the level of these luxury groups such as those found in London, Italy or Belgium. The idea is to combine skills from the BAC +1, to blend creation, technicality and management. The idea is to move with and anticipate the times.
And in terms of program, what are we aiming for?
Lucas Delattre: The students are helping us to progress. We have our analysis of the situation, the information and research from the industry and then the students’ daily feedback. We are in a period of profound upheavals and this is great for a school. It is the mission of a school that make things happen. The more transition there is the more likely people will need to be trained.
And how do you see the future of fashion?
Lucas Delattre: There are several scenarios. One of de-consumption, which is in progress. The problem is that we consume less because we have no money and less because we buy fast-fashion brands with atrocious production in Bangladesh. A second approach is to consume less, but better. With the idea of repairing clothes, renting, buying second-hand… It is an ideal scenario but difficult to implement by a company because it will have to radically change its business model. Still, another scenario would be to consume more while maintaining below optimal quality criteria.
What is certain is that for fashion to remain importance, it must be creative and technology-friendly to meet the expectations of demanding customers who are in search for individualized products and advanced service. Such fashion cannot exist without truly displaying and respecting nature and humanity. The worst-case scenario is not excluded, but I think everyone wants to see things change for the better.