Every week, The Interline rounds up the most vital and interesting talking points from across the fashion technology landscape. We provide our take on what matters, and why. And from next week, we will deliver this roundup to Interline Insiders by email, every Friday afternoon.

The coronavirus outbreak continues to expose the fragility of fashion’s supply chains, and the resilience of its brands and people.

No news item has garnered more headlines this week than the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, and its effect on business. The Interline’s own launch event was postponed, alongside huge investments like the Geneva Motorshow, while the world’s biggest stocks lost hundreds of billions of dollars in value as markets plunged in the face of total uncertainty.

It’s easy to forget, though, that what’s become an international disaster began in a single city, where people are still struggling to survive under an unprecedented, long-lasting lockdown.

Although the global panic has firmly set in – some justified; some not – resilience is everywhere you look, including here in fashion technology. As Italy went into lockdown, Georgio Armani ran its women’s A/W 2020 show behind closed doors, while Chinese tech company Tencent stepped in to help livestream every runway show from Milan Fashion Week to China.

As awful a situation as the ongoing outbreak is on a social level, it’s also revealing the fragility inherent in business supply chains – most of which are still resolutely analogue. On The Interline this week, Thomas Teger put forth an argument that a digital approach to materials could help to lessen this impact. The Interline will soon use this as a jumping-off point to examine the possibility of a codified material specification format emerging – which is currently the primary barrier to

The next generation of designers is getting comfortable with AI assistants.

The Innovation Agency at the London College of Fashion now teaches a course titled “AI & Fashion,” giving LCF students a grounding on how technologies that fall under the Artificial Intelligence umbrella are changing the way they should be thinking about the runway, the way they approach product design, and how AI-assisted retail might look.

The Interline has previously seen computer vision models used to synthesise an “ideal” single look by combining different elements of a catwalk show to arrive at an average, but as this BBC Click coverage demonstrates, the LCF is looking beyond time-savers in trend analysis and educating students on the potential for AI assistants to suggest design iterations, propose new colourways, and much more.

Anyone skeptical about the real-world applications of AI need look no further to realise that there’s a revolution coming – whether they’re prepared for it or not.

Sustainability matters more than ever, but progress is mired in setbacks.

Creating a more sustainable, ethical, and environmentally conscious kind of fashion is a goal almost everyone agrees on, but the playing field keeps getting stretched. In the same week that Stella McCartney promoted an animal-friendly message in Paris and revealed a “100% vegan, cruelty free” take on the timeless Adidas Stan Smith, Adidas was among a whole raft of brands – in and outside fashion – implicated in China’s “re-education” of its Uighur population, which appears to involve forced labour. And in the same week that luxury house Herno revealed the Fast5Degradable nylon, which promises to break down ten times quicker than traditional nylon would in a landfill, Victoria’s Secret was hauled up for unceremoniously dumping unsold bras.

To be clear: there’s a big gap in terms of severity between throwing out some surplus inventory and state-sponsored slavery, but it does seem as though every step forward on sustainability gets summarily dragged a few steps back. Which is why it’s encouraging to see robust, detailed frameworks like Matches Fashion’s Responsible Edit being premiered this week – providing shoppers with some level of reassurance, and asking brands to shoulder more in the way of accountability.

In the immediate term, though, fashion will need to turn to technology if the industry is going to understand its supply chains well enough to stand by any kind of larger sustainability statement. In the year 2020, even the biggest companies in the world can be blindsided by a reveal of forced labour in their supply chains, and consumers’ patience for these kinds of transgressions (and for the disposable fashion model in general) is wearing thin. This is especially true in The Interline’s home country, where half of all shoppers would now prefer to buy pricier, more durable clothes than cheaper alternatives.

Sustainability has never been under more scrutiny, and The Interline is already working on a deep-dive into the role technology will play in giving brands and retailers confidence in their promises – for publication this summer.

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