Today I was part of the DeFINE: Fashion-Technology Showcase final panel made up of Simon Hjelte, Rebecca Morter, Arabella Turek and Dr Ana Roncha. For those of you who are not familiar with the DeFINE Network, it is an EU initiative that has been making an important step towards developing Europe’s fashion tech innovation network. As the concluding panel to a week-long conversation, we discussed ‘What’s next for fashion tech’. Because this is such a big topic, my fellow panellists and I only managed to scratch the surface in the allocated hour, so I decided to share 8 areas that fashion tech has the potential to mature in the coming years.
- BELIEVE IT OR NOT, TECH IS AUTOMATING THE FASHION DESIGNER
As the gap between AI developed designs and human-made ones closes, fashion brands of all sizes and specialities are starting to rely on technology to understand customers better than ever before.
2. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, NO LONGER JUST AN ADD ON
It has been said in various reports that it is the knowledge from the AI system that has begun to help fashion designers make informed design decisions on what their following collection would consist of.
One of these reports was by CBS Insights. They recently released a report that mentioned the collab between Tommy Hilfiger, IBM and the Fashion Institute of Technology. The report explained how the 2018 partnership showcased a project known as “Reimagine Retail,” where they used IBM AI tools to decipher real-time fashion industry trends, customer sentiment around Tommy Hilfiger products and runway images and resurfacing themes in trending patterns, silhouettes, colours, and styles
CBS Insights report: ‘The Future of Fashion: Technology and the Industry’ also explained that as more and more AI “assistance” programs advance, it is this progress that will help brands make smarter strategic decisions around product development and new business line. So expect to continue to see 3D design platforms like CLO helping brands use real-time AI insights to modify collections right up to the minute they hit production.
3. TECHNOLOGY HAS THE POTENTIAL TO HELP LESSEN THE NEED FOR FAST FASHION’S INSTANT GRATIFICATION MENTALITY BY OFFERING SOMETHING ELSE
Various innovations are helping brands shift to more sustainable materials and also embrace more environmentally-friendly practices more efficiently.
4. PR/MARKETING DEPARTMENTS SHOULD TAKE A BACK SEAT SO REPAIR LABS AND RESEARCH DEPARTMENTS WITHIN FASHION BRANDS CAN PROSPER.
Did you know that the fashion house Gucci, in 2018, launched Gucci Art Lab? The luxury brand announced that they had invested in a 37,000-square- meter product development and lab testing centre intending to bring the Gucci supply chain closer to home. Ultimately the brand’s strategy was to gain significant control over product development, sampling, and material development.
It is this willingness to create a space for innovation that should be something every fashion business should attempt to do. Putting money into advertising and PR brings about short term euphoria, but investing in the future of your business through innovating will make sure that those euphoric moments last that little bit longer.
5. 3D PRINTING PERSONALIZATION IS KING OR AT LEAST SHALL BE REAL SOON
I think it is exciting that more and more brands are beginning to explore how 3D printing can assist them to produce goods on demand. Fashion businesses have started to wake up to the idea that this type of technology might be able to help them create new avenues for customization, and that is not a good thing, it is a great thing!
A great example is the brand Ministry of Supply. They unveiled an in-store 3D printer that creates customized knitwear, which meant that the garments they printed reduced fabric waste in production by about 35%.
6. BLOCKCHAIN CHANGING THE FASHION SUPPLY CHAIN ONE TRUTH AT A TIME
I am still learning about Blockchain, and the more I read about it, the more I believe it has transformative potential.
In 2017, blockchain startup Provenance piloted a fashion- blockchain project with London-based designer Martine Jarlgaard to track the journey of raw materials through the supply chain right up to the finished garment.
That being said, there have been arguments that blockchain-backed approaches to supply chain management are more buzz than substance, but I genuinely believe that it is a movement that will help the fashion industry move more towards a more ethical, sustainable existence.
7. INNOVATION LEADS THE WAY IN HELPING BRICK AND MORTAR FASHION RETAILERS TRANSITION (AND ABOUT TIME TOO!)
It is no longer enough to “sell things”. It is time to rethink physical retail and the purpose of brick-and-mortar stores. Its purpose is just evolving.
Retailers who are open to adapting to the digital disruption and the ‘new consumer’ are the ones whose physical store space remains essential.
The change of the physical retail stores includes store design. By this, I mean that stores need to evolve into a place where retailers will communicate with their consumers through a shared passion for the brand, offer inspiration, tell their story, and offer an intense sensory experience that cannot be received online. Physical stores now need to trigger an emotional connection with the consumer.
8. EXCITED TO SEE AR/VR CONTINUING TO REDEFINE THE ONLINE AND IN-STORE EXPERIENCE
It is no secret that immersive technologies have the potential to help retailers create digital experiences in-store. It is these “in-store” experiences like augmented shopping, that will bring about new opportunities for a brand’s targeted consumer to interact with their products like never before.
The lesson here is that shopping is no longer just about seeing what something looks like in your space and seeing its size; it’s also about seeing the materials and the details of that product.
Looking to the future, the pandemic has reintroduced immersive technologies to a reluctant industry that are slowly becoming accustomed to the fact that it gives them the space to deliver fascinating ways designed to engage their customers throughout the buying experience.
So what is next for fashion technology? Well, some of you might have noticed that I didnt mention digital fashion. It is not because I don’t think it has potential but I think it is still in its “convincing stage”, which some of the technologies I mentioned are already past or about to pass. The innovations that I mentioned might, in some peoples opinion, not be mature enough yet to deliver a decent experience, but the flip side is that innovation is moving faster and faster, allowing me to believe that the experience will soon match expectations.