Collaboration: The future of fashion

WGSN hears from Bea Austin, Creative Director of RangeRoom, a visual collaboration tool for the fashion industry on the importance of collaboration for the industry’s survival. 

In an industry that’s known for its fiercely competitive and fast-paced nature, retailers, brands and manufacturers need to embrace real collaboration in order to survive.

Collaboration across high street retailers has been an exciting way for brands to tap into current trends – or a celebrity of the moments’ zeitgeist appeal. So why does the industry seem to be so resistant to collaboration behind the scenes?

Collaboration impacts everything from day one. From product, resources, processes, through to sales, culture to sustainability. At every stage of our current workflow, it feels crucial to look at more intuitive, creative and collaborative solutions for our teams.

The need for collaboration comes in at the conceptual stage, where trend and influences converge art, music, photography, video or street-led inspiration with market intelligence, business experience and – of course – our creative ‘gut instinct’ for the magic combination: newness and commerciality. How best do we, within pressured, fast-paced companies, share and collaborate?

Teams that have processes or systems to facilitate collaboration simply create cultures of inclusion and empowerment more easily – something that ultimately comes through in product. When teams are given tangible visibility, and have easy ways to collaborate together, the way that product is developed is more efficient and focused, with efforts and information aligned on and shared faster.


More than ever, the ability for teams to buy products that actually sell and don’t end up marked down or in a landfill is more crucial than ever. Figures such as H&M having to destroy £28M of stock in FY 17/18, or the $38Bn dead stockpile estimated in the US every year help us to see the real cost. Not just to our planet but also to the companies bottom lines and reputations.

This means that there’s need for collaboration across all the resources we use – currently, everything from prints, market-bought samples, or yarn libraries (you name it) are silo-ed away in individual departments archives or drives. What are fashion retailers and manufacturers missing out on by not creating their own powerful creative collaborative hub, where sharing becomes more powerful than competing or protecting your departments’ assets?

This naturally leads us to think about the most important and urgent need for continuing to evolve the way we work. How have past practices impacted on the sustainability of our industry? Practices that have led to production methods and outputs that have wreaked havoc, not only on the climate but also across communities servicing this industry. Surely if the digital age has taught us anything, it is how much more accountable we need to be with the physical assets we have, and the precious resources it takes to make them. People in the past have questioned whether or not consumers care about how resources are used – luckily this is changing. We know that it’s not for the consumer to decide how we do business – it’s for us to make proactive, conscious decisions that will change the impact and consequences of our practices. Fashion is a global business that has always collaborated to some level. But the future of the industry depends on us taking collaboration to new heights – with new aspirations.


Here at RangeRoom, we’re tackling all of these elements connected to more impactful creative collaboration through digital technology. Each element has a cultural impact. We believe it’s crucial for teams to be enabled, deliberate, communicative, transparent and accountable, building collaborative cultures that are stronger. Brands become more relevant – not just through better product, practices, and reputation but because collaboration ultimately fosters a listening culture – the calling card for brands that stay alive and thrive.


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