How the Fashion Industry Is Using Digital Platforms to Achieve Remote Working Success

Find out what tools and strategies fashion is utilizing to run key operations - discover innovative new ways of doing fashion by going digital.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, anxiety has rippled through the fashion industry as fashion companies have been forced to go remote in a matter of weeks. The social distancing demands of the pandemic has meant that 85% of fashion professionals have traded in their office desks for their living room sofas and kitchen tables.

A timely special-edition Business of Fashion Careers community survey, “Fashion is Working From Home. How to Make It Work,” illuminates the far-reaching impact of coronavirus on fashion brands’ day-to-day operations as well as the demands on brands to adopt a digital approach.

The new BoF report surveyed HR and industry leaders, as well as nearly 1,500 fashion professionals, and explores insights from the fashion community on how to adapt to a new culture of work. The report offers data-driven insights and advice for businesses looking to ace the shift of their everyday processes to the digital realm.

Several recommendations in the latest BoF white paper share an affinity with NuORDER for an innovative digital-centric ethos in fashion. Read on to find out more about the report’s key recommendations on how to successfully go digital.

Is This the New Normal? Shifting Trends in Fashion Since COVID-19

According to the BoF whitepaper, before the COVID outbreak only 45% of fashion employees felt their employers supported flexible working. However, how employers in the fashion world see remote work is changing rapidly and this change is set to last.

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Image Source: BoF Fashion Employee Survey, October 2019

Luxury men’s fashion brand CDLP is permanently transitioning its workforce to 50% remote by the end of 2021. Such shifts highlight an impending new normal in the working world of fashion, as businesses discover the benefits of going remote.

One benefit of leaving the geographical confines of the office behind is that brands can now source talented candidates from across the globe, including the likes of Paris, New York, and London, as is the case with Andreas Palm, co-founder of CDLP.

Fashion companies are also experiencing a host of other benefits from working remotely, including; greater employee wellbeing, a spike in productivity, and cutting costs on expensive offices.

Weighing In On How To Effectively Use Remote Working Tools

One of the standout explorations in the new BoF whitepaper is how teams can use remote working tools to spark strong collaboration and communication. The first step? Choosing the best channel for your team’s needs.

Founder and chief executive of Cotential, Erica Dhawan, suggests that first and foremost, you need to consider the length of your message – an IM, such as one sent using the popular Slack platform, is perfect for brief communication. Anything more in-depth? Opt for a video call or email.

 hero full uiScreenshot: Slack.

In addition, Dhawan also notes that your choice of communication tool also needs to reflect the complexity of your message. Simple communication is ideal for simple communication tools – such as instant messenger. In comparison, more complex information may need the screen-sharing and real-time feedback capabilities of Zoom.

Dhawan also says familiarity is a key concern with any communication, stating, “In any communication with another person, we’re answering two questions: who has more or less power, so how formal are we? And how close are we in terms of the intimacy of our relationship?”.

In addition, she notes that beyond power dynamics, miscommunication around deadlines is another aspect to consider – advocating for clear deadlines, rather than vague suggestions. Moreover, she also advocates for allowing employees adequate time to process material discussed in meetings, arguing back-to-back meetings can hinder productivity and lead to burn-out.

Despite these smaller drawbacks, Dhawan emphasizes remote work’s facilitative capacity for virtual brainstorming, arguing, “You can use the chat functionality on video meetings to gather input, especially between introverts and extroverts, women versus men — personalities across the board. People have individual work time first to generate ideas, then when they come together, we are not [so] reliant on unconscious biases that allow certain people to be the loudest on a video call or the fastest to respond to emails.”

How to Take the Business of Fashion Virtual

The second finding of the BoF report that hit home for us was the suggestion that leaders and managers in the industry should turn their heads to the transformative potential of technology for a more sustainable industry.

The survey results show that 93% of those surveyed report less domestic travel – meaning that businesses need to innovate new ways to connect with clientele –with calls from top designers and editors, such as Giorgio Armani, to slow down and focus on keeping everything local.

As Forbes’ Brooke Roberts-Islam notes, “The fashion industry’s predictive, seasonal systems have long been labelled out-of-date, broken and wasteful, with the consequences piling up in landfills around the world.”

Much of the fashion industry runs on in-person showrooms, trade shows, and runway. Yet, brands are now being challenged on their reliance on physical shows and events. For example, the BoF notes how, in the wake of the COVID crisis, Shanghai, Russia, and Lagos Fashion Weeks have each welcomed an international audience with their online shows.

In addition, the BoF report documents a rise in the use of digital showrooms, as fashion retailers are beginning to find they can still create an impactful showroom experience online.

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Virtual showrooms create a new kind of immersive experience, rather than simply seeking to replicate a shadow of in-person events. Our Virtual Showroom tool allows you to position your products in a new way to remote wholesale clients. You can upload your company branding to the showroom’s portal, add high-res, 360-degree images of your products – complemented by clickable hotspots for easy purchases, and incorporate shoppable videos that offer time-stamped products.

Cutting Through Anxiety with Innovation: The New Digital Way

The Coronavirus pandemic has shocked the industry – causing a rapid shift in fashion’s everyday work habits. But you don’t have to sacrifice on business as usual – the digital landscape offers several transformative digital solutions.

With the right tools, you can still seamlessly run key operations – from design brainstorms to market meetings and tradeshows and discover innovative new ways of doing fashion by going digital.

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