Some industries symbolize innovation and growth. They are the first to adopt new trends and experiment with the unknown. Fashion is also falling in line when it comes to innovation, up-to-datedness and creating what we’re calling the ‘new normal’. Technology is its partner in progress
By: Jiya Sharma
Posted on: October 16, 2020
Fashion’s new normal has been transformed by its increasing mergers with technology, giving rise to an increasingly well-known and celebrated segment called ‘Fashion-Tech’. While not all of Fashion-Tech is intangible, a lot of it is. And this shift to ‘intangibility’ has been greatly accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis, where the shift towards Digital, Automated and Global has been a matter of “survival of the fittest”. The narrative driving this new relationship has grown exponentially and its imperative to know how technology has coupled with fashion. Here are some of the strongest Fashion Tech trends during and post-lockdown.
Technology in Sustainability
Being one of the largest industries in the world has unfortunately come at a huge price. Fashion habits, especially those of Fast Fashion brands and consumers, have led to immense environmental damage. Technology is being used to curb these activities. AI is being used to analyze consumer data and predict not just overall demand to prevent over-production, but also personalize suggestions given to consumers due to which the volume of items returned has reduced drastically. Firms such as California based Vue.ai work to create personalized homepages for individual consumers. “Tapping into its extensive database, the company uses AI-driven visual recognition and includes attributes that define wear and tear enabling the company to assign resale value at scale for each one of its millions of unique items”, as described in this article by Forbes.
Speaking of on-demand production, 3D Printing has gained widescale attention by the industry. By shortening production time as well as reducing the waste material produced, the technology serves well to Fashion’s sustainability requirements. While argued that 3D printing might take away from the craftsmanship of luxury goods, as well as endanger IP rights of the designs more than today, these cannot compete with the value produced in terms of speed and personalization that 3D printing brings. Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen is a perfect example. Known for her iconic 3D printed designs, the designer has managed to make a mark and build her own niche, loyal audience.
Another very important part of sustainable practice is Transparency. Consumers have a right to know where and how their products were produced. Upcoming technologies including Blockchain shall play a huge role in the same. “Blockchain, as a technology based in transparency, has some great potential to improve supply chains, and provide information about the sourcing of the product at every step. Blockchain stores an up-to-date copy of the ledger on every device, increasing transparency between participants,” says Maggie Clarendon, Editor at dGen, a Berlin based Think Tank.
Virtual Fashion & Digital Runways
In a recent podcast by WIRED magazine on Virtual Beings, Lauren Goode & her guest, Emma are quoted saying “if you can believe in Kim Kardashian, you can believe in Lil Miquela”. Virtual influencers have taken the Fashion Industry by storm. From modelling in ads for brands such as Calvin Klein (featuring Bella Hadid and Lil Miquela) to endorsing clothes by Prada Instagram, virtual models live lives very similar to those that real models and influencers live online. In the midst of the current pandemic, the relevance and use of these virtual models is skyrocketing. While impossible to create “contactless content” with real models, since the process involves styling, makeup and a lot more, virtual models make perfect subjects for the same.
Personally, this is what I was expecting when the news of the first ever Digital Fashion Week broke earlier this year. But if not that, it did however open a new chapter in how brands hold events and communicate with audiences. Digital wholesale platforms such as JOOR, Le New Black thrived and the aim of the shows during Fashion Week differed completely. While some, like Loewe, did it with extra emphasis on the clothes, for Louis Vuitton, it was the Brand. At Maison Mihara Yasuhiro it was design and at Philipp Plein, it was the details. Many brands focused on storytelling and many focused on designer journeys. “We’ve been trying to break the standard pattern of straight runway up and down for a while … Now, what I’ve been tasking my team with is: Let’s start ideating on our dream scenario. Where would you do a show if you had no constraints of time, space, or location?”, said Gayle Dizon from Dizon, a creative production studio.
From what could be seen, the technology used this Fashion Week was restricted to green screens, creative editing & digital wholesale showrooms. With combinations of 3D modelling, 3D printing, AR & VR as well as fintech investments, in my opinion, digital fashions weeks could have no limits, even featuring “See now, buy now, pay later” deals!
Fortnite, Animal Crossing, B-Surf, we’ve heard it all. Luxury fashion brands can be seen indulging more and more in gamification of their designs. With so many stores closed, travelling inhibited and physical shows cancelled, brands are addressing their community where they are sure they will reach them: their phones. Consumers have time and access to the internet. The two usually come together and give way for rising social media applications and mobile games.
“By 2021, the global games market is projected to exceed £146 billion, according to the research firm Newzoo. But the biggest surprise? In 2019, 63 per cent of mobile-game consumers are women,” said Vogue UK. Also, according to Dandelion Chandelier, “to the delight of game developers everywhere, female gamers are 79% more likely to make an in-app purchase than their male counterparts. They’re more likely to buy things like virtual currency, extra lives or even trendy digital outfits for their characters”. Since women make up the larger portion of the audience for brands such as Burberry and Gucci, investing in gamification is an interesting example of experience marketing. Diesel and Moschino collaborated with ‘The Sims’, Burberry with ‘B-Surf’, Louis Vuitton with ‘Riot Games’ and Animal Crossing already hosts a number of luxury players.
However, gamification doesn’t always refer to video games. In China especially, shopping is widely accompanied by interactions with online versions of products such as animated outfits on online platforms that users can use to dress their avatars. Ralph Lauren’s recent collaboration with Bitmoji is an example. “Bitmoji are important vehicles of self-expression in the digital and social space. As the world of digital avatars continues to accelerate, it’s interesting for us to test and learn how audiences respond to fashion in this space,” Alice Delahunt, Ralph Lauren’s chief digital officer says.
Overall, Fashion Technology does not restrict itself just to these fields. During the pandemic, the Manufacturing sector has taken a big hit, with supply chains equally impacted. Technology shall play a huge role in their revival. Not to mention the current socio-political atmosphere that seems to be shifting the focus from major manufacturing hubs, to a more inward facing methodology.