Technology is reshaping the fashion industry

We feel the influence of technology in every aspect of our lives. On a personal level, we are at a loss without our trusty smartphones, and in business, the influence of tech is even more profound.

Whatever industry you might be involved in, it is unlikely you have been immune from the constant march of technological progress, and the fashion industry is no different. In fact, in the world of fashion, technology is having a broader effect than you might have imagined.

New materials
Digital technology is reshaping the way clothes are made and the materials used to do so. Some of the designs being made into a reality would have been simply impossible in the pre-digital era.

An example of the innovations on offer is the bioengineered clothing being created by experimental material development house Modern Meadow. The company has used yeast cells to make a leather-like material that is completely free from animal products. Chief Creative Officer Suzanne Lee explained that the cells can be engineered to produce collagen, which is the same protein found in animal skin. They can grow billions of cells and engineer the collagen into whatever form they choose.

This is an intriguing example of a material that blurs the differentiation between natural and man-made. It provides an intriguing glimpse into our future.

 The app-based world
We use smartphone apps every day to look at the latest fashion trends, compare prices and be notified about the latest promotions. However, the use of software and apps within the fashion sector runs far deeper. At its heart, a fashion house is a manufacturing business like any other, and it relies on clear, efficient processes to operate effectively. Getting the right processes in place when it comes to new product development, production planning, scheduling, manufacturing, quality assurance and distribution is as important in fashion as it is in any other sector.

Fashion houses are using apps and bespoke software to improve all these internal processes. The result? New products come to market faster and arrive on the physical or virtual shelves at reduce cost, which can be passed on to the buyer.

Smart clothes
The concept of wearable technology has been around for a while, but some of the biggest names in fashion are taking it to new extremes that go beyond smart specs or fitness trackers.

Levi Strauss & Co teamed up with Google last year to develop what is being hailed as the world’s first smart jacket. So what is so smart about it? The jacket incorporates washable technology in the cuff that can communicate with other devices. So for example, if someone calls on your smartphone, the jacket vibrates to let you know. This is just the beginning of its potential applications. It can provide directions to your destination, change the music on your sound system and interact with any number of other devices – all from a touch on the cuff.

Google’s Ivan Poupyrev is heading up the project. He explained that the underlying technology can be incorporated into any kind of clothing. It could completely redefine what me mean by the phrase “dressing smartly.”

New design practices
The nature of fashion and the direction it takes is also being changed by technology. We all spend plenty of time on social media, and this has led to opportunities for buyers to have more influence in fashion trends than ever. Social influencers are more than just a marketing tool to be exploited by sales teams – their influence runs both ways, and can be as persuasive on the decision makers in the design studios as it is on their social media followers.

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