The fashion-led revival of UK high street giant Marks & Spencer and the future of world textiles were among the topics covered by a leading industry conference this week.

Hundreds of delegates attended the event organised the Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry (ASBCI) for a programme entitled Tomorrow's World - Meeting the Challenges.

The Leicestershire event also featured presentations on anti-microbial technology and the logistics challenges facing clothing companies in the 21st century.

Steve Longdon, director of womenswear at M&S, admitted his company had failed to match customers' fashion demands at the turn of the millennium but had since revived its fortunes with collections such as Per Una and Autograph, as well as better store layouts.

He attributed such success to the firm's focus on "fast fashion" - the ability to move items from factory to shop shelves in just a few weeks - a process used so successfully by brands like Zara.

"Customers are more challenging than ever before, " he said. "Three years ago they said we were not fashionable enough … but we now think we've got there.

"The speed of our turnaround has surprised many commentators but it was in our own hands. We listened to them again and have now got our finger back on the fashion pulse."

Among the other speakers at the day-long conference was international industry analyst, author and commentator, Mark Payne, who talked about research and development into "smart" clothing and textiles.

He suggested firms will move more towards clothing made from organic, rather than synthetic materials, as consumers become more environmentally-aware with apparel made from things like turtle shells or seaweed fibres.

He added there is also likely to be a policy shift by western governments towards recycled clothing while nanotechnology could see people own just one or two outfits that change colour or shape, use sensors to keep them hot or cold and never need washing or ironing.

Payne also predicted a global future where there are only 10 or 12 apparel companies due to consolidations and acquisitions, of which there were more than 200 between 1997 and 2000.