We’re going to be perfectly candid with you, 2020 hasn’t had the most gentle of starts; between the bushfire crisis gripping Australia, the news that the ocean is warming at an unprecedented rate, and the countless species under the threat of extinction, it seems the environment is under siege from humankind.
And sadly, as we’ve mentioned countless times, fashion is one of the most wasteful industries.
But it’s not all worthy of despair.
Big and small fashion brands are increasingly turning to digital technologies to streamline their processes. And in doing so, they are tackling the big waste problem. The waste problem being wasted time, wasted money, and wasted goods.
As we begin the new year and head into fashion season – hello, Paris, New York, Milan and London – we could see just how far the digital landscape has come in transforming the fashion industry. Here are some of our favourite innovations which could be seen on the catwalks of 2020.
Ahh runways. Previously reserved for the who’s who in fashion, those shiny “it girls” and boys with an indiscernible flair for style… but no more. The coveted runways show could move beyond their territory. They could go digital, thanks in no small part to Victoria Beckham.
Last year the former Spice Girl, turned fashion designer, live streamed her AW20 show on her Youtube channel, which gave the public an exclusive look at the new collection. In so doing, she erased the long-running divide between the upper fashion echelon and the public.
So, what does the digital runway mean for the environment?
Should the digital runway be taken up as wider practise, the environmental ramifications would be huge. With accessibility comes ease, and with things going digital there’s no need for a physical presence. This would mean no more celebrities jet setting across countries in private jets, no more chauffers speeding to and from shows, and no more plastic water bottles given out to thirsty guests.
Look, we get this sound Utopian, and more than a few years off, but it can’t be denied that other industry players have been inspired and are taking Beckham’s lead.
Last week Copenhagen Fashion Week and Vocast announced they had partnered up to develop a Digital Runway, which would provide press and buyers instant access to runways and images at the end of the day. It’s a small step, but a step in the right direction, which is encouraging.
3D printing is one of the most hyped about innovations of the last decade, but in the buzz what it actually does can get lost in the milieu.
Simply put, 3D printing builds a three-dimensional object from a computer-aided design model, which can be rendered and printed in hours. (This is a vast improvement from the first 3D printed dress, which took seven days to make.)
As the speed of the technology improves, the use of it in the fashion industry is increasing. It can be used across all levels of design; from the creative process, to prototyping and even in production. It also cuts down on the time models spend in fittings. Dutch designer Iris van Herpen is one of the notable players in the field. As you can see from her creations, the technology opens up not only the textiles in play, but the scope of design. This all gives more room for experimentation.
But 3D printing isn’t just for weird and zany creations, it can also be used in accessories, like shoes, watches and bags. Although 3D printed goods hasn’t hit the stores just yet, it’s potential for mass customization solutions is endless, which gives every day punters access to unique designs for less and encourages mindful consuming.
Artificial intelligence and big data is changing the fashion and retail landscape for good. It’s being integrated into all ends of the supply chain; from how products are manufactured, to how they’re marketed, and sold (but more on this later).
The ability to produce well-made products, and sell them efficiently cuts down on time, expenditure and waste. All of which means big things for a company’s bottom line.
And the research shows that they’re taking heed. It’s estimated that the global spending by retailers for AI services is expected to reach USD $12 billion by 2023.
But there is a downside to this innovation, as things get more streamlined – people will lose their jobs, especially if it’s employed at the manufacturing level.
We cannot mention AI without delving properly into machine learning. Machine learning is a seemingly-endless application of AI, responsible for exciting innovations such as facial recognition software, to Netflix’s “suggested for you” content, and personalised suggestions of clothing and goods.
When machine learning is combined with retail, the technology shines.
Take for instance, Sephora’s ‘Colour IQ’ technology, which scans a customer’s face then suggests foundation shades accordingly.
Or American Eagle, who partnered with Slyce, an image recognition start-up, to create a visual search engine to identify clothes, or find alternatives.
Or last but not least, North Face who adopted IBM Watson’s cognitive computing technology to help consumers pick a jacket based on factors such as location and gender preference. The data collected from 55,000 users, revealed the technology resulted in a 60 per cent click-through rate and 75 per cent total sales conversions.
Results like that are hard to ignore, and retailers are certainly standing to attention. Global spending on AI and cognitive technologies will reach USD $97.9 billion in 2023, according to IDC.
While there are some privacy concerns with how data is used, we personally think the benefits outweigh them… should said data be used ethically (we’re looking at you Facebook).For consumers it means less time spent in store endlessly searching for a product, or worse mindlessly consuming. At the end day, if the technology is surfacing products actually relevant to a consumer, well… there’s no harm in that.