As technological disruptions transform the fashion industry from the last few years, the focus still remains on how enterprises can interact better with their consumers. With customers preferring safe, secure, easy, and convenient online solutions for their fashion shopping, brands are embracing e-commerce and m-commerce to meet these aspirations. Additionally, prompt deliveries and return policies are equally effective in attracting and retaining customers.
Apart from metro cities, these trends are discernible even among customers in tier 2 cities and other hinterland regions. Considering the evolving consumer behaviour, fashion brands keep innovating and introducing new designs at periodic intervals.
Immersive Experiences and Slow Fashion
But merely going online will not do the trick in winning customers. For this, brands need to provide an immersive digital shopping experience through technologies such as virtual showrooms that allow prospective buyers to “try” garments virtually via AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) tools. While consumers do all this from the safety of their homes, it also helps them in purchasing the right product, thereby reducing return rates. Heeding these consumer trends, major retailers are creating virtual dressing rooms to increase sales.
That’s not all, however. In some cases, consumers are also choosing brands that adhere to sustainable practices, nudging fashion houses to follow suit. Unfortunately, the fashion industry remains one of the major contributors to climate change. This is driven by the unsustainable practices of fast fashion that produce garments quickly and cheaply but leave a heavy carbon footprint.
As a result, even as they deploy digital tools, some brands are shifting their focus to slow fashion. This segment is based on sustainable practices and the use of eco-friendly materials that are more costly, but longer-lasting. Given the rising environmental awareness, sustainable fashion brands are seeing a steady uptick in consumer demand.
Needless to mention, the trends toward digital sales and sustainability are slowly transforming India’s fashion landscape for the better. Innovation and sustainability in fashion are interlinked because tech tools and techniques are improving manufacturing processes and making them more sustainable.
An Array of Tech Tools
The major technology tools and innovations used in fashion are AI (artificial intelligence), AR, VR, 3D printing, novel fabrics, blockchain, and bio-packaging, among others. Some elaboration 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, as well as understand style aesthetics and purchase patterns. For instance, touchscreens in retail outlets can offer personalized product recommendations to customers via AI chat technology. This is possible because AI is programmed to understand fashion aesthetics such as texture, colour, and style preferences.
Augmented and Virtual Reality: Coming to AR and VR, while AR offers interactivity coupled with real-world environment simulations, VR provides a completely simulated environment. Thanks to these exciting tools, the physical and digital realms of retail can be combined to offer customers an immersive experience as they “try” out clothes virtually. What’s more, it’s even possible to create a complete VR version of an entire store.
3D Printing: This is a manufacturing process whereby real items can be made from digital designs. Through 3D printing, textile wastage can be reduced significantly compared to conventional designing of clothes since there is reduced water use, less contamination and lower air pollution. Fashion designers can also have unlimited options with 3D printing, promoting greater innovation and more vibrant designs.
Novel Fabrics: Whereas synthetic and non-biodegradable fabrics are used in fast fashion, novel fabrics are preferred in slow fashion. Such fabrics include fibers made from seaweed, lab-grown leather, vegan leather made from apple pectin, etc. Naturally, these products are biodegradable and eco-friendly.
Blockchain: This innovative technology is transforming operations by tracking assets and recording transactions through the creation of a permanent, unalterable database. Blockchain is helping fashion industry professionals to boost efficiency and transparency in their supply chains. By allotting a unique digital ID to each fashion product, blockchain is making it easy to track every item and consignment. Consequently, stakeholders can exchange documents and data safely and securely.
Bio-Packaging: As online shopping emerges as a major means of driving fashion sales, the packaging of products has assumed added significance. Although plastic comprises a core component of almost all packaging that is quickly discarded after one-time use, this isn’t an ideal situation, especially when it is not biodegradable. Bio-packaging resolves this issue since it is made from renewable resources or is biodegradable – 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 won’t resolve varied industry issues.
Human intervention is also required in the form of changed mindsets and policy reforms to incentivize the use of sustainable practices and materials that can promote a circular economy. For this to happen, brands, consumers, the industry at large, and policymakers all need to work in unison for creating 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)