What the Future Looks Like for the Fashion-Tech Industry
As technology constantly evolves and continues to ingrain itself deeper and deeper into our everyday lives, almost every industry is finding itself having to (or even wanting to) incorporate it into their process. When it comes to the fashion industry, this means that more companies are using tech to improve the creation process, personalise the e-commerce experience, or predict the future of customer interest. No matter how or why they use it, it is clear that tech is, and will continue to be, imbedding itself within fashion. For the third and final post in our ‘FashionxTech’ mini series, we wanted to look at how the fashion industry can and will continue to use technology to its advantage, and how this may materialise in the coming years.
The Growing Digitalisation of the Shopping Experience
In recent years, we’ve seen how much the overall shopping experience has become evermore digitalised, with online shopping expected to account for over 50% of retail sales by 2028. However, as technology becomes more advanced, we will start to see even more digitalisation within the shopping experience, with things we couldn’t even fathom or imagine in this day and age. These include things like:
Digital Dressing Rooms
With the growth and expansion of AR technology, it is expected that it will soon become the norm for shoppers to be able to virtually try on clothing and beauty products without needing to see or feel the physical item itself. Though this is not exactly new, it is expected that over time, this technology will become even more impressive and realistic. It is hoped that at some point in the future, it will be as useful as trying on the physical product within the actual store.
Brands like ZOZOnext are working to achieve this kind of impressive technology, and UX Connections were able to witness this first hand at the SXSW convention back in March this year. Their 3D/AI technology scanned your body, creating a virtual avatar that allowed for trying on different outfits. Explaining their exhibit, they said “for our inaugural exhibition, we will combine technology and fashion under the concept of ‘UNVEIL THE FUTURE OF FASHION TECHNOLOGY’, a new user experience that will give a sense of the future”
Another way in which digitalisation will expand further into our shopping experience is through the creation of the ‘Metaverse’. The ‘new world’ announced by Mark Zuckerberg in 2021 will see people represented by avatars – three dimensional representations of themselves that could, eventually, look almost identical to their physical being. Along with everything else that the Metaverse may offer, one of these things would be virtual ‘shopping centres’, with virtual dressing rooms. This means our avatars could try on as many different pieces of clothing as possible, with none of the annoyances that come from shopping in real life. Using technology that is currently in development, we could see how these clothes look on our bodies, from any angle, in any setting – all from the comfort of our own home.
NFTs, or ‘non-fungible tokens’, are virtual items that live on blockchain, and work in a way that makes the item unique, and fully restricted to only those who have purchased them. With the growth of these items over the last few years, it was only a matter of time before fashion brands began to incorporate them into their offering. Brands like Nike, Balmain and Chanel have all started to create virtual pieces to be added to NFT collections, and many more are expected to follow suit in future years. To get a deeper understanding of Fashion NFTs, read our NFT article.
The Importance of Sustainability
In recent years, sustainability has been at the forefront of discussion within the public sphere, particularly when it comes to how it can help curb the effects of climate change. As more and more people see and understand the consequences that fast fashion has on our environment, they have begun to turn to more sustainable alternatives. This means that an increasing number of fashion companies have started to target this demographic with the developing technology.
With the help of AI and AR/VR technology, apps are being launched that allow their users to create a virtual wardrobe, where they can upload all of their clothes, and get a better idea of what they already own. The app ‘Whering’ does just this, making it easier for users to visualise different outfit options within their wardrobe, rather than going straight to the shops to buy a new outfit. To read more about Whering, check out our previous blog.
Recent years have seen a big surge in the amount of fashion brands that are making use of, or developing their own, online marketplaces, which allow users to re-sell their clothes and secondhand shop. Fast fashion brand Pretty Little Thing recently announced the launch of a new PLT marketplace, which will allow for customers to resell their old or unused items.
Some brands take a different route, and head to big-name online resell sites to capture a new, younger audience – one that is increasingly more conscious of their carbon footprint. Ganni, Vans and Anna Sui are just a few examples of fashion brands that have turned to the Depop resale platform in order to sell stock.
The Incorporation of AI
One last way in which fashion will continue to develop is with the growing incorporation of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The possibilities are endless, and the ways in which it can be of assistance to fashion designers, brands, and startups continues to grow by the day.
Tailored Fashion Advice
As we see more and more, AI can help users find fashion inspiration depending on what they have bought, searched for, and browsed in the past. However, it’s not just consumers that can see the benefit of AI, but also sellers,, too. Companies like Intelligence Node are beginning to offer AI solutions that allow users to track trends in real time, and see specific criteria such as navigation behaviours, price optimisations, and more. This means that brands can start advertising products depending on what most consumers are looking for at the very moment.
AI can not only help to understand what consumers want right now, but also what they might want in the future. With enough information, AI can begin to understand patterns, colours and textures, and use this information to actually make designs from user preferences. This was seen in a Google partnership with German fashion brand Zalando.
This means that in the future, AI could be used to predict exactly what will be ‘trending’ in the fashion world, when, and even why. We know that trend cycles already exist, so if a computer can begin to understand these patterns, there is no telling what it will be able to predict.
One last way that AI will continue to affect the fashion industry is within the actual clothing-creation process. It has been seen to streamline and heavily assist with the making of fashion pieces, from design to physical creation. Tokyo-based design company Synflux has been using AI to produce ultra modern designs in a project called ‘Algorithmic Couture’. They have built a tool that creates customised clothing by 3D scanning a body to capture its proportions, before producing various garment patterns. Assisted by the Computer-Aided Design systems, these patterns are then translated to 2D pieces that can be sewn together to create the final item!
It’s clear that fashion and tech will continue to collide and grow together, as most industries are forced to in this day and age. But, what will be interesting to see is what new technology will stick, and become ‘normal’, in a way that online shopping did. With things like the Metaverse in the works, it will be exciting to see what effect this has on not only the fashion industry in general, but the specific experiences of the consumers in their day-to-day lives.
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