Fashion technology refers to cutting-edge technologies in material procurement and fashion design and its use in fashion production, transportation, and retail. AI in fashion design, 3D printers for clothes, lab-made leather alternatives, body scanners, augmented reality and virtual reality, and more are examples of modern technologies used in fashion.
From the development of the sewing machine to the emergence of e-commerce, fashion has always been at the forefront of innovation. Academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and, most crucially, future customers are all interested in fashion technology. This blog post takes a look at the fashion industry’s progress and the future of fashion.
Shift towards sustainability in fashion
Between 2015 and 2019, sustainability-marketed products fueled more than half of the consumer packaged goods sector growth. Goods advertised as environmentally friendly will have boosted their proportion of US in-store sales to 16.8 percent, worth more than $130 billion, by 2021.
Socially concerned consumers enjoy the emerging sustainable fashion trend, which emphasizes ecological materials and transparent, ethical labor and production. Over the last five years, web searches for eco-friendly items have increased by more than 70%. Three out of every five people now say the environmental impact is essential in their shopping choices.
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Emerging technology in the fashion industry addresses the root causes of the sector’s sustainability issues. By adopting emerging technology in fashion, companies can build the sustainable future their consumers demand, from resolving the industry’s size and fit challenges to improving personalization and supporting re-use wherever feasible.
Now, let’s take a closer look at all the areas that fashion technology is applied to.
3D virtual sampling
Physical samples were formerly required throughout the design, purchasing, and selling lifecycle. These physical samples accurately depict the product to designers and retail purchasing teams, but one completed style may need 20 or more samples before manufacturing.
However, as 3D technology advances, virtual sampling allows for a completely digital line review, reducing design and product development waste.
In 2021, Tommy Hilfiger’s whole design process, from drawing to sampling and showrooming, is done in 3D. The 3D virtual sample applies the same technique as physical sampling using a screen while producing almost no waste in the process. Another significant benefit is the decrease in material and time costs involved with the creation of physical samples.
AI-assisted fashion design
Fashion businesses of all sizes and specializations are using technology to understand their clients better than ever before.
Artificial intelligence will transform firms’ product design and development approach as data collection efforts advance, emphasizing forecasting what consumers will want to wear next. It will also aid the fashion designer in the process.
With Project Muze, a 2016 project, Google and Zalando started testing AI-powered fashion design. A neural network was trained to grasp colors, textures, stylistic preferences, and other aesthetic characteristics as part of the research. The AI then developed designs based on user interests and stylistic choices.
Synflux, a Tokyo-based design company, has been employing AI to create new designs using algorithmic couture.
Tommy Hilfiger collaborated with IBM and the Fashion Institute of Technology to create an artificial intelligence-powered fashion creation platform. The Reimagine Retail initiative uses IBM AI techniques to analyze real-time fashion industry trends and consumer sentiment. It then returns the data to human designers, who might use it to make more educated design choices for their following collection.
More R&D is required before firms can depend only on AI-powered designers. However, artificial intelligence is already assisting firms in creating and iterating their designs more swiftly.
Trend and consumer data analysis
The next phase of fashion is all about customization and forecasting. With more data, computers will become trend hunters, anticipating what’s next in never-before-seen ways.
For example, the True Fit platform may assist in identifying the sorts of materials that customers want and determine how crucial sourcing and production circumstances are to each buyer.
According to Happy Returns’ reverse logistics business, customers return up to 40% of online apparel and shoes. Retailers might more efficiently match consumers’ buying habits and tastes with data and AI capabilities, thus lowering the total returns.
Brands are investigating how 3D printing might help them manufacture things on-demand while also opening up new options for customization.
Adidas has collaborated with Carbon to develop 3D-printed soles for its Futurecraft shoes. Meanwhile, the in-store 3D printer at the Ministry of Supply can create a bespoke jacket in 90 minutes. Liquid Factory, Reebok’s first product based on its 3D printing technology, was launched to the market in March 2018.
Novel textiles built of next-generation raw materials may potentially find commercial acceptance in the fashion industry in the future as they contribute to the creation of sustainable fashion.
Some eco-friendly textile options include recycled fibers and fibers produced from agricultural waste items. These new fabrics provide solutions that generate less waste during manufacture, are long-lasting, and are biodegradable.
Modern Meadow produces animal-free lab-grown leather, while Bolt Threads invented super-strong spider silk. A new eco-friendly alternative to leather, Piñatex, created from pineapple leaf fiber by Ananas Anam, and Mylo, the alternative leather derived from mycelium, is worth noting.
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Stella McCartney pioneered closed-loop and sustainable methods that use novel materials such as bio-based fur, called KOBA. Levi’s Wellthread x Outerknown collection includes products made with “cottonized hemp” and jackets with detachable hardware. Adidas released 200 pairs of its Futurecraft.Loop sneakers, a 100% recyclable line of running shoes — though it ran into challenges as people didn’t bring them back.
H&M has pledged to only use recycled or sustainable materials by 2030.
RFID tags are intelligent labels that do not need batteries and may be used for digital cataloging. Unlike barcodes, RFID tags’ signals may be read from a distance, reducing the time required to record goods manually.
Zara’s RFID technology encodes each garment on the factory floor, enabling precise monitoring of item sales, inventory, and availability. RFID is used by several premium labels to combat counterfeiting and to track where items are bought.
Startups such as Repsly and Eversight assist businesses in monitoring the presentation of products on shop shelves and tracking the outcomes of in-store promotions or displays.
Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the fashion industry, as well as many other sectors. Companies may construct end-to-end digital histories for their inventory by assigning a unique digital ID, or token, to commercially produced commodities on a decentralized, distributed ledger.
Tracing-enabling technology is essential because end-to-end transparency will become increasingly crucial to environmentally concerned customers, necessitating a more comprehensive and integrated solution to understand the fashion supply chains.
In 2017, a fashion-blockchain initiative was launched by a firm with London-based designer Martine Jarlgaard. The effort traced raw materials through the supply chain to the completed garment. In addition, Provenance, an open-source ecosystem for developing blockchain-based DeFi apps, gave its technology to Woolmark Prize contenders in 2020.
Blockchain has a lot of promise in the supply chain. In April 2020, H&M-owned Cos was said to have teamed with VeChain to monitor the origins of some of its clothing. A wool beanie from the Arket apparel brand was employed to evaluate product data traceability in the supply chain.
Nike patented “CryptoKicks” in 2019, sneakers that could be monitored and verified using blockchain technology.
Hublot and Franck Muller, both watchmakers, are selling some of their items solely through Bitcoin. Retailers may also warm up to cryptocurrency communities in other ways. They may, for example, collaborate with systems that enable customers to earn bitcoins as incentives for buying at partner shops. Nike, Sephora, and a slew of other firms have already joined the Lolli network.
After passing through a network of resellers, the vast majority of clothes returns end up in landfills. But the only elements that allow for online clothes purchases are free delivery and returns. Many customers purchase clothing in numerous sizes intending to return things that do not fit.
Body scanning provides a solution to the scarcity of information about body shapes and kinds. It has the potential to become one of merchants’ most important e-commerce conversion hacks.
Businesses may use the data from these scans to manufacture clothing that suits diverse body shapes rather than relying on a proportionate scale, which boosts consumers’ trust that what they purchase will fit them, resulting in more loyal customers for brands and merchants.
Trying on clothes to check whether they fit is just data exchange. A customer, like a piece of clothing, has precise proportions. Until recently, the time-consuming process of trying different sizes was the only way to convey this information.
Mobile 3D body scanning allows customers to see how items will fit them right away. Retailers may obtain extra data to understand body form better and design better fitting clothing when customers use mobile body scanning gadgets to make better-sized online purchases.
Virtual dressing experiences will drive the future of virtual shopping over the following years as immersive technologies like AR and VR become more prevalent.
To guarantee a custom fit, TG3D studio created a 3D body scanner. Zeekit, an Israeli company, enables customers to try on clothing products from online retailers digitally. Established in the United States, Forma provides a virtual dressing room linked to a store’s app.
Snapchat has acquired Fit Analytics, a German business that recommends well-fitting garments using machine learning and user data. Naked Labs has developed an intelligent mirror that captures a 3D representation of the person standing in front of it. LikeAGlove has created smart leggings that evaluate users’ bodies and then direct them to certain kinds and brands of trousers based on the data.
Fashion as a service
The typical customer now purchases 60% more apparel than they bought 15 years ago, yet customers keep their clothes for half as long as they used to. Most people think it’s a fashion faux pas to be photographed or seen in the same clothing again.
Clothes rental provides customers with a way to constantly update their wardrobe while conserving the environment and money.
Rent the Runway is a fashion rental business where users may rent designer clothing. Gwynnie Bee approaches the rental trend from a size-inclusive standpoint, presenting stylish brands available in all sizes (0-32).
Following the current epidemic, the market for used clothing has surged in popularity. Between March and September 2020, the rental platform By Rotation in the United Kingdom increased its user base from 12,000 to 25,000.
Customers may virtually try on clothing, which is a common usage of VR in the fashion sector. This improves accuracy via tailored measuring capabilities and also makes use of augmented reality technologies. Customers are more inclined to purchase things that they believe they have tried on. This kind of online buying experience engages and maintains clients for a more extended period.
Augmented and virtual reality are rapidly being used to create digital experiences in shops and on the internet. For Rebecca Minkoff, the company Obsess designed a photorealistic computer-generated virtual shop. In 2019, the firm also collaborated with Tommy Hilfiger to develop a virtual pop-up shop for the brand’s partnership with Zendaya.
Maggy London collaborated with Code & Craft to build a mobile AR catalog utilizing 3D scanning and Apple’s ARKit technology.
Amazon has sought a patent for an augmented reality mirror for an in-home try-on. The patent was given to the e-commerce behemoth in January 2018. Amazon researchers announced Outfit-VITON, an AI-powered virtual try-on system, in June 2020 to assist shoppers in imagining how particular outfits might appear on their bodies.
AI-powered digital stylists and chatbots that can provide feedback on wardrobe choices and propose alternatives are also gaining popularity.
In the fashion industry, digital assistants offer a lot of personalization possibilities. Users will be able to submit bot stylists photographs of goods they like and get ideas for related items as visual search and recommendation systems to improve with AI.
Amazon’s Alexa assistant can now suggest apparel for customers through the Amazon Shopping app. Asos launched a gifting assistant chatbot on Facebook Messenger for the 2017 holiday season. Facebook is experimenting with an AI system called Fashion++ that analyzes a person’s outfit and suggests alterations.
Some shopping apps are integrating social media components. For example, The Yes app lets users invite friends to view and rate their liked items, called Yes Lists.
Second-hand shopping platforms
According to a survey from the online marketplace ThredUp, online secondhand buying was expected to rise 69 percent between 2019 and 2021. According to CB Insights’ Industry Analyst Consensus, the used clothes industry would be worth $64 billion by 2028.
Platforms like Depop, Poshmark, Vinted, and ThredUp have emerged and are thriving in recent years.
Selfridges unveiled a sustainability strategy in August 2020, which includes eco-friendly goods, a garment rental business, and a secondhand store. Cos, an H&M-owned brand, has also established its own reselling business.
Nike Refurbished is a return program that collects and sanitizes worn sneakers before selling them at a discounted price.
Wearables and smart clothing
Wearable technology has been around for a while, dating back to the early days of the FitBit and continuing to the most recent generations of the Apple Watch and Google Glass. Fashion leaders are now combining form and function to make wearables more fashionable and practical.
Google’s Wear OS is now available in watches from fashion brands like Michael Kors, Tag Heuer, Montblanc, ZTE, Asus, Huawei, Fossil, and Diesel.
Oura creates an intelligent ring that monitors the wearer’s activities, such as sleep quality, heart rate, body temperature, and other factors.
Levi’s and Google have collaborated to develop a range of smart denim jackets that detect gestures. It is the “first full-scale digital platform built for smart garments.” The threads are constructed of ultra-thin conductive metal alloys woven into both natural and synthetic fibers.
Ralph Lauren provided Team USA with app-controlled, heated parkas for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Lechal creates navigation-assist shoes that use moderate vibrations to lead you “invisibly yet intuitively.”
Virtual fashion & clothing NFTs
Metaverse malls could be new sales channels and virtual environments where customers could interact with one another, browse digital fashion goods, and have an immersive experience. This notion is probably still a long way off, and bringing it to reality will need a concerted effort on the part of tech titans, startups, and fashion companies. Gaming platforms such as Fortnite and Roblox provide a peek of what metaverse malls may look like.
Fashion is increasingly moving beyond the world of physical retail. In 2019, The Fabricant sold a virtual dress for $9,500 through the Ethereum blockchain. Louis Vuitton released a League of Legends collection, while Moschino released one for The Sims. Gucci has released a virtual collection for a styling app, exclusive outfits for a tennis game, virtual looks for Genies avatars, and, soon, sneakers for the mobile game Aglet.
Aglet, a new software, enables gamers to acquire virtual shoes from Nike, Chanel, and Balenciaga labels. Neuno is collaborating with a few premium businesses to launch NFTs. The Sydney-based company is working on 3D wardrobe technology to enable customers to purchase legendary costumes like J Lo’s Versace gown.
Clothia, a luxury marketplace, is auctioning off NFT-related apparel items. LVMH, the French conglomerate behind names like Tiffany and Dior, is also investigating the use of NFTs as an identification mechanism. Arianee, a French firm, creates a digital protocol that employs NFT watermarks to verify luxury objects such as watches and handbags.
Fashion technology is not one single thing but a set of technologies applied to the fashion industry and shaping its future. Technologies like 3D printing, virtual reality, computer-aided design, and artificial intelligence will revolutionize how we create and wear clothes in the next few years – or even decades! I hope you have learned some interesting new concepts about fashion tech by reading this post. Let me know your thoughts on what’s coming up for cutting-edge fashion trends.