Source for Image: rawpixel.com
I’m not one to care about fashion. I wear the same shirts every week and I don’t know a thing about haute couture. Fashion itself, its intricacies and complexities, always felt elusive and unnecessarily obscure. I mean, clothes are clothes. How much more can there be to it? Here’s where I was wrong.
What makes it interesting is when the industry becomes a platform for inclusivity, sustainability, diversity and the embracement of the renaissance human being. What makes it spectacular is when this maturity is promoted with tech developments.
I’m talking virtual reality, retail tech, robotics, and IoT converging with inclusivity, diversity and sustainability in the fashion ecosystem.
How Fashion is Created
Source for image: Ali Pazani
Technology has revolutionised how fashion is conceived, manufactured and distributed. I won’t get into too much detail because, just as most other industries, we’ve seen task automation, developments in virtual design and the sprouting of online retailing.
Besides the obvious benefits of cost-savings, increased productivity and new realms of innovation, this has created the space for greater inclusivity in fashion. For example, custom-made clothing is more affordable than ever. Instead of struggling to fit into pre-determined sizes created for specific body shapes, all consumers can enjoy flattering, form-fitting outfits. Online stylists at companies like Stitch Fix use algorithms to determine what clients want, in turn allowing them to directly meet customer needs. Machine-learning, coupled with techniques like 3D or nano printing, promotes a sense of intimacy and personal-styling that the industry currently lacks.
How Fashion is Viewed
Source for image: Ben Gabbe / Getty for Savage X Fenty Show Presented by Amazon Prime Video
Technology has catalysed the redefinition of Catwalk culture.
I’m not talking about the bold occurrences of statement-making which act more as premonitions of fashion shows in “I Am Legend” than shows we would actually appreciate. Shows featuring abstract roboticism such as Hanson Robotics’ humanoid, Sophia, are dramatic and almost jarring. Of course, that’s great performance and by extension, great Fashion — but it’s just not real. The technology that will truly impact fashion are the subtleties that bolster what already makes these shows fascinating.
We are seeing a tech-induced transition away from strutting models towards an amorphous amalgamation of music videos, film showcases, documentaries and classic fashion shows. Two cases in point are the S/S20 Telfar Showcase, which featured a ‘non-linear’ film, and Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty NYFW Showcase, which critics have lauded as revolutionary in its style and structure.
Besides enabling a new Runway format, technology has transformed consumer experiences at these shows. SAP, in collaboration with fashion designer Anouk Wipprecht, has designed an application to deliver personalised beverages and scents to participants. The app deduces scent and taste preferences from how participants interact with models and designs. Tommy Hilfiger’s TommyNow show featured a virtual reality commerce experience, where consumers could conveniently visit a virtual pop-up shop to browse the show’s looks.
For those who can’t actually go to Fashion shows (the majority of the world), you can finally say goodbye to the days of watching shaky camera footage online. We’re looking at official live streams with immersive experiences, where viewers feel like they’re part of the creation process before they even see the pieces debut on the Runway. Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty Show streamed on Amazon Prime and featured a brief “documentary” which outlined the days of hard work that went into the pieces onstage.
How Fashion is Consumed
Source for image: ShopDrop via Pinterest
Brands that rely solely on physical fashion outlets are struggling to keep up with their online counterparts. They simply can’t provide a comparable consumer experience (see: Forever 21 bankruptcy). Of course, this is unless you bring the tech to the physical stores.
Alibaba’s Fashion AI has made shopping a futuristic experience. Smart mirrors automatically register an item’s RFID tag when a customer picks up the product, displaying the product details and suggesting similar items. Inside the fitting rooms, shoppers use these smart mirrors to choose a different size or new item, which will be delivered to their fitting room immediately. After picking out a piece they like, shoppers can make payment on the TaoBao mobile app. This ultimately presents a seamless, efficient consumer experience.
Not all physical stores have embraced tech in this manner, so e-commerce websites still reign king. Organised sections and collections, immediate customer service and immersive websites are just a few of the benefits of shopping online. Even so, we’ve already evolved beyond the classic “thumbnail listings on a white background” format that’s typically found in e-commerce.
The most fascinating version of this I’ve seen is Obsess’ virtual reality shopping sites: they’ve built an underwater-themed virtual reality store featuring pieces from Altuzarra, Topshop and Senreve. Instead of just looking at items on a screen, online shopping has become a fun and personalised experience.
Lastly, consumer tech has further enhanced the shopping experience by securing the trustworthiness of brands. Authentication with blockchain technology has solved a key issue luxury fashion brands once faced: how to ascertain the authenticity of raw materials sourced for priceless items. LVMH Moët Hennessy, a luxury conglomerate, has announced this year that it will use the ‘Aura’ blockchain to safeguard its luxury items, starting with brands like Louis Vuitton and Parfums Christian Dior. Consumers and sellers alike can verify the authenticity of items by comparing their digital signatures to entries in a decentralised database. This transparency could be a win for ethical and sustainable fashion. Ideally, consumers will understand the entire production chain and know exactly when ethical standards are violated, taking action accordingly.
What Could This Mean For Fashion as An Art Form?
Source for image: Suzy Hazelwood
There are concerns that technology could deter innovation by promoting “lazy fashion” and the prioritisation of quantity over quality. These concerns are valid, but I believe that the ease of creation could prompt creators to take on more risks and greater challenges. Technology offers something that aspiring creators have always desired — untouched grounds to explore. Just as the invention of lanterns birthed luminism, technological developments of the modern world will continue to influence creativity, as well as reflect the characteristics of the time in which art was made — an essential part of art’s nature that will never change.
Technology’s influence on creativity can be great, as long as modern creators remember to push boundaries and define new paradigms of expression. Ultimately, fashion should be about the product and experience delivered to the public — whether it is provocative, meaningful or practical. This is what really counts.
Fashion and The Future
Could fashion promote inclusivity, innovation and sustainability? Yes. Does fast fashion, exclusive practices and conservatism still exist? Yes. Technology won’t change everything. The world of fashion is at a crossroads and at the end of the day, technology is a mere tool. The direction of fashion and its potential as an industry depends on how creators choose to utilise it.