Fashion Trends

Fashion-Forward: Unconventional Business Models for Modern Consumers

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Fashion and apparel brands with unorthodox business models are shaking up the industry, challenging the status quo, and creating exciting new opportunities for consumers and retailers alike. From degrowth principles to the persistent rise of subscription e-commerce, we explore a few innovative, fashion-forward brands changing the face of the industry.

Modular Fashion

The fashion industry is constantly evolving, and one of the latest trends to take the industry by storm is modular fashion. This concept involves creating clothing that has detachable components, enabling a piece of clothing to have an extended life cycle.

Fashion brand Buhndi has embraced this trend by allowing customers to create multiple looks from a single garment. For example, customers can purchase a base garment that matches all the blueprints and add-ons available. As new blueprints are launched, customers can keep building their look, reducing the number of clothes they purchase and extending the life of their wardrobe.

WGSN, a trend forecasting platform, has identified modular fashion as one of the top five trends for the next decade, attracting and empowering customers who are looking for a more sustainable and cost-effective choice.

Accessible Fashion Styling

Stitch Fix is a popular online personal styling service that uses data and technology to curate a personalized selection of clothing and accessories for its customers. The company’s business model revolves around leveraging algorithms and human stylists to create a unique and customized shopping experience for each customer.

Stitch Fix‘s business model combines technology and human expertise to offer a personalized shopping experience for its customers, which is both convenient and enjoyable. By leveraging data analytics and machine learning, the company can provide a tailored selection of clothing and accessories that match each customer’s style and preferences, while also allowing them to try items at home and providing valuable feedback to improve future selections.

Degrowth Principles

Degrowth is a concept that involves a managed reduction of the economy to bring it in line with planetary boundaries and meet climate goals. It has recently entered the mainstream sustainability lexicon, and some fashion brands are embracing this approach.

Early Majority, an outerwear brand, operates on a community-driven membership model and applies degrowth principles to its designs to create functional garments that can be worn anytime, anywhere.

In a Vogue Business article, founder Hoy Howard said the brand aims to create clothing that is not only sustainable, but is also functional and fashionable.

“The functionality and aesthetic of each garment should be able to take you from the bike to the boardroom, or from the bar to the backcountry, and the brand’s community member fees will eventually contribute more to overall revenues than product sales,” he said.

This approach aligns with degrowth principles, which aim to reduce consumption and promote a more sustainable way of living. While some view degrowth as a radical concept, many scientists believe it is necessary to meet climate goals.

Subscription eCommerce

Subscription commerce is growing at an exponential rate. In fact, the global subscription e-commerce market size was expected to hit just over $120 billion in 2022. It’s expected to reach more than $900 billion by 2026.

Subscription commerce allows customers to sign up for a recurring delivery of a particular product or service, such as clothing, beauty products or food. Brands use data and analytics to personalize the subscription experience. This model increases revenue through upselling or cross-selling relevant products.This approach not only increases customer loyalty but also helps brands to reduce inventory costs and better manage their supply chain.

At one point, many of us participated in subscription ecommerce (think back to our magazine and newspaper subscription days). However, subscription ecommerce has evolved into a solid strategy for other types of retail brands to reach a broader range of customers. In fact, subscription brands grew their customer base by 31% in 2021.

Some of the most popular subscription brands on the market include FabFitFun, which has nearly 200 million subscribers and sends them curated boxes of six to eight full-size items of the customers’ choosing. Digital content subscriptions like MasterClass has 1.5 million subscribers and provides video lessons taught by professional instructors and offers a special section of classes on design and style.

One advantage of the subscription commerce model is that it creates a predictable revenue stream for brands. Instead of relying on one-time purchases, brands can rely on a steady stream of revenue from recurring subscriptions. This allows brands to invest in product development, marketing and customer service to improve the overall subscription experience.

Clothing Rental

Rent the Runway is a clothing rental service that allows women to rent designer dresses and accessories for special events or everyday wear. The brand’s business model is based on the idea that women can rent high-quality clothing at a fraction of the cost of purchasing it. By renting rather than buying, consumers can enjoy the latest fashion trends without having to worry about the high cost of ownership.

Rent the Runway has also recently launched a subscription service called “Unlimited,” which allows users to rent up to four pieces of clothing or accessories at a time for a monthly fee. This subscription model allows the brand to offer an even more affordable and convenient option for customers who want to keep their wardrobes fresh and up-to-date.

Secondhand Treasures

There’s the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” More and more retail platforms are embracing this wise advice–and building a brand in the process.

Thredup is a large online retail platform for women’s and kids’ apparel, shoes and accessories that allows consumers to buy and sell secondhand clothing. The company’s business model is based on the growing trend of consumers shifting their spending toward secondhand clothing, which is gaining market share at the expense of fast fashion, department stores and luxury brands.

A recent study found that the global apparel resale market hit $182.4 billion in 2022. That same research found that resale has grown 25 times faster over the past five years than the retail clothing market.

So how can companies profit from this business model? Thredup attracts high-quality supply without directly spending money to acquire sellers. Sellers choose Thredup’s managed marketplace to conveniently clean out their closets and earn a payout that can be received in the form of cash, Thredup online credits, select RaaS partner credits or a charitable donation receipt.

Unique Models will Continue to Emerge

While traditional business models still dominate fashion, there are several unique business models that are gaining popularity among brands. By leveraging technology and innovation, fashion brands can create a unique value proposition for their customers, which sets them apart from the competition.

These models offer flexibility, convenience, and sustainability, which are key factors that modern consumers are increasingly prioritizing. As fashion brands continue to experiment with new business models, we can expect to see more disruption and innovation in the industry, leading to more personalized, sustainable, and customer-centric fashion experiences.

Adaptive Fashion

Reimagining Adaptive Fashion

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Many of us have or know someone who has experienced health challenges that make everyday activities like self-care, cleaning and dressing difficult. Brands like OXO Good Grips found their niche by overhauling the kitchen utensil drawer to make it easier for everyone to perform essential activities. It’s time we overhaul fashion to meet the needs—and styles—of people with adaptive needs. Not only is this an incredible opportunity to help people maintain dignity and independence, but it’s a relatively untapped market, rife with opportunity for apparel brands.

Reimagining Adaptive Fashion

In the past, adaptive fashion was difficult to find, and there was really nothing fashionable about it. These days, greater access to adaptive fashion recognizes the wide variety of consumers with different adaptive needs who want to dress stylishly. But there is a big opportunity to more fully embrace adaptive fashion, as the industry will be worth an estimated  $400 billion by 2026.

Adaptive Fashion

Adaptive Fashion, Defined

Adaptive fashion is clothing that is designed for the unique needs of people with disabilities that is also fun, stylish, and trendy. Adaptive needs are as varied as are the people who need them. Some adaptive clothing is designed to foster independence, with magnets, Velcro, and zipper closures rather than laces and buttons. Some adaptive clothing has disguised openings that allow the wearer access to tubes and monitors, and some are designed to work with prosthetics. Stylish and fashionable designs have long been difficult to find, but a number of popular brands are embracing adaptive fashion.

However, as journalist Gus Alexiou explains, there is still a long way to go. “For a start, a paucity of consumer choice and competition inevitably drives prices up and makes products harder to source. Beyond this, personal style and identity is just as important for the disabled consumer as anyone else – therefore, limiting the pool of products available to them only narrows and curtails such choices.”

Brands Breaking into Adaptive Fashion

As the Internet revealed Influencers sharing DIY adaptive fashion hacks and throngs of people with disabilities showed interest in trendy clothing that could fit their needs, retailers answered the call.

Target has introduced an entire line of adaptive clothing for kids. They have designs for kids with autism and sensory issues who need clothing without itchy tags and scratchy seams; clothing with abdominal access for kids with stomas; and clothing with side openings that are easier to put on for kids who use wheelchairs. Tommy Hilfiger has an entire line of adaptive fashion featuring clothing with easy closures, styles designed to be worn with prosthetics, and for those needing abdominal access. Zappos is now carrying an entire line of BILLY Footwear, with easy to use slip on shoes with side zippers

Adaptive Fashion


At the forefront of bringing awareness to the need for adaptive fashion is the Runway of Dreams Foundation, whose mission is to “empower people with disabilities with confidence and self-expression through fashion and beauty inclusion.” The foundation has garnered support from a range of brands and retailers, from Neiman Marcus to Kohl’s. Bringing so much visibility to the growing need for adaptive fashion is having an impact. Their New York fashion show, #RethinktheRunway, brought adaptive clothing – and their models – into the spotlight.

Opportunity in Adaptive Fashion

The future of adaptive fashion is exciting, not just for big brands but for creating entrepreneurship opportunities. Journalist Jonathan Kaufmann writes for Forbes, “With the evolution of the economic realities and the social vision of adaptive fashion continuing to evolve across the catwalks of the world and the ubiquity of social media platforms, there is a question that arises what is the collective impact of adaptive fashion on the disability community? It can be argued that the rise in adaptive fashion is a recipe to look at issues such as social mobility. The growth of the space is not only confined to the larger brands but is a cradle of entrepreneurship where creatives with disabilities can define their paths and help shape a future economic reality.”

What’s Next in Adaptive Fashion?

Not only will we see a proliferation of brands entering the industry, but we expect to see new designers gain acclaim for their inclusive designs. We are keeping our eyes on these brands:

IZ founder Izzy Camilleri launched a line of clothing after being asked to create private clothing for an individual in a wheelchair. She now has an entire line, offering a wide variety of adaptive clothing “to offer timeless adaptive clothing to as many people as possible so that they live in comfort, style, dignity and empowerment.”

AUF AUGENHOEHE founder Sema Gedik’s cousin Funda, is a little person. Through her she discovered how difficult it can be to buy clothes for little people that want to participate in fashion and lifestyle and decided to launch a brand dedicated to creating fashionable choices.

Social Surge designs adaptive clothing that is ethically sourced and sustainably made. Because the founder, Meredith Aleigha Wells, is nonbinary, they chose to incorporate universal design into their fashion – the “first-ever universal fashion line that doesn’t segment consumers by their appearance or abilities.”

Liberare’s tagline is “adaptive can be sexy, too.” Founder Emma Butler recognized a gap in the industry and partnered with designer Maddie Highland to create lingerie that was more than just functional.

The Alternative Limb Project seeks to challenge the idea that prosthetic limbs should be made flesh tone to blend in rather than be a fashion statement unto themselves.

Adaptive Fashion

The Importance of Adaptive Fashion

Clothes do more than protect our bodies. They help us express ourselves. For kids, it can be about fitting in. For everyone, it can mean a huge difference in confidence. Kieran Kern says it best: “The importance of having adaptive clothing is something able-bodied people don’t really understand,” Kern says. “It’s not just about putting on a shirt. People start to see you as a person with a sense of style, and it sparks a conversation other than, ‘Oh, hey, I like your wheelchair.’ Accessible style is like this gateway—to acceptance, socialization, easier employment. Everything.”

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