The words ‘computer’, ‘science’ and ‘fashion’ are not something you hear in the same sentence every day. However, with a dramatic increase in online-shopping and consumers’ demanding access to everything through their smartphones, computer scientists are now in high demand across the fashion sector.
Our forecast experts at Beyond Talent Recruitment are here to explain more about computer science jobs in the fashion industry, and why investing in recruitment and training in this field is a sure way to future-proof your business.
Put simply, computer scientists design new software, solve computing problems and develop new ways to use technology. If you are an expert in computer science you can find ways to make X do Y using programming software and coding. We use creations built by computer scientists in more or less everything we do, from What’s App-ing a friend, to ordering a pair of shoes online and asking Alexa “what’s the weather forecast today”.
Computer science in used in the fashion industry more than ever before. The dramatic rise of online shopping has played a part in this increase, however other elements such as sustainability innovation and AI technologies are also contributing.
Almost every fashion business today, no matter how large or small, will require some form of computer science skills to be able to carry out simple actions and transactions. The list is endless, but here are just a few ways computer science allows fashion businesses to function:
It’s rare to speak with a fashion student who loves science, and vice versa. Stereotypically fashion students have creative minds, and science students have more analytical minds. But, as creative and analytical worlds are now merging with technology innovations, so are fashion and science.
Areeb Mahtey, who is studying for a PhD in epigenetics at the University of Cambridge, demonstrates how these worlds can – and should - work in unison together. He also explains why we need to encourage more Universities and students to think about the future of these industries in this way:
“In contrast to science, which is governed by laws, there are no rules in fashion – and nor should there be. Science is driving fashion in terms of the development of new materials, new colour combinations, and even new ways of designing and manufacturing clothing and fragrances.”
In the next decade the fashion industry is predicted to go through its most transformational change yet, mainly in response to a dramatic digital shift and the need for more sustainable practises. The only way experts can foresee meeting both of these requirements is through the use of technology innovations; technology that allows online shopping to seamlessly blend with the new ‘at home’ lifestyle, while also being profitable and protecting the future of our planet.
The next generation to work in the fashion industry will no doubt be recruited in line with planned business transformations. And, because technology will be at the heart of this movement, investment in computer scientists will be essential. At the time of writing no universities in the UK offer a course that combines science with fashion. Fashion Design Technology degrees are becoming more popular, however these only address the designing of garments – not technology innovations that can be used across a fashion business. This leaves a huge gap in the sector, clearly showing that the industry as a whole needs to invest in Universities and Colleges to encourage them to offer subjects that combine the two.
The starting salary for a computer science major is an average of £65,000, making the career path attractive for students interested in this field. Types of computer science jobs that will be crucial to the success of the fashion industry now and in the future are:
Computer Systems Analysts
The Turning Award is an annual prize given by the Association for Computing Machinery, often likened to the ‘Nobel Prize of Computing’. The latest experts to win the award were computer programming specialists, Alfred Aho and Jeffrey Ullman. Bothbagged themselves a share of the £1 million prize money, which is part funded by Google. Budding entrepreneurs in the fashion sector that have also been turning heads with the potential to obtain the Turning Award prize are Tobi Ajala founder of TechTee, and Eshita Kabra founder of By Rotation.
Tobi Ajala, aged just 28, founded digital agency Techtee in 2017. Software developer by trade, Tobi and her team develop bespoke digital software for luxury and fashion brands. As a former employee of Apple, Tobi’s talents and visions have continued to wow many top companies landing the agency clients such as Gucci, Apple and Farfecth. A recent project for Farfetch saw TechTee design ‘My Fashion Feed’, a singular digital place that brings together “the world’s most-renowned pieces from previous seasons”.
Eshita Kabra, also an entrepreneur under the age of 30, founded By Rotation a peer-to-peer fashion rental app. Shoppers can use the smartphone app to hire luxury designer clothes and accessories from top brands in London and the UK. By Rotation has caught the industry’s attention securing Eshita a spot on the “14 Inspiring Women Leading The Fight Against Climate Change” list as well as being named one of the “15 Women Decolonising Sustainable Fashion.”
Not all new up and coming fashion technology businesses have been founded by computer scientists – however they haverequired software developer and analytical skills to bring them to life. Sustalytics was founded just a few years ago by former Head Buyer for Zara, Julie Evans. Julie’s frustrations that most of the fast-fashion industry’s collections were designed on gut feel, rather than true data, was the inspiration behind her tech start-up. This old-fashioned method she says “is why so many garments end up in landfill.”
Her vision was to create a technology solution that can tell brands what shoppers want and will buy. Designers upload their designs online and get real-time feedback from real customers. They can then review the feedback to decide whether the design needs to be ditched, altered or put into production. What started as a solo venture, Julie knew she would need a tech and computer science expert in order to scale her business and make the product financially accessible. Sustalytics has since attracted the attention of various startup initiatives, including the 2020 Miami Herald Pitch Competition where the business won the wildcard award.
Technology is the future of fashion. Almost all fashion companies now have an online presence and none of them could function without the skills from technology experts such as computer scientists, software developers and information security analysists.
The critical sustainable changes the industry needs to make to preserve the future of the planet is also relying heavily on technology innovations. Currently the sector takes a lot of from the earth’s natural resources, and now it needs to start giving it back. Technology solutions that allow fashion businesses to perform everyday actions, design new materials and function productively are currently predicted to be the ‘solution’.
Computer scientists have already started using their skills to develop new fabrics that don’t require over-farming or the culling of precious species. Mycotech, a start-up business based in Indonesia, has launched new technology that creates leather out of mushrooms. Goodbye animal leather, hello plant-based leather that uses processes far less damaging to our earth.
The outlook for computer scientists is an exciting one. One with endless opportunities. So whether you’re in HR looking for recruitment areas to invest in, or you’re considering career options, the future for scientists in fashion is most definitely prosperous and one that should be taken very seriously indeed.
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