Theresa Schleicher speaks for the future: Why no one can get past Sustainable Fashion & Living anymore.

05. June 2023 – Mandy Weinand

Every year, retail expert and futurologist Theresa Schleicher and the Zukunftsinstitut publish the indispensable Retail Report on how changing social values are affecting the fashion industry.

“Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody’s buying far too many clothes.”

True, this was not said by the author of the Retail Report Theresa Schleicher herself, but by the rebellious fashion icon Vivienne Westwood. But the saying fits so perfectly into today’s times and the future of the fashion industry that we’re using it here anyway.

Theresa Schleicher – No profile, no profit

It’s no coincidence, says Theresa Schleicher, that at the moment it’s middle-of-the-road companies like P&C Düsseldorf or Galeria Kaufhof that are filing for bankruptcy in rows. They have missed the boat, because today’s customers are enthusiastic about other products and values.

Because the middle-class society has evolved so much, the companies that are currently being hit are those that serve the middle class and have not reacted quickly enough to the changes.

In addition to sustainability, it’s also about digitalization, all topics that are accelerated by crises, according to Theresa Schleicher. 

It is also a fact, she says, that consumption has declined sharply and consumers are generally acting in a much more sustainable manner. Do I really need this piece of clothing and do I need it now, many ask her.

Companies that “got stuck in the middle with no profile” are now getting the receipt for it. “There are also players who are doing well through the crises,” says Theresa Schleicher. That would be the discounters and luxury companies, which always have it easier in hard times.

“There needs to be an emotional attachment to the brand.”

Today and in the future, a company must be able to act quickly: “The recipe for success in fast fashion is not the rapid production of as much as possible, but the agility of the company. In the fast-fashion industry in particular, sustainability would be implemented in many places in a creative and colorful way, less strictly. “This is fun, especially for young consumers, and this is exactly the direction in which the fashion industry must and will continue to develop. It needs the emotionality.”

“The older we get as a society, the younger we get in spirit.”

Theresa Schleicher speaks of an enormous change in society. “We have different generations that have different needs. Through Corona, everyone has moved closer together again, it’s more about cohesion now.” The older clientele in particular would pay much more attention to health, quality and sustainability since the pandemic. “It’s not just the young,” he said.

“People want to express themselves creatively. We do that strongly with fashion.”

Schleicher sees fashion in particular as a way to break out of crises. Today and in the future, he says, it’s about being able to express one’s own emotionality and show responsibility.

“In Berlin today I already see many second-hand movements, also sustainably certified fashion, but all rather in small areas, all not yet loud and creative,” says Theresa Schleicher. “This is not yet interpreted in the business world. Customers need to be ‘educated’ by the big retailers and chain stores, that will have to come in the next few years.”

The “15-minute city”

Futurologist and retail researcher Theresa Schleicher is not only concerned with developments in society’s shopping behavior with regard to fashion.

Together with other experts from the Zukunftsinstitut, she is also researching the way people want to live in cities of the future.

In the process, the idea of the “15-minute city” comes up again and again: no one should need more than 15 minutes – preferably on foot or by bike – to be able to do the important things of everyday life: The way to the job, daycare center, school or doctor, the nearest park or sports facilities, cultural offerings such as theater, cinema or shopping in stores – all of this should be no more than 15 minutes from the place of residence.

In Paris or Hamburg, there are already projects that have transferred this “vision of the future” into the present. The idea behind it is quite simple: “People are lazy,” says Theresa Schleicher. “We need things in front of our noses, otherwise we don’t use them.”

Speaking about future

True enough. The innovative keynote speaker shares what else the future of fashion and retail holds in her talks, which she gives, for example, on the annual Retail Vision, Downtown 2040 or in an outlook on the fashion industry 2030.

For Theresa Schleicher, there is no question that no one can ignore Sustainable Fashion & Living anymore. With her work, she is making an important contribution to a future worth living for everyone.

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Theresa Schleicher

Retail Industry Expert & Futurologist