Amit Bhardwaj, COO and co-founder at 6Degree, explains how adoption of new technologies are revolutionizing the fashion industry.
A common myth about the convergence of fashion and technology is that it is oxymoronic. Fashion is an art that involves intuition and following the heart, while technology is perceived as being rational and calculative- too precise to merge with craft. This notion, though, is antiquated and the transformation of the fashion industry, through a synergic relationship with tech, stands testimony to the potential of their combination.
In fact, technology in current times has begun to exude a sort of glamour itself this makes it a fitting match for the world of style. It is also true that both technology and fashion are based on constant innovation and a creative pushing of boundaries. The fashion story is poised to be retold through the tools of the 21st century.
There are countless emerging technologies being used by the fashion industry, at present; and the scope for future amalgamation that can be harnessed by fashion is phenomenal as well. To put it very simply, the internet has transformed all retail sectors, and the sale of clothing and accessories has also evolved due to this change. In today’s day and age, consumers can search for their favorite designer, brand or retailer using their phone, tablet or laptop, ordering anything they desire, in a matter of minutes. The advent of mobile technology and the prevalence of social media have enabled the accessibility of fashion to reach a level previously unimaginable.
Fashion retailers have embraced the revolutionary nature of e-commerce by setting up visually appealing online versions of their stores, integrating payment gateways and offering efficient delivery logistics. In fact, technology has helped ease online discovery and conversions in general, by enabling omni-channel promotion and product sale. With live streaming of runway shows slowly becoming the norm, global participation in events is now an achievable reality. It is also true that the endless possibilities of e-fashion have consumers feeling more than satisfied.
The future of fashion designer and consumer interaction holds the potential of users receiving real-time guidance on creating outfits from individual items, getting a fashion guru to style them every day, and being able to get advice on the ubiquitous question- “What do I wear today?” Fashion enthusiasts are already used to getting instant opinions from friends and family about a particular outfit, using social media. From Facebook promotion shares to Pinterest pins- designer labels and fashion houses have successfully harnessed social commerce to improve customer engagement and brand reach.
While customer feedback has been made easier through the countrywide adoption of internet services, technology is capable of completely changing many other aspects of the fashion industry. Everything, from design methodology to distribution and from material and form to production, is being redeveloped to unprecedented success.
Technology is being used both as a creative and as a marketing tool. 3D visualisation and 3D printing have changed how we look at clothes. Even using tools, like AutoCAD, meant for the animation industry, have broadened the range of perceivable cuts, prints and patterns. 3D printing holds the potential of becoming a tool for mass customisation, and the fashion industry is creating stunning new products using this technology. With designers making 3D printable outfits for celebrity clients, the genre of luxury is being redefined.
Additionally, suppliers are now able to manage sales, track trends and inventory from almost anywhere, making instant decisions about the potential success of a product. Automated supply chain management is also a benefit of tech, as it streamlines operations and reduces overhead costs. Fashion businesses are thus able to maintain control of increasingly complex distribution networks. Other benefits of emerging technologies include the smoothening out of operation processes and the increased ease of partner management.
Another arm of technology, which is bound to benefit the fashion industry, is data analysis. The interaction of customers and potential customers with online product databases reveals clear patterns of interest. Processing consumer information gives designers actionable data that makes manufacturing and merchandising decisions easier and faster. It also increases the accuracy of forecasting and collection planning.
In the age of smart-phone penetration and growing e-commerce, every digital action leaves a footprint, which can be captured and coupled with strategic analysis to identify volumes of business insight. Companies are, in fact, moving away from using simple statistical analysis of historic data to using artificial intelligence and deep learning to study unique tastes and personalise recommendations for individual customers.
A word of caution for fashion entrepreneurs involves making them aware of the strategies needed for incorporating technology in the style industry. The convergence involves a keen understanding of the entire value chain, which in turn drives careful decisions about the points at which tech expertise can be fit in to driving growth and value.
There is a need to explicitly list propositions in terms of cost saving, network building and operations support. For creators of technology for fashion, a good way forward is to find a few early adopters, who are market influencers, in order to make the particular tech expertise ‘fashionable’! To be truly adoptable, the technology endeavour needs to be effective for all possible fashion avenues- fashion weeks, exhibitions, summits, conferences and even college events.
The impact of emerging technology is bringing in the next wave of innovation that the fashion industry needs. With the increase in accuracy of consumer behaviour prediction, the fashion world is being brought at-par with industries like banking and telecom. The adoption of fashion tech is comparatively slow in India, at least in relation to the American and European markets. But the change is definite, with startups bringing technology solutions to B2B and B2C companies, and receiving great volumes of positive response.
In the last two years, it has been noticed time and again that a valuable technological innovation- such as one that drives sales and brand reach- is identified and adopted by fashion professionals, and sometimes by the industry in general. It can safely be concluded that the truly successful fashion brands of India’s future will be those that not only recognize and cope with the pace of technological innovation, but embrace it and grow with it, in style!
Amit Bhardwaj, COO and co-founder at 6Degree