The clothing and fashion industry has long been at the forefront of innovation and technology. From the creation of hybrid materials to smarter supply planning, apparel manufacturers have always been looking for cutting-edge advantages in a highly competitive industry. This has led to major advancements and creative concepts that continue to change the way clothes are made, sold, and even worn.
Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more necessary for fashion firms to embrace technological advances. With retail operations shut-down or running at diminished capacity, many design offices working remotely, and customers less willing to meet in-person, they have had to find new ways to design and market their apparel.
As unlikely as it may have seemed even a decade ago, it is now entirely possible for apparel companies to completely digitize many of their essential operations. This includes technical design, merchandising, measurements, production, and even supply chain requirements.
The switch to digitized fashion could have a major impact on sustainability, customization, supply chain transparency, virtual collaboration and safety across the industry.
Virtual measurments and try-ons
In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, people are justifiably concerned about in-person interactions and retail shopping. Nobody wants to squeeze into a tight-fitting room to try on a garment that may have been previously handled by other people. It simply isn’t safe. Fortunately, technology has brought us other options.
There are several free body measurement apps, like 3D look, now available that can take a photo or video of a customer, determine their body measurements, and find the perfect fit for any style. The customer can also look at a 3D body model simulation that will show how the garment will fit and look with other matching pieces. While this software has been around for a few years now, it is more powerful than ever, and the demand for it is greatly increasing.
Streamlined supply chains
The fashion industry has been a major player in supply chain innovation for decades. There are many moving parts required to become a successful clothing company, and a lean supply chain that utilizes technology is vital. Companies need to be able to seamlessly exchange designs, manage collections and share data no matter where they’re located.
Digitized supply chains can help alleviate much of the stress that COVID-19 has put on factories and manufacturers. By leveraging technology like PLM and 3D, companies will be able to have more control over their process and employees will be able to efficiently collaborate without having to be in the office. Teams will be able to finalize their plans and collections before actually putting out a product.
As with virtual measurement and try-ons, the supply chain benefits from a faster turnaround time when individual consumers can choose their items and their cuts. This will cut down on material waste and manufacturing time, as much of these processes will be automated. It will also help to reduce the number of garments that go unsold because they weren’t popular on the shelves of a brick-and-mortar store.
Ultimately, the digitized supply chain is a win-win for both the customer and the company. Costs are reduced, man-hours are cut down, and end-to-end delivery time is greatly diminished.
Digitalization of the customer relationship
With shops closed due to COVID-19, interactions with customers will switch to online. Although eCommerce was a major trend before the pandemic hit, COVID-19 forced companies to switch their entire experience online. It will cut time spent with each customer, but they will still come away with more information and likely more clothing. There will no longer be a need to spend an hour or more trying on different outfits in a physical setting.
For a successful online experience, companies need to reinvent their process from design to purchase. 50% of all eCommerce sales are returned, with many garments being returned because they don’t fit properly. With COVID-19, many companies aren’t sure how to handle returns, causing many products to end up in the garbage.In order for companies to deliver a satisfactory customer experience, they need to invest in tools that perfect fit and help customers choose the right size.
For internal teams, perfecting fit while working remotely can be a bit of challenge without the right technology. However, by leveraging tools like 3D and PLM, teams will be able to manage virtual samples and make comments to perfect fit.
On the customer side, adaptive software and more access to new options will also make it easier on stylists to send new concepts and ideas to their customers, who can try them on through virtual dressing rooms instead of waiting for an order to come in or going into a retail location. Reps will have immediate feedback and will be able to change their strategies quickly.
The digital fashion trend will allow greater customization for everyone who wants to hone their individual look. With the aforementioned virtual try-ons and access to different materials, customers can easily choose exactly how they want their clothes to look. These garments will then likely be cut by machines based on the inputs they receive through the software.
With mass production, customization was often too expensive or completely impossible for many people. With the rise in digital fashion technology, consumers can finally find the exact clothes for their tastes with the click of a button.
A cleaner environment
Digitized fashion means fewer wasted materials, less energy expended, and a leaner supply chain. All of this is fantastic news for the environment, which has not generally been treated well by the fashion industry. As consumers demand sustainability efforts from companies, clothing manufacturers can utilize digital fashion technology to minimize pollution and create viable alternatives for their customers.
By implementing the latest technology, fashion companies will be able to produce for demand rather than keep stock. With a fully integrated workflow, companies can adjust their production based on the current trends or what’s selling. Starting with PLM, brands and retailers can look at what products are selling and the current trends then decide how to effectively adapt their production to meet those demands. Producing for demand reduces waste by eliminating excess stock.
Fewer brick-and-mortar stores, smaller, greener factories, and bio-engineered materials all contribute to sustainability, and it is easy to see why the industry is heading this direction. Sustainable practices are beneficial to the environment, the customer, and to the company that is utilizing them.