As anyone who’s been keeping up with the news lately knows, the world of fashion technology is going through something of a renaissance moment right now. Brands are adopting digitalization to become more sustainable, efficient, future-forward, and even hip!
In 2022, the fashion industry’s biggest fear is quickly swapping copyright infringement for the “cancel culture”, that is not great for the bottom line. Backlash over unsustainable, unethical practices keeps mounting. Gen-Z, their newest big pocket consumer, changes preferences at lightning speed, hopping from one trend to another!
Fashion has turned to technology in the hope of solving some of its old and new problems. And so far, the results have been quite promising!
This article will help you understand how fashion and technology are working together to create a new future for themselves.
NFTs are the newest tool in fashion’s fight against counterfeits
In the context of art, people are usually aware of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) to verify ownership or authenticity in digital artwork. But NFTs can also be used in the fashion industry to solve the multi-billion-dollar problem that is counterfeiting.
The world of fashion NFTs goes far beyond the Gucci Grail NFTs or Nike’s NFT Sneaker collection. In fact, it is the potential solution to the luxury industry’s $98 billion (about $300 per person in the US) counterfeiting problem.
NFTs are an ideal form of authentication because they can’t be faked, and digital ownership is easily tracked through blockchain technology.
By creating NFT certifications for a product, buyers and sellers can potentially track that product’s entire purchase history. It will return confidence to the resale market since buyers will know exactly where the products came from.
PLM systems are essential for every fashion business
Fashion brands, big or small, rely on technology in one form or another. These technologies allow businesses to make smart business decisions and build more efficient operating systems.
Product lifecycle management software (PLM) if you don’t know, is an end-to-end software that manages every step of a product’s life cycle. It allows you to streamline the entire design and production process, from initial sketches through to the shipping of finished products on one centralized platform.
PLM Fashion Software, which helps brands catalog their products and manage inventory efficiently, is essential to the survival of fashion companies. Over the years, PLM has helped fashion brands improve product quality and reach the market faster without investing in more resources. Using a PLM solution, companies can more efficiently manage their supply chains and increase sustainability.
It brings a level of transparency and accountability to the supply chain that is very difficult to achieve manually. For instance, brands can use it to track unnecessary wastage, then make changes in their processes so they can become more sustainable.
Using Fit-Tech to reduce returns and enhance customer loyalty
Consumer returns are a big problem for the retail industry. According to the US National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail, about $762 billion worth of merchandise was returned in 2021. Contrary to what you have been told, the vast majority of these ‘returned items’ either end up in landfills or are burned.
Incorrect sizing and fitness were cited as the most common reason for returns, and this is not surprising given how “vanity sizing” has run amok in the fashion industry.
That is why companies like TrueFit, BODS, and Virtusize are using AI, Big Data, machine learning and, in some cases, 3D body scanners to help consumers find their perfect fit across brands. This kind of data-driven personalization increases customer satisfaction and loyalty because they don’t have to struggle with a size chart and tape measure every time, they want new jeans.
Blockchain technology is improving supply chain traceability
With the rise of globalization, the fashion industry’s supply chain has become harder to navigate. As a result, you would see brands like Nike, Gap, Zara, Victoria’s Secret, Fashion Nova, forever 21, and H&M dealing with public relations nightmares related to unfair labor practices and unsustainable manufacturing processes.
Supply chain transparency and sustainability are two issues that have gained a lot of attention in the past few years. It’s a big issue, because most brands are either unwilling or find it difficult to make their manufacturers accountable for unethical practices.
This is where blockchain comes into the picture. This decentralized system allows brands to collect data from invoices at each step of the supply chain down to farm level, so that customers can view this information.
Blockchain technology will enable brands to collect data from invoices created at each step of the supply chain down to farm level—where their clothes were stitched, what raw materials were used, and who made them. It will make it easier for brands to conduct audits and hold 3rd party vendors accountable. Since you can’t delete or manipulate entries on the blockchain, it also adds another layer of trust and authenticity to the process.
Fashion is taking a ‘virtual’ trip to the Metaverse
Fashion is dipping its toes into the digital fashion pond by offering video game skins for gaming avatars. This has allowed them to tap into a market of consumers who may have never bought (or intended to buy) designer clothes otherwise.
Brands like Balenciaga and Gucci are now designing “skin” for Fortnite. In fact, luxury brands are estimated to be earning millions by selling “skins” or customizing outfits in video games through microtransactions (like buying new outfits or accessories in an app).
This has led to the creation of a new trend in fashion: digital clothes. Clothes, shoes or accessories that you can wear virtually—either in augmented reality, social media, virtual meetings, or video games.
The concept of virtual fashion is often discussed in relation to the Metaverse. The next evolutionary step for the Internet, Metaverse is a virtual world where people can work, play, hang out with friends and so on. Basically, like Ready Player One but with fewer ’80s pop culture references, I hope. It’s simple, if there are virtual avatars, they will need virtual clothes, so someone has to design and provide them.
To complete this digital fashion ecosystem, we have virtual showrooms and virtual shopping. Brands are using AI, try-on technology and 3D fitting rooms to give customers a 360-degree view of how clothes will look on them online.
Virtual showrooms give brands an opportunity to showcase their new designs without worrying about real estate, operation costs or managing a crowd. With it, they can expand to new regions and drive customer engagement in a way that is not possible with simple e-commerce.
Next-gen materials are changing the way we use and make textiles
Global life cycle data shows that fashion’s biggest carbon dioxide emissions come from the material phase of its supply chain. This means that the raw materials and the manufacturing process used to make our clothes cause the most damage to our environment.
One of the biggest culprits in the waste stream is leather. The fashion industry is actively trying to eliminate it from its products with alternative materials, such as vegan or mushroom leather. A recent significant victory for alternative-material science was when Hermès, a luxury brand famous for its leather products, announced that they are launching travel bags made from mushroom leather.
Fashion brands are increasingly seeking partnerships and investments in companies like MycoWorks, Bolt Treads, Spinnova, and Ecovative to develop alternative materials for their products. Hermès, Stella McCartney, Lululemon, and Adidas have all introduced mycelium collections to produce more sustainable clothing lines.
Whether Metaverse enables us to live in a futuristic Virtual Reality or not. The influence of technology in fashion can’t be denied anymore. Fashion technology has transformed from being a niche to going mainstream.
Regardless of whether the Metaverse will enable us to live in a futuristic virtual reality or not, technology is changing the fashion industry. Technology is changing the way we shop, and it’s also changing the way we design clothes. It’s changing the game for everyone involved, from brands to manufacturers, retailers, designers to consumers. And based on what you’ve read so far, I think you’ll agree that it’s a good thing!