The fashion industry is predicted to change as much in the next ten years as it has over the last 100. Consolidation, computerization and globalization are the major disruptions of today, and will continue to be as they morph and change. Fashion designers are at the forefront of these disruptions.

In partnership with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), a not-for-profit trade association whose membership consists of more than 450 of America's foremost womenswear, menswear, jewelry and accessory designers, Lectra surveyed the leading professionals working within today's ever-changing, fast-paced international fashion and apparel industry.

This investigation explores why and how the role of the fashion designer is changing. It presents the most important challenges, disruptions and changes that affect fashion designers today... and will continue to influence the profession for years to come. We piece together a vision of how next-generation fashion designers continue to create in today's modern fashion environment.

Great expectations

"As a fashion designer, I was always aware that I was not an artist, because I was creating something that was made to be sold, marketed, used, and ultimately discarded." Tom Ford.

Arguably, designers are artists. Today, a new dichotomy between artist and technician lies at the heart of issues surrounding the new role of the designer. The fashion designer now occupies a space between creative, technician and merchandiser, a framework and skill-set imposed by an increasingly competitive and demanding marketplace.

The biggest pressure on designers, according to the Lectra/CFDA survey results, relates to speed to market: getting collections out quicker and quicker to continually renew the in-store offer. Consumers, at least those of fast-fashion and contemporary brands, have become indoctrinated with a 'you snooze, you lose' mentality. This retail strategy of changing merchandise as often as every few weeks to invoke immediate sales is a way of staying competitive and combating online sales. Consumer expectations and shopping habits are changing as a result -a circle which means more is being consumed, more often.

In addition to shorter time to market and more collections, designers now have to deal with more competition. Brands need to differentiate themselves, while attempting to appeal to a consumer who is informed, empowered, less brand-loyal, mixing high and low pieces and not squeamish about shopping for the best price online.

Yet the new designer is not completely unarmed to face this new context: digital tools allow them to work fast, both by storing data to be reused as needed and by completely eliminating time consuming tasks such as manual grading, even reducing the need for physical samples to one, with the use of 3D virtual prototyping software solutions.

Collaboration is becoming seamless, as digital styles can be manipulated, saved, changed, tweaked and reedited by several collaborators across different countries and time zones. This generates a new type of collective creativity. A good command of this new designer toolbox is, according to our survey results, mandatory: