The Challenge

The Re-Framing of Consumer Markets was identified by TCBL as one of three strategic axes of intervention to trigger eco-systemic change in the textile and clothing sector.

As a value-based network of Labs and Businesses working together to change the fashion value chain, TCBL started to test alternative business models with a production-oriented focus. In this context, the first step to change the rules of the game was through radical innovation, seen as a combination of disruption on one hand and tradition on the other. The disruption impulses would come from technical sciences while tradition would be driven by human sciences.

Inevitably, in the course of the project, TCBL started to listen to the Consumers’ voice. In this context, there has been a change in consumer attitudes after the 2008 financial crisis and the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy,[1] with global consumers becoming more aware that the fast-fashion c

lothes they wear have strongly negative impacts on other people and the planet.

For TCBL, the challenge was to identify the dimensions of consumers’ new behaviours. Various reports and surveys show that if some advanced consumers are indeed shifting their attention towards sustainability in clothing and fashion, irrespective of the price they may pay for it, a majority still require proof of a transparent value chain, meaningful innovation and the real value of products and services offered, all within a limited budget. As a consequence, TCBL had to explore in greater detail the balance between disruption and tradition, the polarities expressed in the initial axis.

A number of experimental cases and projects have been launched in TCBL, many of which explore the above issues. From this experience, a three-faceted pattern for the Consumer emerges, namely:

  • a Citizen who cares for the future consequences of fast fashion.
  • a Customer who likes to search and discover new garments.
  • a Client who wants to buy the solution that best fits needs and uses.

Each of these facets can help foster change in a specific field. Greater care for the Citizen would help develop more responsible companies, more search for the Customer would stimulate sustainable innovation and better-fitted solutions for the Client would encourage companies to make more durable products and services, as summarized in the diagram below.

Three drivers of consumer behaviour.


The Approach

At the same time, TCBL looks at textile and clothing companies and their positioning on the Disruption-Tradition axis. The more disruptive ones are radically changing the consumer’s views, the consumption norms or the social paradigm. However, each experiment proves to be a balance between both extremes, rather than a trade-off between opposites. Six cases or projects have been chosen to illustrate that balance.

  • Fabricademy,[2] TCBL Trends[3] and Value Labelling[4] are more on the disruptive side: Fabricademy trains designers for future self-making, capitalising on years of hands-on tutoring for T&C designers. TCBL Trends gives a forecast of daring trends, including fashion cycles and pursuing the well-known objective of trend books. Value Labelling is researching scenarios to label value instead of price, mainly to open future alternatives while rejuvenating pre-fast-fashion quality paths.
  • IFM-TCBL Awards,[5] Digital Heritage[6] and Citizen Créathon[7] were more on the traditional side: IFM-TCBL Awards stimulate the matching of young graduates and professionals with SME businesses, coming back to the traditions of teaching couture. Digital Heritage digs into the archive heritage to stimulate modern creativity. Citizen Créathon uses good practices to contribute to better water saving solutions for SMEs in a co-design methodology.

This approach is illustrated in the following diagram.

Mapping TCBL innovation projects onto the three company features important for consumer drivers.

The overall insights gained from these experiments have led to a better understanding of how consumers can really make their voice heard, above and beyond superficial ideas of “what people want” and how companies who really are interested in responding to those needs can adapt their strategies accordingly.



Next Steps

Further research should be done, with the following objectives:

  • Better understand the mechanisms behind consumers’ influence on companies’ behaviours. Some first hypotheses to be explored could be anchored in the emotional and the instinctual mechanisms.
  • Further explore the balance between polarities that would help companies follow a sustainable path successfully. Some first hypotheses to be explored could be the alignment of a company’s vision with credible actions that are perceived and popularized by consumers.
  • Get further evidence of which combinations work best, between consumers and companies, to trigger a responsible, sustainable and durable fashion world.


[1] 1,143 workers lost their lives in the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory, April 23rd, 2013.