Fashion is Changing in 3 Fundamental Ways

In conversation with

Namrata Rana

Director-Strategy and Brand, at Futurescape

The birth of the couture industry can be traced back to 1850 in Paris, where top designers held fashion shows for their most prized clients. From there, it took centre-stage and evolved into four big Fashion weeks: Paris, Milan, London and New York. Today, it has taken over the world, with Tokyo, Berlin, Madrid, Australia and India Fashion Weeks cementing their place on the world fashion stage.

Fashion Week began as a means for retailers to buy and incorporate the latest collections into their retail marketing, but they have progressed into ‘in season shows’, catering to fast fashion retailers, who ‘see now, buy now’ and replicate runway designs into retail stores. Now, pop ups, capsule collections and one-off shows have completely changed the rules. Since 2000, Global fashion production has doubled. But the number of times we wear each item has dropped by a third. Moreover, an estimated 400 billion square meters of textiles are produced annually, of which 60 billion square meters are left on the cutting room floor. Each year over 80 billion pieces of clothing are produced worldwide, and after its short lifespan, three out of four garments will end up in landfills or be incinerated. Only a quarter will be recycled.

The fashion business worldwide is also at the cusp of change with technology transforming fashion at a fast pace. Today, real time data, algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) are helping the sector move fast and adapt to new trends. At the same time, new materials and wearables are changing the fashion business model. It is indeed an exciting world, as a new wave of innovation is emerging. Robots are sewing and cutting fabric, AI algorithms help define style trends and we even have Virtual Reality (VR) mirrors in dressing rooms.

However, there is growing concern about sustainability and efforts are underway to alleviate the impact of fashion and textile choices on the environment. The year, 2019, in particular, will dictate consumer shifts in the fashion sector that are linked to technology, social causes, sustainability and transparency.

Responsible fashion trend will accelerate

Companies will double down on sustainability efforts to reduce emissions, conserve water and minimize adverse environmental impacts. While these efforts may not be uniform across lifestyle, textile and fashion sectors, there will be a consistent push from employees, customers, investors and society for companies to clean up their act. Additionally, companies will focus on efforts to “design for sustainability” by using new biodegradable materials and efforts to ensure product recycling and reuse.

Technology will reshape business models

Wearable technology driven by the popularity of the Apple watch is breaking new ground every day. Rings, chains, sneakers, clothes, hats and spectacles are all emerging as hosts to electronic circuits and small sensors, which can interact with you seamlessly to provide new sources of value. For instance, Ringly, is a start-up that makes women’s jewellery with embedded digital technology. Technology is also enabling companies to completely rejig the traditional buy and retail model of fashion. Companies like Farfetch use ‘omnichannel’ technology to create a platform that allows boutiques to display their products and also create multiple distributed warehouses across the globe. This has helped the company in creating new innovative services such as ‘click and collect,’ which allows customers to buy items from any Farfetch boutique and pick them up, try them on and return them over the counter at any store in the network. Trust and traceability in the supply chain is emerging as yet another form for radical innovation. Plastic pollution is an increasing cause for concern all across the world. GHCL, a large textile manufacturer, has partnered with Applied DNA Sciences (ADNAS), for its CertainT platform, which forensically offers traceability to the recycled PET used to manufacture sustainable, traceable, sheets, pillow cases and shams. 360,000 PET bottles will be used for every 10,000 sheet sets of 200 TC (60% cotton 40% recycled PET).

Platforms will emerge to redefine experiences

Every year fast fashion manufactures 250 million products, many of which, will never be replicated again. In comparison, the technology industry seems almost staid. But today, technology and fashion are converging. With sensors embedded into our clothing we can have smart jackets, tshirts, shoes and more. These sensors can connect with other things such as your car to get it started when you approach it. These sensors can also give bio feedback about your sports performance to you and your coach. The list of possibilities is immense. However, connectivity implies the existence of an ecosystem. Technology products are designed to function with each other, for example an apple watch works with the iPhone, which in-turn also works with iTunes and a multitude of apple devices. A smart jacket would therefore not only need to have new materials that protect the electronics and enable appropriate functionality. This capability with appropriate data protections opens opportunities for new experiences. Further, the smart jacket is likely to have to work with smart shoes, glasses and more. Your smart jacket might even need frequent upgrades. Therefore as we move forward, the fashion model of fast moving trendy goods that can easily be discarded then starts looking unviable when you add technology to the mix.