In the face of a global pandemic that spread rapidly and claimed lives by the thousands, the fashion world was taken by storm by a variety of new innovations that integrated technology and fashion together. In June 2020, after countries all over the world were plunged into varying degrees of lockdown, Hanifa unveiled its ready-to-wear Pink Label Congo clothing line on Instagram. The virtual fashion show displayed 3D renderings of the clothes on invisible models, and still managed to capture the fit and flow of each garment. Founder Anifa Mvuemba stated, however, that although the COVID-19 pandemic had inspired her to be more daring and innovative in light of lockdown restrictions, she had already been working with 3D models as part of her sampling process for some time. Mvuemba’s comment highlighted the reality of the fashion world: it was going digital.
Not long after, various big brands joined this transformation, partly as a move towards more innovation through digitalization, and partly as a response to the pandemic which had changed everyone’s lives. Saint Laurent decided to restructure its launches entirely but scrapping the seasonal fashion calendar, and Gucci slashed its number of shows from 5 to 2, with creative director Alessandro Michele stating that “Clothes should have a longer life,” in a virtual press conference. Michele also stated that future Gucci collections would be “seasonless”, indicating a clear departure from the seasonal fashion calendar that had dominated for so long.
Meanwhile, whilst some fashion weeks were cancelled entirely, Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM) made waves by hosting the first-ever virtual couture fashion week. The programme, held across three days, emulated a physical fashion week a preset show schedule. Ralph Toledano, the president of the FHCM, told Vogue: “Digital is clearly part of the shape of fashion to come and we will take it as an opportunity for innovation to complement tradition.”
Though the use of 3D rendering and digitizing software is not new, the pandemic has undoubtedly catalyzed the fashion worlds’ foray into virtual spaces. Whereas the use of such technologies was largely experimental in the past, COVID-19 has rendered them vital for fashion brands to remain relevant – and those who do not adapt, risk being left behind.
One such notable technology that has been increasingly utilized across brands is none other than Augmented Reality (AR). With the use of AR, consumers now have the opportunity to “try-before-you-buy” in the virtual sphere across a wide range of items, from beauty products to luxury fashion. In the past, when customers could easily test products in physical stores, AR seemed like no more than a marketing gimmick that few actually relied upon to make purchasing decisions. However, amid the various restrictions due to the pandemic, AR is amongst the most important technologies that is addressing real customers’ concerns, thus empowering them to make informed purchasing decisions. It is no wonder, then, that products with AR content showed a 94% higher conversion rate than products without AR, as Shopify reported in September 2020.
But the digital revolution does not stop there. Virtual closets are yet another promising area of this revolution, and though these applications have been around since before the pandemic, they are nevertheless a noteworthy feature of the intersection between fashion and technology. With virtual closets, users can upload photos of the various clothing items they own and create a digital catalogue within the application. The application can also be used to plan outfits in advance, and some apps even come with an in-house algorithm that suggest various outfits based on individual user preferences. These apps record descriptive data about the outfits that users log, such as colour palettes or specific styles that users tend to reach for, and use this data to recommend other garments or to suggest outfits. With such virtual closet apps, users can not only make more well-informed purchasing choices based on the clothes they already own, but also see which garments no longer fit within their wardrobe and can be sold or donated. The seemingly gargantuan task of organizing and decluttering one’s wardrobe is made infinitely simpler through something as simple as an app.
Fashion technology has not just changed the lives of consumers, but also individuals working on the design and production end of the industry. A software programme that is likely to change the way we think about design and the process of creating new garments is CLO-3D, a fashion design software programme that enables users to create virtual, true-to-life garment visualizations. Besides basic 2D pattern drafting, users also have unlimited layers upon which they can intricate details to their designs. But it doesn’t just stop there, CLO’s integrated platform allows users to instantly preview changes to their designs in both 2D patterns and 3D renderings. Furthermore, the comprehensive built-in library of commonly used fabrics allows the software to emulate drape-sensitive fabrics while still accounting for various material properties, thus ensuring that users’ designs are accurately visualized in the software.
But why is this so groundbreaking? With software programmes like CLO-3D breaking into the fashion industry, brands will now be able to optimize their designs and reduce the time needed to make changes to design drafts. Additionally, brands will be able to cut down on waste from the sampling process, and will have a centralized database of designs to tap into when growing their collections.
CLO’s user interface is also stunningly simple to use, allowing regular people as well as large fashion brands to try their hand at fashion design. Whereas fashion design was previously a field with high barriers to entry due to the highly specialized training that designers received in expensive fashion schools, software programmes like CLO-3D increases the accessibility of fashion design. With the large database of tutorials that users can tap into, CLO-3D is doing for the fashion industry what programmes like Photoshop and Illustrator did for the design and marketing world. The democratization of fashion design skills is unlikely to slow down anytime soon, so we can all expect unprecedented waves of innovation as more people bring their creative ideas to life.
The intersection of fashion and tech is an unavoidable one – whilst the pandemic may have propelled this process of digitization, one cannot deny that it was an inevitability. As technology continues to spread through the fashion industry, brands will have to reimagine their retail, marketing, and production strategies to ensure that they’re able to keep up with the shifting trends. Whether it’s e-commerce and digital marketing strategies or the integration of software into the design and production process, the fashion world has much to learn from new technologies in the industry.
So, how can you upskill yourself to stay relevant whilst giving yourself a competitive edge? Look no further, with TaF.tc’s specialized courses in digital apparel design, such as Virtual Prototyping, you can learn the ins and outs of software programmes like CLO-3D and apply those skills to your own fashion collections.
If there’s anything that this pandemic has taught us, it’s that adaptability is key to staying afloat. The digitalization of the fashion industry is unlikely to slow down anytime soon, so don’t miss the opportunity to pick up these vital skills and get ahead.
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