Over the last couple of decades technology has changed just about every aspect of our lives. The clothes we wear; what they are made of; how they are made; and the fashions available have all changed alongside that development of technology. Simply put: technology changes fashion. These days everything moves so quickly and influences on fashion are many and various. A popular TV series can start a trend like The Killing’s Sarah Lund and her distinctive Faroese style jumpers. Everyone wanted one and the race was soon on to produce lower priced alternatives to the original. There was even a court case over the rights to the design, which was the a traditionally influenced based on the fisherman’s jumpers produced on the Faroe Islands, which are part of Denmark. More recently there was lots of debate about Daenerys Targaryen (of Game of Thrones) wonderful, luxurious, fur coat worn in the most recent series. I’m betting that one or two fashion brands will be looking to produce some sort of Game of Thrones inspired outer winter wear to take advantage of that interest this coming winter.
An Instagram influencer can wear an accessory or an item of clothing and suddenly sales are booming – the effect is instant. The Duchess of Cambridge sports a dress that can be bought on the high street and within hours it’s sold out. It’s difficult for fashion retailers to respond to this sort of demand as it’s often unpredictable and short-lived. This is one of the reasons more and more fashion retailers and brands are working with influencers, so they can direct and control that demand a little more closely. Technology also means that people can see fashionable items, that they desire, and want to buy them instantly. They can see a bag being carried by a fellow train passenger and whilst they are still on board, they can be searching online to buy a replica. Technology doesn’t just create these sorts of issues; it can also be part of the solution.
Brands are getting more and more savvy about how to capitalise on fashion trends, without diluting their brand or cutting their quality levels. Clothing manufacturers are increasingly using online platforms like Sewport to help them turn their designs and concepts into reality. Technology allows brands can be instantly matched with apparel manufacturers from around the World, whilst manufacturers can easily browse through their projects and engage in business that suits their capabilities and experience. Brands can talk direct to manufacturers and start-ups or less experienced companies can benefit from being guided through the process in a functional online space which allows creativity to flourish.
Visual search is becoming more and more main stream as bigger, more established sites start featuring it. The idea is that the potential customer can take a photo of someone else’s shoes or jacket say and then find the item online. Technology is moving at a great pace in this field, but it can’t quite manage that level of accuracy, but it is starting to yield results and it will only get more sophisticated and effective over time.
It’s not just demand that is being affected by technology though. Developments in technology have seen items of apparel being adapted to incorporate headphones or phones. You only need to think about sports gear available now to see this in action. You can buy bags and rucksacks that have not only phone sized pockets, but headphone ports or built-in portable chargers. Wearable technology is no longer a pipe dream and we may see practical applications in the near future. One day soon our clothes will be able to track information based on our location, body temperature, body motion etc. and will take intelligent decisions based on that data.
Another major area that has been affected by technology is the invention and development of new materials. This is a process that has been going on for over a century now since the creation of rayon back at the end of the nineteenth century. Throughout the 20th century there were many more new materials coming into use like nylon and acrylic, plus the development of hybrid combinations of natural and synthetic materials like polycotton. In more recent times lycra and spandex have made a real impact on sportswear (to start with) and then this influence has spread to more every day items of clothing. Sportswear is often at the cutting edge of fabric development as manufacturers seek to develop ever better ways of dealing with the demands of sports participants and their environments. Sportswear benefits from association with key influencers and role models, which enables high tech sportwear to make the transition into high street fashion.
Every aspect of the clothes shopping experience is being affected by technology and this looks likely to accelerate. Digital mirrors and 3D scanners mean that accurate measurements of a customer’s body can be made, so meaning that traditional changing rooms may be less necessary in the future and there might be no need for a shop assistant with a tape measure. As consumers become ever more connected though, sales assistants must have the knowledge, skill-set and desire to offer the best possible experience, so it is likely that the human element will still feature in the clothing buying experience. Sales assistants will have to adapt their roles and their skill sets to provide what customers need and want. Product returns continue to be one of the biggest issues for online retailers. Software tools that compare sizes across brands, creating avatars and sizing them are some of the approaches being used by the e-commerce players to cut the likelihood of items being returned.
With the increased use of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technologies customers will have the chance to experience any possible combinations of garments, accessories and styles, without having to get undressed, or the store having to stock the actual goods, on site. They’ll then be able to order and either collect in store or maybe even have their order delivered to their home by drone before they even arrive back there themselves. Companies are moving away from using simple statistical analysis of historic data of customer behaviour and are using Artificial Intelligence to learn about their customers’ unique tastes so allowing them to predict and personalize recommendations at an individual level.