What is fashion technology and how is it changing the fashion sector?
The technological age has made its presence felt across most sectors and industries. However, when you picture the world of fashion, you might think this is one area that has remained more or less unchanged. It’s a world of hand-drawn sketches, rolls of materials, tape measures and scissors.
That is true, but only to a certain extent. Fashion technology is, as the name suggests, a branch of tech that is specifically tailored to the fashion industry. It is such a growth area that there are colleges and universities offering courses in the subject and “fashion technologist” is a viable career option in the brave new world of 2019.
Manufacturing and technology
The notion of a small fashion house that is designing and creating the apparel might not sound like something steeped in technological wizardry, but when you think about it, this kind of business, that starts with a roll of material and converts it into a £500 pair of jeans is manufacturing defined. From the earliest days of the industrial revolution, the manufacturers who have done the best job of harnessing technology have been the ones that have thrived.
Of course, the modern manufacturing scene in the UK is all about small and bespoke as opposed to heavy industry, but the same principles apply. Competition is high and those fashion houses that can use tech to reduce costs, increase efficiency and bring their ideas to market faster and cheaper are the ones that will still be around in five years time.
Supply and demand
Today’s fashion industry is essentially divided into two subsectors, high-end fashion and fast fashion. For the latter, getting creations from the designer’s head to the clothes rails as quickly as possible is crucial to success. The challenge is to shift one line before the next comes along to replace it, and unsurprisingly, stores are often left with excess inventory. This has led to a whole new phenomenon, the end of line discount stores that are popping up at specialist shopping centres like Freeport in Essex and elsewhere across the country.
Enterprising fashion companies are exploring the use of blockchain technology to turn fast fashion on its head, changing the supply chain to a demand chain that will consign unsold inventory, as well as those discount stores, to the pages of history.
One aspect of today’s fashion industry that is largely stuck in the 20th century is its administration. Paper abounds in terms of contracts, certifications, import and export documents and a million other things. The administrative burden is hugely expensive in terms of both time and money, and this is clearly an area in which tech can help.
Again, it goes beyond the basics of “paper free”. The concept of smart contracts is one that is becoming steadily more prevalent to simplify, reduce costs and perhaps even more important, build better trust between partners, vendors and buyers.
These are just a couple of areas in which tech is changing the fashion sector, but the revolution is only beginning. There are interesting times ahead.
The editorial unit