Fashion industry designers, retailers, entrepreneurs, students and brands will soon make way to Apparel Textile Sourcing Canada (ATSC), the country’s annual apparel sourcing event, which is set to debut a conference track titled “Fashion Lab” conference series, held in tandem with its existing international seminar series. Taking place on Aug. 19 to 21 at the Toronto International Centre, the show will present an opportunity to learn about upcoming trends, as well as insights in marketing, costing, sourcing, sustainability, and running a fashion business.

Here, Sal Khokhar, a keynote speaker at ATSC this year and the chief executive officer of Kollective Moda, a brand architecture firm with expertise in global distribution, licensing and strategic marketing, talks to WWD about how to build brands that resonate with the modern consumer and trends in textiles and sustainability.

WWD: What words would you use to describe today’s consumer?

Sal Khokhar: Socially conscious, brand agnostic, discovery focused, independent thinker.

WWD: How have consumers evolved?

S.K.: Today’s consumer is one of the most shopping savvy we have ever seen. Beyond the initial interest of price value, which still remains a priority, it is the multitude of additional factors that go into purchasing decisions today: corporate social responsibility, sustainability, celebrity and, most importantly, the brand’s origin story.

WWD: How can brands use consumer insights to build around their concerns, wants and desires from the ground up?

S.K.: Data analytics on consumer behavior has gotten extremely sophisticated and is one of the most important tools companies need to utilize on a regular basis. [But] data is only part of the solution. Understanding the emotional touch points that trigger consumer spending, and then insuring that your brand’s message resonates with those touch points. Storytelling is one of the best ways to connect with consumer desires and concerns, but the key is to be proactive, not reactive, to the data. Staying on your brand message shows confidence; today’s customer is looking for transparency and will reward honesty.

WWD: Are there any particular textiles, denims or other materials consumers are seeking that stand out?

S.K.: Adidas speaking about recycled plastic shoes, and Stella McCartney not using leather, and LVMH’s partnership with UNESCO on fabric sourcing transparency are all a massive wave toward sustainability. For a brand to be conscious about their carbon footprint can no longer be a trend — it has to become part of [every] company’s SOP [Standard Operating Procedures] — and fabrics are the biggest challenge. Luxury wants to remain luxury, but technology is showing new ways to recycle. There are two opposite trends consumers are focused on: ethical sourcing and sustainable fabrics being one, but on the other hand, [it’s also] everything about technologically advanced materials and fibers in all our garments that fit today’s active lifestyle perfectly. The performance brands are leading the way on this, but it’s interesting to see how denim [brands] and designers integrate these into their collections. As a keynote speaker at ATSC, sourcing shows are one of the best places to see these trends.

For more Business news from WWD, see:

Fashion Brand Vida ‘Redefines Growth,’ Addresses Consumption

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Field Notes: Holistic Sustainability

Google Moves Sustainability Needle With ‘Your Plan, Your Planet’

Change Agents: Denim Brands Working to Transform the Industry