HealthTech, Fintech, HRTech, TravelTech. What sector doesn’t have its accompanying group of entrepreneurs adding innovation to the market? The fashion industry, although slow to adapt, is no different. The following are the top emerging trends:
1. Wearable Tech
As computers and sensors get smaller, cheaper, and more flexible, the growth of wearable tech is inevitable. Light-sensitive glasses were the forerunner. The Apple Watch made it modern. Now companies large and small are getting involved. From the phone-answering Levis Jacquard jacket powered by Google, to the Elemoon bracelet which finds your phone, alerts you to calls, and changes light design to match your outfit, power players and newcomers alike are entering the fashiontech arena, offering consumers the style they want with the newest technological features baked right in.
2. Big Data Reduces Overproduction and Returns
The bane of the fashion industry is overproduction and returns. Who knew until it reached the consumer that nobody would choose the yellow sweater? Or that the puff sleeve just wouldn’t be flattering? Now, with the increased ease of consumer polling, real-time aggregation of inventory and return data, retailers are able to get timely product feedback, enabling them to quickly modify production to better match consumer demand.
3. The Sharing Economy
Although vintage clothing stores have been around for a long time, with the exception of the rented prom-tux, the concept of sharing clothing with strangers had an “ick” factor that practicality could not overcome. All of that may be changing. Rent the Runway broke the barrier by making high-end fashion readily rentable with its low-friction business model. Companies such as Claire’s Closet and Swap.com have taken this trend a step further. Applying the Zip-Car concept of sharing, individuals can now make a handy profit by turning their closet into inventory in a seamless way. Given that most clothing is worn just seven times (according to a Daily Mail survey) coupled with millennials’ willingness to relinquish ownership, we expect this trend to grow over time.
4. Localized Fast Fashion Production
Fast-Fashion is the buzzword of the industry and localized production is starting to follow. Companies such as Under Armour which currently produces an athletic shoe with a 3D printed midsole, and recently announced a new facility aimed at releasing designs to partner factories around the world for local production are leading the way. Over time, 3D printing as well as advanced knitting, weaving, and sewing machines should facilitate local on-demand clothing production. Garments could be made around the corner or even in the store, designed specifically to consumer’s tastes and dimensions thereby reducing the need for overseas manufacturing, production of excess inventory, and shipping.
5. Advanced Fit Technology
According to a report by Econsultancy, retailers in the US report a return rate of between 20% and 40% for online sales, with poor fit cited as the number one reason. Enter new technologies that guide shoppers to items that fit them best by comparing personal measurements or dimensions of favorite clothing against online offerings. No doubt, a virtual reality experience is on its way, allowing the shopper to try clothing on virtually before selecting the purchase button.
Technological innovation in the fashion industry is a win for everyone. Consumers greatly appreciate the innovations that affect their style and shopping experience. Retailers benefit from reduced cost and friction in connecting their products to consumers. And, best of all, less waste in the fashion industry is a major gift to our planet. According to EcoWatch (quoting Eileen Fischer), fast fashion Is the second dirtiest industry in the world, next to big oil. Excess clothing fills our landfills and the production itself pollutes our water supply. To the extent new technologies contribute to reduced production, we all stand to benefit from the integration of fashion and technology.