The fashion industry and its future has been at the forefront of discussion for some time now, from the impact the industry has on the environment, to learning how to meet consumer demands through innovative methods.

The process of creating clothing is, for the most part, hidden from consumers. Instead, buyers have simply been enjoying the benefits of the improved processes and technology, without much thought of where it came from. That is, until now.

Today’s customer is savvier than ever before; full of questions and curiosity about their own impact on the world and the impact of the brands they buy from. From manufacturers and wholesale clothing suppliers, to high street and luxury retailers, the fashion industry has always been innovative. So, what’s next?

Technology driving the design process

As with many industries, technology is making a huge impact on the processes and outcomes. In fashion, the use of technology is being used to understand customers better than ever before through the likes of data collection.

This can be used to reshape brands’ approach to design and development, with a huge focus on finding what customers what to wear next. Technology is helping to create sophisticated systems in order to try and predict emerging designs.

The topic of AI has been explored in many different sectors, but AI in fashion is beginning to help produce original designs drawn from themes and keywords provided by designers. With human and AI collaboration, brands are able to create designs quicker and with better direction when it comes to consumer demand. For instance, in 2018 Tommy Hilfiger began using IBM AI tools under a project called Reimagine Retail in order to decipher real-time industry trends, customer sentiment and resurfacing themes. In turn, this helped the design team make informed decisions about the next collection.

Along with prediction, personalisation is becoming a key factor that can be achieved through new technology and platforms. Emerging technology is creating the ability to try on virtual clothing, as well as allowing you to buy the right size through measuring your existing clothes or comparing brands.

A big push for sustainability

One of the biggest themes across most industries is sustainability, but it is particularly prevalent in fashion. Shoppers are more conscious than ever before about where their clothes have come from.

According to Lyst, there has been a huge increase in people looking for ethical clothing, with searches like vegan leather and organic cotton becoming more popular.

This shift in shopper behaviour means brands have to align better with their customers’ attitudes, and push for sustainable materials alongside conscious production methods. For example, H&M’s Conscious Collection is helping them to reach their goal of increasing the use of sustainable resources to 100% by 2030.

The second-hand apparel market is also on the rise too, with the likes of reselling, thrifting and donations becoming more common.

There has been a greater push in re-use and recycle when it comes to clothes.

Dealing with consumer demand

Despite customers’ demand for sustainability, they also want clothes quicker than ever before. Brands must find ways to close the gap between new trends emerging and the moment of purchase, making it easier for customers to get their hands on brand new styles.

Many brands are now starting to internalise the production process to make it quicker and easier to meet consumer demand. In 2018, Gucci unveiled its Gucci ArtLab just outside Florence, creating a centre of product development with in-house prototyping and sampling.

There are also other production trends that may start to take force. Small-batch production cycles are becoming a favoured model, with the aim of reducing levels of overstock. Brands may start to look towards selling clothes and then making them, in order to reduce wasteful production.

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