Fashion tech trends changing the industry

Technology innovations are bigger than ever in the fashion industry. Where once a good customer experience and solid product offering were enough to keep brands thriving, the fast-forward shift to digital means businesses can no longer rely on these assets to bring in sales.

Primark is a prime example of a brand who succeeded for many years on a path that didn’t have technology as a focus. Turning a blind-eye to digital innovations lost the brand £1bn in lockdown. Luxury brands also came up against similar challenges in 2020. Companies have quickly realised a mediocre approach to digital and technology developments just won’t cut it anymore.

The brands that will win in 2021 will be those that give customers an experience with digital at the forefront of their offering. Shoppers will return to the brands that allow them to virtually try on clothes, make the online shopping experience effortless, and offer garments that enhance health, wellbeing and sustainability.

Here are the top tech trends that will make big changes to the fashion industry in 2021.

1. Online and offline experience

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to improve the online and offline shopping experience have been used in the fashion industry for some time now. Brands currently winning in this area are Dior and Gucci who are using Lenses to allow customers to see what a pair of shoes or sunglasses look like on. This use of technology will become expected from customers as the tools become commonplace – whether at home or instore. However, the brands that will truly stand out in 2021 are those that introduce even further tech developments to make the shopping experience seamless and enjoyable.
Some tech products currently making waves are:

  • Streaming live videos online: Tommy Hilfigur is streaming live videos online to allow customers to virtually browse showrooms. They are guided around the store, can choose an item and make a purchase - all via video streaming. Your very own personal shopper from the comfort of your own home.
  • Getting the perfect fit: Apps such as TrueFit are taking away the ‘will it, won’t it fit’ dilemma shoppers have when deciding whether to purchase online. TrueFit uses your data to find and recommend items from a variety brands across the web that are more or less guaranteed to fit your shape and style.
  • Payment by palm: A result of the pandemic will be an increased take-up of shoppers using smart watches and smart wallets to pay for items. Amazon has taken the smart payment method one step further with its new ‘payment by palm’ technology where shoppers can scan the palm of their hand to make a purchase. The development will reduce the need to carry around heavy wallets and bags and make transactions more secure.

2. Innovations to minimise waste

The amount of waste the fashion industry produces has been brought to the forefront in recent months. In the UK alone household’s throw away 1 million tonnes of textile waste each year, with a third of that ending up in landfill or being incinerated.

2021 will be the the year when the world finally puts environmental issues first. Eco-friendly, sustainable and socially responsible are words consumers have got comfortable with and people are now taking ownership of their own responsibility in these areas (rather than rely on businesses to be ‘doing the right thing’).
Technology innovations in this field will be big. Top tech designed to minimise waste in the fashion industry are:

  • No more predicting: For years fashion collections have been produced based on historic sales and customer data. But now there are top tech companies creating systems that enable brands to only produce want shoppers want and will buy. Sustalytics is a growing brand in this area. It allows designers to upload product designs online and get real-time feedback from real customers. They can then take the feedback to decide whether the design needs to be ditched, altered or put into production; minimising the risk of producing garments that end up in landfill.
  • Reducing the amount of samples: Endless rounds of samples often end up in the fabric bin. Technology tool CLO is being used to put a stop to this. Designers can see how their garments fit and flow online, then edit flaws digitally before a sample is made. The process reduces the amount of samples required, which is not only better for the environment, but for productivity too.
  • NADI X: The yoga leggings have built-in sensors to correct your posture (while exercising). The sensors vibrate in the areas where your body is out of alignment and guides you on how to correct it. Your very own yoga coach, built into your workout gear.
  • Home grown leather: Biomaterial, Mylo, is emerging as a leather alternative that can be grown without animal cruelty, and huge inputs of water and other limited resources. Using mycelium (a renewable ingredient found in soil) experts have engineered the ingredient to create a soft, supple – and less harmful to the planet – leather.
  • Supply chain tracking: One of the biggest tech companies making a difference in this area is Blockchain which is creating a physical-digital link between products and their journey. Blockchain works with a digital currency – people buy and sell using this currency and because there is a serial number associated with every action you can transparently see where and how items are being traded.

3. Garments made with technology

As an ever increasing health-conscious nation, designers and engineers are trialling building technology into garments. FitBits and Smart Watches are popular and introducing these kinds of concepts into clothes is expected to be the next big thing. Innovations in this area are being called ‘Reactive Fashion’. Here’s one you might have heard of:

Technology is also being used to grow new fabrics using natural elements around us:

4. Improving supply chain transparency

Supply chains have come under much scrutiny over the past few months. Poor labour and poor processes have been able to take place for far too long and the industry is finally doing something about it.

Brands like Veja have championed production transparency from the very beginning. While socially responsible companies were in the minority for years, the conscious-consumer movement means this kind of honesty will be expected from all businesses, no matter how big or small.
Want more 2021 fashion industry insights? Read these:

Use our expertise as a top fashion recruitment agency to find your next role or candidate beyond your expectations.

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By Federica Pantanella
15 April 2021 08:01

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