Every week, The Interline analyses up the most vital talking points from across the landscape of fashion technology news. This analysis is also delivered to Interline Insiders by email.
Despite serious strides towards sustainability, a big segment of the market is still prioritising speed – and investors are betting on that continuing.
With reductions in coronavirus cases seeming to closely correlate with increases in retail spending – see new UK statistics produced this week – the question remains whether or not fast fashion is going to remain the dominant model. And the question that follows on from that is whether the sustainability gains that are being made elsewhere in the industry will wind up being offset, or even over-compensated for, by an ongoing appetite for affordable, disposable, clothing.
This week’s news presents a real dichotomy: at the same time that Burberry is pledging to become climate-positive in less than twenty years, online-only disruptors like Shein and Blushmark seem to be poised to take over the high-volume-at-all-costs market position that previous fast fashion figureheads are trying consciously to move away from.
As this week’s stories revealed, these new faces of fast fashion are dealing in incredible scale: Blushmark currently sells well in excess of 10,000 SKUS, with an average price point of just $15 USD. And while this variety and accessibility is good news for primarily price-conscious shoppers, it’s almost certainly bad news for the environment and for the various value chain partners that contribute to the lifecycles of such low-priced products.
The success of this model seems to run counter to the common wisdom that today’s consumers are more concerned with quality, durability, and sustainability than ever. But nevertheless, investors are currently trying to find the next fast fashion success story, banking on the assumption that, while the upper end of the market will continue to advance towards sustainable materials and equitable labour, there will remain a significant market segment where price and speed reign supreme.
This assumption is also echoed in this week’s valuation of “buy now, pay later” company Klarna at more than $45 billion – a landmark it reached partly through recent partnerships with many top retailers in the USA. To put it bluntly, the retail market is going to keep producing a lot of product, and payment services are going to keep that product flowing into consumers’ homes, whether they can truly afford it or not.
There is a broader cultural change at work here, but it’s one that is perhaps not as widespread as we might have hoped. And in unsurprising news released today, it seems that to hit that low price point, at least half of all fast fashion products are making use of virgin plastics. Combine that statistic with the sheer volume mentioned above, and the sustainability problem begins to seem almost intractable.
The realisation that the fast fashion model is likely to continue could also have been a factor in this week’s announcement that the UK would be creating a “Garment Trade Adjudicator” whose job it would be to investigate unfair labour practices in the supply chain.
As we have mentioned previously, fashion’s sustainability profile is something that’s not likely to be improved by brand action alone, and regulators will have an important role to play in the very near future. As this week’s news demonstrates, with retail rebounding in a big way, and fast fashion seeming to go from strength to strength, those regulators are going to have their work cut out for them.
Democratised 3D object scanning could have a marked impact on the accessibility of photogrammetry.
This week’s WWDC event from Apple saw the unveiling of Object Capture, which is for all intents and purposes automation of photogrammetry with inputs from a range of lower-fidelity sources, such as iPhone, iPads, and even consumer drones.
For the time being, this is still a developer-facing tool designed to streamline (and make more accessible) the creation of 3D assets for use in augmented reality, but there is a clear through-line from those use cases to an audience of less technical users who simply want to capture 3D models for visualisation purposes.
It almost goes without saying that the fashion industry is full of exactly those kinds of users – people who would be happy to take the required 20-200 photos in order to generate a reasonable-quality, interoperable model of a shoe or garment that could be used for in-house, supply chain, and even consumer interactions.
Today those audiences are catered for by either traditional “turntable” model creators, which are performing rudimentary stitching of photos, rather than generating actual 3D geometry, and or by shipping their products to dedicated photogrammetry studios. The latter of those business models will likely persist – and even continue to grow – as the requirement for archival-quality 3D assets increases, but the ability to generate acceptable (and even good) 3D models without a dedicated studio could rapidly democratise the object scanning process for a lot of everyday use cases.
This week saw the announcement of a scholarship programme for “Digital Equity” from The Digital Fashion Group, which is also promoting its six-week Digital Fashion 101 course as part of an overall objective of opening the doors of digital product creation and industry-wide digitisation to the widest possible talent pool. The Interline is a partner of The Digital Fashion Group, with further announcements of the shape that partnership will take coming soon.
And the best from The Interline this week:
This week we published an exclusive collaboration between Gerber Technology (now a Lectra company) and Substance by Adobe – both past partners of The Interline, and both companies that are doing a lot to support the adoption of all-digital workflows.
Their collaboration focused on how the pandemic has showcased the requirement for creative processes that can flow from initial concept to final production without a single analogue gap. It makes compelling reading for anyone interested in just how far end-to-end digital workflows have come.