Much has been made of the current "retail apocalypse". But how does a system still based on 19th-century manufacturing and delivery methods survive the 21st century anyway? While we see a society overwhelmed with "stuff" and financially stressed from decades of flatline wages, I think the explanation goes beyond changing cultural mores and economic woe.
Whether at home or abroad, the apparel industry is still largely using cut-and-sew manufacturing methods to make your clothing. The industry hasn't invented much else for mass production yet. Sure, they've sped up fabric printing processes, invented faster sewing machines, expanded the range of materials available, created digital patternmaking software. Fashion has techified the clothing production process, but not reinvented it.
Ditto on the delivery. Boats, trucks, planes; the goods still have to get to you, and often they travel quite a long way. Delivery methods are faster than they used to be, but no one's beaming your next suit a la Star Trek into your home.
So, the industry has sped up. It's expanded your options. But beyond tweaking the speed, efficiency, and amount of stuff we make, we're still producing and delivering stuff in much the same overall system. Can that system sustain the stresses of the 21st century, and can we re-invent, or at least re-imagine, something so seemingly basic that it might appear impossible to re-invent and immune to fundamental change?
Beyond the retail apocalypse, there's room to fundamentally alter not only how we relate to "stuff" psychologically, environmentally, and economically, but also the opportunity for a radical re-do on how we make it and how you get it. If the current pressures lead to new horizons that step beyond what has essentially been a constant upgrade on the Model T, that's when we've truly started being creative.