As technological disruption transforms the fashion industry in recent years, the focus remains on how companies can better interact with their consumers. With customers preferring safe, secure, simple and convenient online solutions for their fashion shopping, brands are embracing e-commerce and m-commerce to meet these aspirations. Moreover, prompt deliveries and return policies are equally effective in attracting and retaining customers.
Outside of metropolitan cities, these trends are noticeable even among customers in Tier 2 cities and other hinterland regions. Considering the changing behavior of consumers, fashion brands continue to innovate and introduce new models at regular intervals.
Immersive experiences and slow fashion
But simply going online won’t do the trick to gaining customers. To do this, brands must offer an immersive digital shopping experience through technologies such as virtual showrooms that allow potential buyers to virtually “try on” clothes via AR (augmented reality) and VR ( virtual reality). While consumers do all of this from the safety of their homes, it also helps them buy the right product, thereby reducing return rates. Recognizing these consumer trends, major retailers are creating virtual fitting rooms to increase sales.
That’s not all, however. In some cases, consumers are also choosing brands that adhere to sustainable practices, prompting fashion houses to follow suit. Unfortunately, the fashion industry remains one of the biggest contributors to climate change. This is due to unsustainable fast fashion practices that produce clothes quickly and cheaply, but leave a heavy carbon footprint.
As a result, even as they deploy digital tools, some brands are turning to slow fashion. This segment is based on sustainable practices and the use of environmentally friendly materials that are more expensive, but more durable. With growing environmental awareness, sustainable fashion brands are seeing a steady increase in consumer demand.
Needless to mention, trends towards digital sales and sustainability are slowly transforming the fashion landscape in India for the better. Innovation and sustainability in fashion are linked because technological tools and techniques improve manufacturing processes and make them more sustainable.
A range of technical tools
The main technological tools and innovations used in fashion are AI (artificial intelligence), augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D printing, new fabrics, blockchain and bio-packaging, among others. Some clarification on the above will give a better idea of how these innovations benefit consumers.
Artificial intelligence: AI applications include the ability to enrich customer experiences, assess and predict fashion trends, and understand style aesthetics and shopping habits. For example, point-of-sale touchscreens can offer personalized product recommendations to customers via AI chat technology. This is possible because the AI is programmed to understand fashion aesthetics, such as texture, color and style preferences.
Augmented and Virtual Reality: When it comes to Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, while Augmented Reality provides interactivity coupled with real-world environment simulations, Virtual Reality provides a fully simulated environment. With these exciting tools, the physical and digital realms of retail can be combined to provide customers with an immersive experience as they virtually “try on” clothes. Moreover, it is even possible to create a complete VR version of an entire store.
3D printing: It is a manufacturing process by which real objects can be made from digital designs. With 3D printing, textile wastage can be significantly reduced compared to conventional garment design, as there is less water usage, less contamination, and less air pollution. Fashion designers can also have unlimited options with 3D printing, fostering greater innovation and more dynamic designs.
New fabrics: While synthetic and non-biodegradable fabrics are used in fast mode, newer fabrics are preferred in slow mode. These fabrics include seaweed-based fibers, lab-grown leather, vegan leather made from apple pectin, and more. Naturally, these products are biodegradable and environmentally friendly.
Blockchain: This innovative technology transforms operations by tracking assets and recording transactions through the creation of a permanent, unalterable database. Blockchain helps fashion industry professionals build efficiency and transparency in their supply chains. By assigning a unique digital identifier to each fashion product, the blockchain makes it easier to track each item and shipment. Therefore, stakeholders can exchange documents and data securely.
Bio-Packaging: As online shopping emerges as a major way to drive fashion sales, product packaging has taken on increased importance. Although plastic forms a central part of almost all packaging that is quickly discarded after a single use, this is not an ideal situation, especially when it is not biodegradable. Bio-packaging solves this problem since it is made from renewable or biodegradable resources – or both.
There is no doubt that technological innovations are reshaping the future of fashion and can help make the industry more eco-friendly, sustainable and consumer-centric. But technology alone will not solve the industry’s various problems.
Human intervention is also needed in the form of changing mindsets and policy reforms to encourage the use of sustainable practices and materials that can promote a circular economy. For this to happen, brands, consumers, the industry as a whole and policymakers must all work in unison to create a more vibrant, future-ready and sustainable fashion fraternity.
(The author is Anurag Saboo, co-founder – DaMENSCH)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of India TV)