Big data and fashion: love at first sight?

Maximilien Abadie, strategy director at Lectra, discusses advances made in big data for the fashion industry.

Big data and fashion: love at first sight?

Will fashion and big data ever be reconciled?

Big data is a rational notion, whereas fashion is rather emotional. Data is perennial, but fashion is ephemeral. At first glance, these worlds clash.

Nonetheless, collecting and analyzing data can help fashion companies to better respond to consumer demand, to improve production and to sell better. In this way, the benefits of big data are obvious. 

Today, the majority of fashion companies lag behind with regards to big data because they are afraid of becoming governed by data, and people involved in creating and developing collections want to be guided by their inspiration. The major challenge is to reassure them that big data is one parameter among many, and that it does not detract from creativity which is at the heart of fashion.

What impedes a broader adaption of big data in the fashion industry?

The foremost obstacle is without doubt the absence of any harmonization when describing clothes. How can you capture digitally the infinite number of details that make up style? The subjectivity of style criteria is not conducive to defining a track record trail on which to base an analysis.  

In addition, the absence of any standardization is the source of many erroneous interpretations throughout the lifecycle of a clothes’ item. A sub-contractor, for example, will not read data the same way as a brand or a distributor. Even if all the players in the supply chain are connected digitally, each participant can have a different reading of the data: a stylist will above all see creative points, a designer will be technical, a sub-contractor will aim to optimize production. In fashion, digital platforms can resolve most of these problems, but these cannot be eradicated completely without full standardization.

On the flip side, what is the number one motivation for fashion companies who use big data?

Besides removing certain ambiguities that I have already touched on, big data facilitates the decision-making process in several stages along the fashion supply chain. For example, it enables a company at any given moment to dispatch the right product to the right place, as determined by the demographical characteristics of a location, and the weather.

Embracing big data is also really motivating – and immediately cost-effective – for companies with their own distribution network and who are in direct contact with their customers. This explains why big data is not as mature in all companies, and depends on their size, structure and business scope.


Our Chief Marketing Officer, Céline Choussy-Bedouet also shared their take on Big Data's influence on The Hive. You can find her perspective here