This February, The Interline will be travelling to Paris to join the next instalment of Première Vision, and to host an afternoon of panel discussions dedicated to unpicking some of the primary challenges facing fashion in Europe – and why technology could hold the keys to addressing them.

The official announcement has more on the agenda and themes for that half day, but those live conversations are just part of Première Vision’s ambition for integrating technology into its events. For the first time, the upcoming event will feature a new “Smart Tech” innovation zone spotlighting the latest in AI, blockchain, digital materials, 3D / DPC solutions, supply chain connectivity and more.

As well as working with The Interline to help interrogate the specifics of how technology is changing the way fashion operates, the event also includes a dedicated showcase of textile digitisation created in partnership with the IFTH (Institut Français du Textile et de l’Habillement), alongside other demonstrations from technology vendors across the three days of the show.

In advance of the event, we spoke with Première Vision’s COO, Igor Bonnet, to tap into his perspective on why technology is becoming a much larger part of not just major industry events, but the fabric of fashion itself.

The Interline: Why do you believe technology is redefining the agenda for fashion? And why is it happening now?

Igor Bonnet: Last year we organised a survey of brands in different industry segments and of different sizes, and digitalisation and sustainability emerged as everyone’s two clearest priorities for 2023. Neither of these are new forces, of course, but we also know that the bar for sustainability is getting higher, and the timeline for digitalisation is getting shorter. And that’s all happening at the same time as the scope of transformation is getting broader, with sweeping changes happening everywhere from creative design to sourcing and supply chain transparency.

With the amount of change fashion is going through, and the pace it’s taking place, this is not a journey any one company can embark on alone. Everyone will need to work as one to make our industry smarter and more sustainable – from agriculture to the end consumer.

As a major fashion industry event, our goal with Première Vision has always been to bring the different players in fashion together. So to reflect the scale and speed of change, we’re integrating technology even further into our shows – to demonstrate why doing things digitally is so important for everyone.

The Interline: It’s fair to say that fashion is approaching the end of a grace period where sustainability and accountability have been left to self-regulation. With that period coming to an end, do you think the industry already has all the tools it needs to meet the requirements of current and future regulations, or are more disruptive technologies (and the companies that develop them) essential to helping fashion become more eco-responsible?

Igor Bonnet: There is no single solution for sustainability, because every supply chain is unique, and every brand and every supplier has their own strategy, their own heritage, and their own direction. But even though everyone’s sustainability journey will be different, there are two things they will all have in common: the need for transparency, and the demand for data and technology to enable that transparency.

Even though sustainability is perhaps fashion’s biggest challenge, no company is expected to become 100% sustainable overnight. But they are required, either by law or because of changing expectations from consumers, to demonstrate that they are taking steps on that journey. We believe that disruptive innovations in materials, processes, and software platforms have a huge amount to offer in helping the fashion industry to take those steps.

Technology does not represent the whole of the sustainability journey, but it does contain a lot of important pieces of the puzzle – from trend analysis and digital product creation, to capturing and communicating objective data on the origins of materials.

Technology matters to companies of all shapes and sizes at a cultural level, and we want to create a forum for them to experience new solutions and new innovations first-hand, as well as to learn more about how technology can support their strategies.

For this reason, it no longer makes sense to look at sustainability and technology adoption as independent issues that exist on the periphery of fashion. These are both fully integrated into the CSR, ESG, and digital decision-making processes of the world’s biggest brands, and they belong right at the heart of fashion, which is why they have become key pillars of our events.

The Interline: It’s true that today’s digital decision-makers come from a more diverse set of roles than ever. Rather than technology projects being driven from the top-down (by CIOs, CTOs and so on) they tend to spearheaded, today, by process champions and people who are passionate about improving their own departments by moving from analogue to digital processes. Has that helped to make the argument for bringing technology further into the places those people already gather to make creative and commercial choices?

Igor Bonnet: It’s remarkable to see the fashion industry hiring more and more engineers, data scientists, and digital-native designers. That’s a testament to just how far technology has already become ingrained in the way the industry operates today, and how it’s going to run in the very near future. I don’t believe there are many brands today that see technology as an option; they see it as an inevitability.

I think the same is also true of material suppliers and manufacturers. Obviously there are some deeply traditional companies operating there, but even those businesses are beginning to embrace innovation in machinery, process, and efficiency. It’s no longer a case of simply having the best fabrics in the world, or the most storied craftsmanship; it’s about finding new ways of ensuring that their rich heritage and expertise is ready for a changing world.

The pace of technology adoption and innovation may not be as fast for suppliers as it is for brands, but I believe it’s a cultural change on both sides of the value chain that everyone agrees needs to happen, and it’s a change that everyone involved needs to discuss.

That’s where Première Vision comes in. We already sit right at the crossroads between brands, suppliers, and the open market. We are already the meeting point for both parties, so it makes perfect sense that we also help to showcase the different ways that digital technology can help the different parties to connect – whether they’re working to reduce their impact on the environment by collaborating using digital prototypes and samples, or striving to create a more transparent supply chain by sharing data.

The Interline: How do you expect that evolution in the accessibility of technology to change the composition of the audiences for long-established industry events like Première Vision?

Igor Bonnet: The core of an event like Première Vision Paris will still always be the fabrics, the leathers, and the seasonal inspiration, but we recognise that the people working in those sourcing and buying roles are now blending their creativity with more digital skills, and more of a focus on deploying digital tools to achieve their ambitions.

For our visitors who work for smaller brands, technology is becoming more important to them, individually, with every passing season, and they’re translating that level of interest and passion into new projects and spearheading new digital initiatives within their own departments. For the bigger brands and luxury groups who attend Première Vision Paris, we’re seeing different roles attending our shows and exploring the Smart Creation areas. In both cases, it’s clear that technology matters to companies of all shapes and sizes at a cultural level, and we want to create a forum for them to experience new solutions and new innovations first-hand, as well as to learn more about how technology can support their strategies – whether they apply to just a single department or a whole enterprise.

It no longer makes sense to look at sustainability and technology adoption as independent issues that exist on the periphery of fashion.

The Interline: This will be the first time that Première Vision has set aside a part of its educational agenda for conversations about the specifics of how software, hardware, and service innovation can support fashion’s goals in several key areas. Why are those conversations, which The Interline is supporting, so important in 2023? And what do they mean for the future of Première Vision and the industry as a whole?

It’s important for anyone interested in technology, or anyone who has a problem that technology could possibly help to solve, to be able to see potential solutions for themselves. That’s all covered in our Smart Creation area, and especially the Smart Tech segment of it, where our exhibitors will be showcasing things like fabric digitisation live, allowing anyone who is unfamiliar with the creation of digital fabrics or digital designs to see them being done in real-time.

But with so many moving parts to the vision for a smart, more sustainable fashion industry, it isn’t sufficient to put exhibitors and visitors in the same halls and simply sit back and let them interact. Which is why we are also hosting presentations and panel discussions across different elements of Smart Creation and Smart Tech, to make sure that our audience is also receiving the right guidance and education to let them make the most of the possibilities presented by technology.

That includes our first half-day dedicated to exploring fashion technology through four conversations structured around some of the biggest potential benefits of technology, which we’re thrilled to be working with The Interline to facilitate here in Paris.

It’s also important to point out that Smart Creation has been a part of Première Vision for a number of years, and that now, with the addition of a deeper focus on digital technology, we’re happy to able to bring together suppliers and potential users of technology to unlock the next stage of this journey. And we’re confident that technology will have an even more central position in future events. This is just the beginning – for the industry and for Première Vision.

For more on the series of conversations hosted by The Interline on 8th February 2023, and how they fit into the broader agenda for technology at Première Vision Paris, explore the Smart Tech programme.

About our partner: For nearly 50 years, Première Vision has been bringing together fashion professionals and accelerating their business. It is the heart of a unique ecosystem of international textile trade fairs where inspiration, creativity and opportunities come together.

From yarns to fashion manufacturing, the Première Vision shows connect the industry’s various players, highlight new products and innovative solutions from suppliers around the globe, and support designers and creatives in the sourcing of their future collections.