There was a good atmosphere in Bercy on Friday 12 January 2024. However, it was in the amphitheatre of the conference room of the Ministry of the Economy that the two chairwomen, Élizabeth Ducottet and Nelly Rodi, modestly announced the potential end of R3ilab, using the image of flight. Olivier Ducatillion, Regional Committee for the North of France, was more forthright: without the 200,000 euros previously received via the DGE, to draw up forecasts and open up prospects for the fashion industry, R3ilab would come to an end. End of story?
R for network; 3 i for Innovation (flexible materials), Immaterial and Industry; Lab for laboratory spirit. For 22 years, R3ilab has been forging links between business leaders in the textile, fashion and creative industries, with one objective: to promote innovation. Its strength? Building scenarios to enable manufacturers to grasp the challenges, ward off blows and other factors of change and acceleration.
To identify these scenarios, R3ilab relies on several steering committees, three workshops (in Lyon, Paris and Lille) and interviews with entrepreneurs positioned at different points in the value chain.
R3ilab imagines four plausible scenarios for 2030 based on new technologies
In the first scenario, called “Industry 5.0”, companies will have to automate their work processes and interface their external relations using data integrated into blockchains. There is no other option.
Another possibility is that, in practice, it won’t work, due to a lack of technical and human skills. In this case, R3ilab advises removing the human bottlenecks, developing the workforce and using specialists to find skills elsewhere.
Third solution: this technological dream is not the dream of all entrepreneurs and consumers. Some want traditional craftsmanship and textiles. Others have no interest in technological (i.e. digital) advances. Here, for R3ilab, it’s a question of thinking about differentiating positioning: the customer must perceive the technological added value. The aim is to put it to work for the customer, not as yet another feat.
Finally, “hack and bug” would indicate that businesses are vulnerable, implying a growing need for cybersecurity and online back-up. Unless, of course, it means an increase in management autonomy, in other words an ability to work without digital tools.
Four anticipations of the future 2030 around the geopolitical axis
At a time when, according to R3ilab, China accounts for 15% of the turnover of the largest multinationals, the question of whether the country is going to be a ‘leader or a killer’ in the global economy is posed in four acts.
Act One: the end of the Covid turbulence, everything back to 2019, logistics flows back on track. Nothing to report.
Act Two: the end of easy credit. The dawn of the next presidential elections, in 2027, creates an area of uncertainty. Will the next president reinforce economic patriotism in the textile sector? Will players in the luxury goods sector face competition? Will international investment plummet as growth slows?
Act Three: The Cold War. The final building block of the ASEAN Free Trade Area is laid. This is the apogee of Chinese soft power. Payments are made in e-yuan on Chinese platforms. A scenario unfavourable to all Western players.
Act four: the hot war. 75 years after Pearl Harbour, the USA bomb the electronics factories of Taiwan, now Chinese.
Climate change by 2030: from bad to worse to better
Version one: technology comes to the rescue of the environment. A Marshall Plan has been voted in to ensure that investments are made to meet the climate challenge. Here, the main challenge is return on investment, to calculate the best environmental return.
Version two: with sobriety chosen, the consumer takes responsibility for decarbonisation by raising awareness of his or her consumption. In this case, companies will have to be transparent and develop a quality business model.
Version three: imposed sobriety, i.e. a ban on certain materials, carbon quotas, new fibres, etc. This means keeping a 24-hour watch on regulatory measures to anticipate new rules.
Version four: climate chaos with two options, survivalism (every man for himself) or, on the contrary, a return to managed scarcity which would result in deprivation, theft of materials or the obligation for companies to offer 20% second-hand clothes in order to be able to sell new ones (a lesser evil). No doubt to avoid this apocalypse, R3ilab suggests that credit cards should be linked to an application that lets you check your carbon footprint (the card is blocked if you exceed your quota).
2030 or the evolution of consumption patterns according to R3ilab
In this final chapter, R3ilab explores the evolution of an archipelago society in three phases. Phase one, the tyranny of minorities: France 2030 functions as a myriad of communities. For brands, the challenge is to serve some without alienating others. Phase two: different, but together. Although diverse in their lifestyles and values, the French people of 2030 live together. A big bazaar where everyone moves around in curious mode. Phase three: the return of the common denominator, where, through more or less gentle regulatory measures, clothing becomes the expression of a return to the common denominator. It’s the revival of the school uniform as a way of living together, the banning of certain outfits and the apogee of all-purpose fashion, to avoid trouble.
Following these extrapolations, guests were invited to react
Sylvie Chailloux (Tissages du Maine) doesn’t believe in the principle of the micro factory, which would come in from outside to meet specific needs: “If we don’t know how to do it in-house, how, at the other end of the line, is someone going to help us?” and deplored the fact that “there isn’t enough collaboration/experimentation between the textile and clothing sectors”.
Rodolphe Alvarez (Porcher Industries, specialising in technical textiles) questioned the relevance of opening an in-house school, as the public sector could not meet specific training needs. He stresses the importance of “retaining expertise”. As for China, he doesn’t see it invading Taiwan, but says “the issue is to find a possible alternative to Asian sourcing”. The same goes for Jean-Laurent Perrin (Perrin & Fils), who wants to see reindustrialisation in nearby areas, alternative geographical sourcing and the development of new territories (such as Africa).
For Hervé Coulombel (Royal Mer), we need to shorten collections, base our brand on fundamentals, and clarify our storytelling (identifying our customers, refocusing our strategy): “to resist and adapt, we need to be flexible, use digital tools to build customer loyalty, and find the right combination of sustainability and modern technology”.
Closing the morning session, Yann Rivoallan, Chairman of the Fédération Française du Prêt-à-Porter, had this to say about Artificial Intelligence: “AI is intropolation. It doesn’t know how to imagine. All the jobs based on the past make no sense with AI, because what we can do in three days, AI can do in three seconds. The technology is speeding up the work system, facilitating exchanges between industry and customers (web), and between customers and customers (social networks).
And he asks: “What’s going to happen in the future? More information, because even more content can be created. The question arises as to which will be the most effective. The only ones who will come out on top are those who have values to defend and will be able to extrapolate new market segments. The stars are the designers”. In a context where imagination is king, it makes you wonder why the DGE has cut R3ilab’s budget line.
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