Fashiontech: What is it?

Over the past decades humanity has moved from a producer economy to a consumer economy to now slowly a more creative economy. The most unique insights and innovations have come through the establishment of new market segments that have been created from the crossovers between different industries and technologies. Take for example fintech, where innovations in decentralised finance technologies are creating new business models —for example, in the future when driverless cars are commonplace, cars may interact with each other in their own economy, making digital payments and transacting with each other in order to overtake on roads i.e. a customer in a driverless Uber will pay extra to the car if they want to get to a location quicker and this payment will then be transacted to other cars on the road that the driverless Uber needs to overtake in order to reach the destination on time. 

Although many industries have been combining with technology for a number of years, some industries have found it more difficult to really find a proper use case fit. This has definitely been the case for the fashion industry, who’s strong consumer facing front requires constant evolution and is highly correlated to economic and societal cycles. Collaboration between fashion and technology in order to create a new future has been met with resistance and lack of proper guidance.

So, what exactly is fashiontech? Well, it’s not that simple. Fashion is a multifaceted industry that is expressed from the design phase to the retail experience. Fashiontech can be split across different buckets from more simple and commonplace innovations, like combining offline brick and mortar with ecommerce channels, to crazy and more disruptive ideas that involve natively digital clothing, VR showrooms and stores, circuit integrated materials, designs created by AI engines, sustainable bioengineered fabrics.
 

The true definition of fashion tech is all about bringing disruptive technologies to create new business models and bring advancements and impact to the industry. 

The problem is that a lot of the fashiontech innovation today is quite gimmicky and definitely not a real necessity or adding any value for the industry. People’s heuristics are still not at a stage to fully accept and understand crazy wearable gadgets or heavy electronic boxes attached to their shirts for monitoring heart rate. When Belgian designer Diane Von Furstenberg showcased Google glass on her models in a 2013 runway show, it made headlines, but the device itself failed to ever properly reach consumers—people just weren’t comfortable with having some gadget attached to their head, there wasn’t even really a proper need. 

Our heuristics will change in the future and we will become accustomed to new technologies, but ultimately it won’t be exactly as we imagined with everyone looking like Cyborgs on the streets by 2030. Ultimately, people use fashion as a way to look good and feel good about themselves and currently fashiontech that is trying to really push in this wearable/gadget realm is still too early. Sure, specific applications amongst health and fitness will find more of a market fit but over the next 5 years fashiontech will evolve more rapidly from a design and digital perspective before we reach a stage of usable gadget based clothing. 

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Source: The Hustle, Substance ETS, 3D printing industry

With advancements in narrowed and general AI rapidly increasing, the technology is being adopted across almost every channel in every industry in hope of providing some greater optimisation or intelligence. The use of AI in fashion is finding a more necessary and important fit as of late, with the industry pushing forward rapidly around ‘fast fashion’ and pumping out new designs and product lines at an ever increasing pace in order to keep up with consumer demand and the desire for a never ending unique selection of different clothes. Designers and fashion labels more than ever are under pressure to meet these demands in order to stay in the game. Sustainability is another big theme, where industry waste causes huge problems in the industry not just from a profit perspective, where H&M in 2018 disclosed a $4.3bn unsold stockpile, but also from an environmental stance where the fashion industry causes some of the most devastating effects and globally it is only second to the oil industry in terms pollution damage. AI and ML algorithms are being implemented currently to help address these demands and problems by sorting through big data to gather more intelligence on price and consumer trend predictions, and in the not too distant future, a majority of the new patterns, styles that we will use to express ourselves will be completely automated, being created and designed by an AI and even potentially providing a level of personalisation from both a size and fitting front and also analysis of the individual trends and styles that we like. 

The use of tech in fashion also finds new usage amongst the digital world. Recently, gaming, VR and e-sports have started dominating more parts of the entertainment sectors and people are interacting with these worlds increasingly. These technologies are creating new natively digital economies and business models, and similar to what the internet did 10 years ago, enabling businesses like google, Uber, Airbnb to exist in the realm of the internet— esports, gaming and VR is enabling the next step of creating purely digital economies that exist only within this digital realm. The next bigger technological stage for humanity in the future, is this idea of becoming purely digital or being able to operate in digital economies and worlds. We are already on this course with behaviours that have come out of facebook, instagram and cloud computing, where we are literally uploading our memories and our data and morphing with machines. In this new world, digital fashion will be an absolutely huge segment. Native digital fashion will be vital in creating and building a more realistic digital universe where brands and designers will be able to distribute their fashion in a game to a new digital customer base (Imagine a player wearing the latest Nike shoes). New business models will emerge like merchandising for digitally-in-game performed concerts or shows. People need to be able to express themselves and feel and look good and they will want hyper realistic and detailed materials, fabrics and clothes that move and react with their graphic environment.

 

Advances in material science and nanotechnology will also play a bigger role in the industry, especially from a comfort perspective and having clothes especially designed to maintain an optimum body temperature or ensure more breathability. The use of multilayering of clothes may not be needed for much longer to stay warm in -15 degree C temperatures, where instead just a shirt is simply enough. These ideas will also be greatly enhanced by innovation around quantum computing and decreasing the fragility of Qubit superposition. Quantum computing can completely transform material science and remove complex and time consuming trial and error processes performed today in discovering new materials—we could create much better engineered materials with specific and finely tuned mechanical and optical properties.

 

 

In the future, fashiontech won’t exist, it will just be fashion. Smart apparel, digital clothes and all of these advancements will be the norm, it will be expected. Being part of this industry at this time is extremely exciting and inspiring. Fashion technologists are dealing with a new market segment that still doesn’t fully exist and isn’t fully established. We are creating new market participants and building for consumers that don’t yet know just the extent of what is to come. Fashiontech right now is a small market and it is completely underestimated. But in a few years from now it will be the next fintech.  

 

 


 

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