Fashion has always embraced technological innovation, from the rise of the sewing machine in 1790 to today’s e-commerce and mobile commerce. Fashion is both forward-looking and cyclical in nature. Counting $2.2 trillion of net worth, the fashion industry is also one of the largest sectors of the global economy today.
And it’s growing at a faster pace than ever. From VR-powered mirrors and dressing rooms to 3D-printed outfits, from algorithms that predict style trends to technologies that automate fashion marketing processes, the sector is full of exciting innovations.
Are you wondering what’s new in the fashion sector from the perspective of technology? Here are some of the most important tech trends in the fashion industry today.
Technology Trends in the Fashion Industry
Artificial intelligence (AI)
During the last few years, brands have started to use AI to:
- improve the shopping experience,
- boost sales,
- analyze data,
- forecast fashion trends,
- offer personalized inventory-related guidance.
For example, many stores added touch screens to improve customer experience and deliver personalized product recommendations to users. The technology behind them is based on artificial intelligence algorithms that track the customer journey to match people with the right products.
Some of the most profitable avenues for AI in the fashion industry are trend forecasting and supply chain management. For example, many brands have embraced real-time inventory tracking that helps to save time and enable more efficient warehouse management and operations.
By combining inventory tracking with AI-powered predictive tools for trend forecasting, organizations can gain a significant competitive advantage in the fashion industry. Instead of relying on traditional ways of trend forecasting that require observational data collection from responders, influencers, and fashion designers, brands can now predict what styles will be wanted where and when.
Examples of AI in fashion:
- The British fashion label Finery came up with an automated wardrobe planning tool that uses analytics to report female customer purchases and introduces them in a special virtual wardrobe. The platform allows women to create looks from their wardrobe and choose from over 10,000 stores.
- Another interesting brand, Truefit, uses an online fitting engine to help users find the right fit with brands and new styles on the market.
- Stylumia uses AI and computer vision to get information from images, textual descriptions, social media, and user behavior data to help fashion professionals make more informed decisions about the future directions of their brands.
- Another interesting example of an AI use case in fashion is Intelligence Node, a solution that allows tracking trends in real time and analyzing keywords entered by customers into search engines, price points used by competitors, and user navigation patterns. This AI-powered search discovery platform also tracks the closest matches to a given product that can provide valuable insight into competitive differentiators.
- In partnership with the German fashion retailer Zalando, Google used a neural network to understand style preferences, testers, and colors. Afterward, the algorithm was used to create designs on the basis of user preferences.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Fashion has greatly improved the clothing technologies we use in our everyday life. However, the advancements in apparel technology and wearable gadgets are having an even greater impact on how we experience our surroundings, interact with others, and see the world.
Multifunctional designs, responsive sportswear, smart clothing, wearable spaces are just a few examples of new trends in this exciting area.
Our offline worlds are becoming increasingly blurred with virtual realities – and many fashion designers are now experimenting with that, pushing the limits of wearability.
The Internet of Things is a key technology trend that enables data sharing, security, inventory management, and increased efficiency thanks to the use of smart connected objects. Many businesses also consider using IoT enriching customer experiences with capabilities such as smart clothing or responsive sportswear.
- For example, Nadi X yoga pants have built sensors that correct users’ postures by vibrating as they move through various yoga poses. Hexoskin can track the user’s heart rate and temperature. The company also makes socks that count steps, calories, and many other data.
- Another interesting application of IoT is Fuseproject that aims to help the elderly suffering from muscle dystrophia. The suit helps them to stand, walk, and stay active for longer periods of time. All the while, the suits bring in a wealth of data that can be used by health providers and physicians to deliver better care to their patients.
- Another interesting example of the Internet of Things is Loomia, a textile company based in San Francisco that creates soft, flexible circuits that can be embedded into textiles for lightning, sensing, heating, and data tracking applications.
Data analytics and Big Data
Thanks to cloud computing and new data analytics solutions available on the market, companies, and factories can receive real-time feedback and alerts about defects or damaged goods. This helps to eliminate waste, deliver more adequate products at the right time, and even save money.
- A good example of this is the enterprise resource planning solution IQMS. It’s used in manufacturing for monitoring and collecting production data in real time, just as the products are being created.
- Another interesting example is Techpacker, a solution that helps to streamline and automate the process of optimizing communication and production with factories. This cloud-based software allows everyone included in the design teams and factories to learn about product changes in real time. This helps to eliminate the manual process of updating and communication, resulting in a 70% faster tech pack creation than using traditional methods.
Mobile is becoming an increasingly engaging platform each year. It impacts the everyday lives of customers and has now become one of the fastest-growing sectors of e-commerce. According to forecasts, the value of the m-commerce market will reach $284 billion by the end of 2020. This will constitute 45% of the total US e-commerce market.
Why is this happening? That’s because using smartphones and tablets for shopping online is becoming easier and faster. Digital wallet options like Android Pay and Apple Pay are just two of the many examples of that. New technologies like facial and print recognition also help customers to quickly pay for retail purchases. According to Digital Commerce, two out of three millennials prefer to shop online than in-store.
Now add social media into the mix like Instagram’s shopping feature, and you can probably tell why so many brands are now looking to establish a strong mobile presence.
It’s simply their customers’ favorite channel that can be fully integrated with digital commerce offerings. Mobile offers greater visibility to brands and provides more opportunities than ever to make a sale.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
By combining physical and virtual worlds, retailers offer some of the most exciting applications of VR and AR in fashion. One interesting use case is enabling customers to virtually try on outfits with higher accuracy thanks to customized measurements functionality that uses Augmented Reality.
As you can imagine, this use case is only going to become more popular as more and more consumers decide to shop online. The online shopping experience engages customers for a long time because they get entertained by seeing how the products look on them before buying. By combining an AR feature like this with social media, brands are set on the path to success.
Here are a few examples of companies that use VR and AR to provide the fashion industry with innovative solutions:
- Obsess is a platform that allows brands and retailers to create 3D 360° shopping experiences across their websites, mobile apps, and social channels.
- Another interesting company is Avametric that enables brands to make real clothing virtually in 3D and customize it on digital body models for AR, web, and mobile platforms.
- Virtusize allows online fashion retailers to virtually illustrate the size of their products and help customers find the best fit.
Since the emergence of 3D printers, many fashion brands have been looking into the opportunities it offers for on-demand production. 3D printing is expected to create new paths for customization, creativity, and sustainability.
Many brands are now embracing 3D in their collections ranging from accessories to entire looks. 3D fashion can save many hours on product manufacturing. It’s far less labor-intensive than other types of fashion manufacturing and printing garments on-demand greatly reduces fabric waste. The minimal waste approach provides a direction for reshaping the current state of factories and aligning them with more sustainable practices.
- One of the pioneers of 3D printing in the fashion world is the Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen who has a large body of work in this field dating back to 2010 – including her notable crystallization top, which was 3D printed from white polyamide. She has produced special 3D printed fashion pieces for celebrities such as Beyoncé and Lady Gaga.
- Digital knitting is an interesting subset of 3D printing in the fashion industry. It offers a wide range of customization possibilities and enables brands like Shima Seiki to transform the cons of yarn into a full seamless garment in less than one hour.
Blockchain is a brand-new technology that brings outstanding transparency, traceability, and efficiency into the supply chain. It allows for all the intermediaries and suppliers to become connected easily and exchange information directly and securely.
Blockchain is the record-keeping technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The blocks on the blockchain are made of digital pieces of data that store information about transactions like:
- involved parties.
They also store information that distinguishes them from other blocks – a unique code called a hash.
The fashion industry can use blockchain to keep records of clothing apparel in supply chains, enabling more transparent track and trace and inventory management. Blockchain-based solutions create a digital link between the real product and its digital identity stored securely on a blockchain. Just like it works with digital currencies, it’s like a cryptographic seal or serial.
Every time the product moves in the supply chain, the action will be recorded on the blockchain. An obvious benefit of this is the prevention of counterfeiting goods that are missing from the physical-digital link. They’re going to be identified as obvious fakes. Any attempt to direct goods will be tracked as well. Fashion manufacturers and companies will use blockchain to understand who was the last party to gain custody of the product or when a counterfeit product slipped into the chain.
For example, Provenance is a blockchain software company that provides consultancy services to fashion brands to better control their raw materials through blockchain and a smart labelling system. Thanks to their help, brands can track raw materials at each step of their supply chain.
Technological innovation happening right now impacts every industry vertical – and fashion is no exception. Brands and manufacturers are constantly looking to innovate their processes with digital technologies to become more productive, engage customers better, and deliver products of superior quality – all the while eliminating waste and optimizing production costs.
If you’re looking for an experienced company that delivered successful solutions to the retail and fashion sector, get in touch with our tech consultants. We have the skills and know-how to help you excel on the market and gain a massive competitive advantage.
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