Exploring the fast-moving fashion tech scene, the DeFINE Info Day at Boras successfully brought the world of emerging fashion technology to those attending the one-day event. Taking place at the Textile Fashion Center, the event not only lured in the crowd with speakers like Robin Caudwell from Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, but it also tempted the curious with a guided tour of the Smart Textile Showroom and DoTANK.
Hoping to offer an experience to remember, the hosts, Borås Ink, spoilt attendees with the likes of Lutz Walter (Euratex), Adrian Zethraeus (Re:Textile), Fredrik Timour (Swedish Fashion Council), Marie Eilden (Smart Textiles), Paolo Gelato (Jacobacci), Markus Nordland (Easycom), Matthew Drinkwater (London College of Fashion) and Rickard Lindqvist (Atacac). Moderated by yours truly, I was miked up, Britney style, to be the voice that kept the audiences in the know and the speakers informed of when it was their time to hop on stage.
Ramping Up Innovation
Throughout the day, I had the pleasure of introducing experts who triumphantly communicated their knowledge and ideas to an eager audience. Although they were all masters of their craft who managed to give us food for thought, there were a few critical takeaways that not only stood out for me but were great conversation starters during coffee breaks. Some of those takeaways came from Adrian Zethraeus, who definitely brought ‘it’ to the stage.
Adrian, whose experience is in the realm of fashion business with particular focus on sustainability, started his talk by stating that technology should always be viewed as a vital tool, especially when it comes to achieving circular economy for the textile and fashion industries. On the Re: textile project, which has been around since 2015, the project manager said: “The purpose of what we are doing is to minimise all waste through its life cycle. Taking a more holistic approach, we strategise to prolong the life of the product. We enable circularity by design by looking at what scenario is possible.”
When it comes to developing business models that support circular fashion and sustainability Adrian started with a fact; “We produce 40% too much of what we need.” Adding that we can combat this by “designing a system that functions within the boundaries of circular fashion and sustainability.” Which, in his opinion, would, in turn, give us an efficient way of sharing resources through the lifecycle of a product.
“Waste from one industry is raw material for another industry. It could be a win-win.”-Adrian Zethraeus
On the challenges faced when it comes to achieving a circular economy, Adrian boldly educated us on how imperative it was for us to try and reduce the production of oil-based fibres like polyester. “This will not be easy because demand for these fibres is growing”, said Adrian, then taking a pause he optimistically shared, “Then again, waste from one industry is raw material for another industry. It could be a win-win.”
Prolonging The Use of Raw Materials
“We need to think about the redesign on various levels”, educated Adrian. Pointing to a slide on the screen he showed how this could be possible by applying various strategies. He showed us a diagram that pointed out reconstruction options; cutting, adding, washing, stitching, and printing. As he talked through each one, I could see that numerous people in the audience were nodding in agreement.
Continuing to keep our attention, Adrian brought up refurbishment as a service. Looking into the crowd, he asked, “Can we redesign products for customers? Is it profitable? How would we create a hype?” Allowing a second for the questions to sink in, he then proceeded to answer his own question, “We are all about renewing the product and making it as good as new. We want to understand the critical success factors and the benefits of refurbishment as a service. It is so much more than just sales, it is about generating local job opportunities for garments produced in Turkey, or Bangladesh that can be locally recreated and sold.”
Moving on, Adrian filled us in on the various projects that he has worked on. “We developed a collection of 1000 pieces where we kept the garment intact but added features that altered it, making it commercially viable”, said the speaker.
Creating A Circular Nirvana
When it comes to creating a circular nirvana, Adrian stated: “We need to be more disruptive by looking at the business models and how they can be aligned with sustainable values”. Adding “That being said I appreciate that it is difficult for businesses to redesign their business models.” And referring to the infrastructure for a circular system, Adrian pointed to a diagram which was part of his presentation; it showed how it is possible to be 100% circular with 0% waste. “We want to reduce waste by adopting to on-demand productions”, explained Adrian.
On the drivers for change, Adrian acknowledged, “As long as it’s cheaper to buy a lot of stock then we will always continue to do so.” Continuing: “Especially since new materials that we are developing cannot, unfortunately, make up for the current demand.” Pointing to the consumption period diagram, Adrian showed how consumption could be distributed in the future. At the top of the pyramid was ‘buy new’ and at the bottom was ‘use what we have and experience things’. He concluded that “Buying new needs to be at the top of the pyramid, because at the moment it is at the base of the pyramid.”
“Buying new needs to be at the top of the pyramid, because at the moment it is at the base of the pyramid.”-Adrian Zethraeus
As he wrapped up, he talked about the new consumer. “They want to buy experiences and education that makes them a better person“. Championing for the less passive consumer, he concluded, “The new consumer is sharing their stories on instagram so people can follow their journey“.
The Soundbites Of The Day
Continuing on the sustainable fashion theme, Marie Widen from Smart Textiles, University of Borås, gave us some home truths: “It’s a fact that our resources will not last forever,” she said. The Project Manager, who is part of a team developing and researching within the smart textile area, explained how Smart Textiles has become the core link between industry and academy. Explaining, “We aim to support small and medium companies to adopt a circular business model”.
Supporting industries in education, science and textile Marie’s key point was: “It’s not only the market that has to be ready, but industries also need to understand that when it comes to integrating wearables, the aesthetics need to be there.”
Following Marie, was Lutz Walters. He talked about the challenges that the European fashion industry currently faces, such as missing links to technology, the lack of interdisciplinary skills to organise and manage collaborations and the scarcity of financier networks focused on fashion technology. Recognising that the fashion industry is slow when it comes to adopting new technologies, he asked, “How can we bring the Nordic Tech industry together with the fashion ateliers in Italy or France?” Not waiting for an answer, he said: “This is what we are trying to do”.
“How can we bring the Nordic Tech industry together with the fashion ateliers in Italy or France?” -Lutz Walters
The speaker that had the audience chuckling the most had to be Matthew Drinkwater. The well-seasoned speaker who had the audience at ‘Tim Apple’, focused his presentation on how immersive technologies impact the fashion industry. Matt tutored: “A large chunk of my work has been around immersive technologies. Although immersive realities are still considered a bit of a gimmick, there is a lot of money being thrown in AR.” He also explained how case studies, like the Mulberry one that he and his team worked on, has played a vital role in accelerating new technologies in an industry that is reluctant to adopt a lot of the advancements available to them.
Bringing up the topic of digital fashion Matt said, “Consumers want to engage with the product.” Taking a pause, he then asked, “Is there going to be digital fashion?” Then swiftly answering his own question he said: “Yes there definitely is.” Bringing it back to his students he finished his talk by confessing how it is key that “The new generation of designers go into the industry with a new skill set.”
“The new generation of designers [need to] go into the industry with a new skill set.”-Matthew Drinkwater
Although there was a lot of excellent soundbites given by all of the speakers, I do want to wrap up with Robin Caudwell. He addressed technological challenges and the future of fashion. Talking about how “Traceability supports sustainability”, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with pretty much 99% of what he said. It simply made sense. Moving on to Blockchain, he summed it up quite nicely by saying: “Telling a nice story is at the core of fashion. The blockchain is about telling the story together and involving the consumer”. As a person who writes a lot about blockchain, I couldn’t have put it better myself.
So what will the future of fashion look like? Robin intelligently stated, “Before we talk about the future of fashion we must first understand the state of fashion today”. He continued: “There have been three major disruptions in fashion: e-commerce, social network and the growth of fast fashion. These players have had a major impact on the fashion value chain because they came into the game and set new rules.”
“There have been three major disruptions in fashion: e-commerce, social network and the growth of fast fashion.”-Robin Caudwell
Throwing questions to the audience, probably to make sure we were all paying attention, Robin asked: “Why are brands not using the technology yet?” Taking a slightly dramatic pause, he said: “The thing is, technology isn’t perfect (yet), and many brands want to offer the perfect service to their customers. Also, there is a high cost which results in low demand”.
Concluding he said, “10 years ago it was normal to wait two weeks for delivery, now fast forward to the present day we want our purchases the same day”. Then giving the audience a smile of reassurance he confidently finished with: “It (technology) is not the big bad robot that will eat up the fashion industry”. The man has a point. Technology is not the big bad enemy.
Last But Not Least…
I have only given you a snapshot of the event. There were a lot more key takeaways that came from the likes of Fredrik Timour who gave us an exciting outlook on evolving business models that can be applied to today’s fashion brands. Paolo Gelato who talked about Intellectual Property and how to safeguard your brand. Markus Nordlund who taught us about logistics and how returns from customers can be a driver in sales. Then there was Rickard Lindqvist who acquainted us with consumer-driven production and Daniel Sjolin who gave a great presentation on tech in fashion marketing.
Before I knew it the clock had struck 4:30 pm and the event had come to an end. Reluctant to leave, everyone hung around and mingled, which gave me the feeling that all in all, the DeFINE Info Day at Boras was a success.