Fashion industry, dominated by a trend-driven mindset, has become digital-centric. The influence of technology on fashion is immense. The Fashion industry, from its manufacturing department to luxury boutique store, is significantly influenced by digital innovations. Customers are becoming more knowledgeable and demand what they want to be delivered quickly. Technology is changing how the fashion industry makes decisions by setting up visually appealing online versions of stores, integrating payment gateways and offering efficient delivery logistics. Thus, companies need to keep up with technology to provide their customers the ultimate experience they want. How is technology reshaping fashion industry?
Fashion entrepreneurs who are able to see the future tech trend in fashion far ahead of time are the ones who gain advantage over the others in future. That happened with e-commerce when at first, only a few brands started selling online, whereas now e-commerce is the driving source of the market growth as data proves shoppers are more eager to spend their money online rather than in stores. The potential impact of technology can be understood years before by close observers who can gain huge advantages over the competitors by adopting these changes. For instance, knowing that Facebook would have a tremendous impact on fashion industry could have gained billions to the companies in the industry.
So now let's see how emerging technologies are reshaping the fashion industry.
Technology has allowed fashion to be accessible from all corners of the world. It is especially profitable for low-cost emerging, as well as established brands. Consumers can now buy from companies they would not hear without Internet. Although, as noted above, e-commerce is responsible for the biggest part of the sales, however, some luxury brands - Chanel, Céline, Hermes and Dior - still require their customers to purchase ready-to-wear from their physical stores. When asked why is this strategy still used, Bruno Pavlovski, president of global fashion of Chanel, said: "Fashion is about clothing, and clothing you need to see, to feel, to understand,” (which personally I couldn't agree more with). Others, like Dior, claim that it has to do with their business-model, as the revenue from ready-to-wear is very small and it is a "tool to market a label's other goods" - bags, perfume, makeup-that can be bought online. Marco Gobbetti, CEO of Céline, on the other hand told WWD that the company prefers to engage with customers directly “in the way they like to be engaged" - that is, in the store.
2. Social Media and Chat-bots
The relationship between social media and fashion industry companies is not only one way allowing companies to connect with the customers, but the brands also are influenced by the customers and consider their feedback in their designs. Thus, technology allows the customers to become the ones who dictate trends. It also enables the companies to forecast trends quicker by providing data about customers' social-media behaviors, likes and dislikes, habits and street trends. Companies are adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) to reply better and quicker to increasing customer demands. AI is being heavily experimented with in the form of chat-bots. As almost 2.5 billion people use messaging apps, messaging is now a dominant social media activity and buying clothes is available on messaging apps facilitated by sophisticated software-driven bots, which can complement interactions with human customer service agents. For instance, Estée Lauder’s No. 6 Mortimer in London has made purchases possible directly through the Facebook Messenger app where customers checkout with Paypal accounts without even having to go to actual online website. This is made for "time-poor consumers seeking ultimate convenience, with immediate purchase and delivery of our products in as little as 60 minutes” as Mark Lapicki, director of retail innovation at The Estée Lauder Companies UK and Ireland, told WWD.
Chat-bots are making suggestions for gifts and what to buy at a much greater level of detail than ever before.
Another example is New York-based designer Rebecca Minkoff who has launched a self-checkout option in her Soho store.
3. 3-D printing and knitting
Have you ever thought one day you would be able to print your sneakers at home? Me neither. German brand Adidas claims the day is near. On October 7th, 2015 the company introduced its Futurecraft 3D sneakers that allows to get “flexible, fully breathable carbon copy of your own footprint, matching exact contours and pressure points.”
Some brands, such as Uniqlo, have also adopted 3D knitting in their factories that uses yarn to produce a complete item - shirts, jackets, sweaters, anything. Adidas has taken it even further by testing a store where a customer can determine his/her size and get his sweater knitted right away. It is possible through 3D body scan, then they just specify the color and voila (the sweaters cost $215).
3D knitting enables stores to carry less inventory, since a garment is only created when there’s a customer ready to make the purchase which decreases the risk of having unsold and discounted products.
4. Wearable Technology
Wearable tech is the new “it” trend in fashion. When speaking about wearable technology, smartwatches and fitness trackers are first that comes on mind. What if I say there is a research to make smart fabrics based apparel? Like real tech-clothes that you can wear? Sounds impossible, right? Well, let's see some examples below:
Thesis Couture has introduced first high performance stilettos - combining high heels with comfort. The idea behind it is a ballistic-grade polymer in the heel that stops it from feeling so painful underfoot and better distribute weight and shape across the entire base of the shoe. So now you can enjoy a pair of gorgeous stilettos that feel like lower-heeled wedges.
Ringly - smart jewelry connecting your phone via Bluetooth. It is designed to make people less "phone-dependent" and sends customized notifications through vibration only for the most important of calls or emails.
Kate Spade Everpurse charges phone in chic purse: you just need to slip it into the specified interior pocket. It comes with a wireless charging mat.
Levi’s Commuter x Jacquard by Google Trucker Jacket is a piece of wearable technology designed for urban cyclists. It allows to change the music, answer/block calls and do other simple tasks while looking like a simple denim jacket.
Smart Mirrors created byAvery Dennison, who works with retailers from Ralph Lauren to Rebecca Minkoff , allow users to send messages to store employees about any questions they may have and to show information about the clothing they’re trying on without having to out their heads out of the fitting rooms. Days when you needed to depend fully on a sales assistant to request new sizes or colors are long gone.
As we can see, technology is an integrated part of fashion: it enables to buy online, speeds up the design process through digital libraries that store style templates, product specifications, color palettes and patterns, it allows to gather data and to forecast trends, quicker, adopts Virtual reality to create virtual fitting rooms, creates 3D body scanners and so much more. In fact, it is so immensely used in fashion that fashion might be the one to dictate technology innovations in close future.