Our regular analysis selects one or more news stories from fashion technology, and presents The Interline‘s take on why they matter to our global brand and retail audience – as well as what they might mean for the longer-term future of fashion. As always, this analysis is also delivered to Interline Insiders by email — and signing up continues to be the best way to get a fresh look at the fashion technology news, completely free, in your inbox.
Is the next generation of fashion tech talent migrating from tech and into fashion?
Although we’re only two months into the year, 2023 has already been a rollercoaster for many people in the broader tech industry. Between Meta, Google, Microsoft and Apple, around 150,000 jobs have been cut. The fashion industry has also been hit: The RealReal, the online and brick-and-mortar marketplace for staff-authenticated luxury consignment, is set to lay off 230 employees (representing 7% of its workforce) and close four stores this year, while Neiman Marcus plans to let 500 of its staff go. Where will all this talent go? The fashion industry tends to be insular in its hiring for major roles in established fashion houses; placing importance on cross-channel retail expertise, demonstrable success in brand-building. So fashion talent tends to stay in fashion.
But could we soon see an injection of a different kind of expertise and experience? Could the next generation of fashion tech startups and solutions have their roots in the current wave of tech layoffs?
Today, despite the fact that fashion has historically preferred solutions that were specifically built for it, the industry is increasingly recognising the value in borrowing tools and best practices from other sectors – i.e. automotive, architecture, videogames. In light of that shift in stance, it stands to reason that new ideas and new disruptors might come from the same sources – giving us an HR pathway from other industries into fashion similar to the one that tools and solutions have followed.
As well as the lure of jumping ship to a new and exciting industry, some of this influx of talent could be driven by the fact that tech workers may have their ability to continue working in tech hamstrung by non-compete clauses, making it necessary to find a new home for their software or hardware expertise.
There has been a proposal from the FTC to ban such clauses in America, however this will be arriving too late for people affected by the current job squeeze in big tech. Given this, it may be that people take their tech skills and apply them outside the industries they’re temporarily barred from working in. And for those with universally-applicable, cross-industry tech skills, there’s a lot currently happening in fashion in the digital space (not least digital fashion, digital collectibles, and the massive impact that digital tools are having on the creation of physical products) that lends itself well to new entrants. And while digital fashion is obviously the most visible tech discipline in fashion at this moment, ours is also an industry that’s overdue for disruption everywhere from creative design to supply chain to retail.
This new cohort of tech diaspora, then, could be the ones who help to translate some of fashion’s big visions into reality – perhaps being part of the teams that turn machine learning from a buzzword into a set of practical solutions, now that the hype cycle is turning away from crypto and towards AI.
AR as an enterprise platform
The growth of augmented reality (AR) seems to have been on many prediction lists for this year, for the fashion industry and beyond. And those predictions look to be coming true, as Snapchat seemingly plans to showcase its AR-for-enterprise platform at its annual developer summit in April. This, too, is further evidence of The Interline’s statement that 2023 is going to be a year where vague visions are turned into practical reality.
Snapchat wants apparel brands to use its virtual try-on technology and 3D asset management to make AR shopping easier for consumers. Perhaps not coincidentally, if this new enterprise AR platform is announced at the summit in April, it will mark just a month after Instagram will retire its live shopping feature. This way of shopping was popular in Asian markets, but failed to find the same traction in the US and Europe, even with the rise of mobile commerce we’ve written about already this year.
It’s hard not to see a choice being made here. For brands that are already creating styles in 3D, giving shoppers and influencers the ability to try on and explore those 3D twins of garments could represent a much more streamlined route than building physical products and getting them into the hands of live stylists or content creators, for them to then showcase live or in staged photography. For an industry that’s increasingly looking to build the smoothest end-to-end digital pipelines, proper enterprise AR could represent the least friction-prone route from design to consumer or creator.
Snap’s enterprise effort also comes off the back of significant investment into AR, highlighting the value they believe brands will be able to realise from it. The company has already put a lot of work into building out capabilities that better integrate AR experiences with the rest of the e-commerce suite – features that make it easier to jump from an AR experience to actually buying something. And given the current economic climate, brands and retailers who are prioritising time to ROI are likely to welcome the idea of a short hop from experiential retail to transactional retail.
This will all, we expect, help to bring big enterprises on board. But are consumers ready to put their trust in AR across apparel, footwear, and beauty when it comes to making subjective, personal choices? Snap’s own research suggests so, with a reported $24.9 billion increase in spending on personal care/beauty products when AR is a component of the shopping experience. In addition to this, over 70% of consumers said that AR helps to make quicker decisions to buy and will purchase more products to try at home.
Assuming this level of consumer confidence extends into other categories, then we predict that augmented reality will play a much larger role in how brands and retailers present their products, engage with consumers, and even manage their own in-house processes sooner rather than later.
Sustainability check-in: luxury and mainstream brands flock to the secondary market
It seems that the drive for circularity and sustainability is ramping up, with both the biggest luxury houses and some of the largest players in the mass market taking part. This week, French maison Chloé became the latest name to announce its collaboration with pre-loved fashion marketplace Vestiaire for its project named Chloé Vertical. Under the auspices of that project, users will be able to scan the unique digital ID embedded in the product with a smartphone, allowing their item to be tracked. Customers will also be able to learn about the product’s manufacturing process, find care and repair instructions, and locate the product’s certificate of authenticity. The certificate will grant access to a link to enable future second-hand resale of the product directly through Vestiaire – closing the loop.
This type of partnership – and the market tier it operates at – is indicative of how the role of the second-hand marketplace is changing: evolving from being a hands-off platform linking sellers and buyers, into something with brand recognition, customer loyalty, and lifetime value in its own right. The buzz from consumers is that buying from Vestiaire itself carries more cachet than the brand name on the label, with shoppers looking to demonstrate that they understand the damage wrought by fast fashion, and that they support a circular fashion economy.
This will be important for brands that have yet to build their own resale marketplaces or secondary channels, but who still want to secure a share of the aftermarket in a way that aligns with the level of experience they want their shoppers to have. Luxury resale, after all, needs to be luxurious.
But the knock-on effect from this is that platforms like Vestiaire, which deliver a comparable experience in the secondary market to the one luxury buyers are accustomed to when buying first-hand, can also start to offer a polished, seamless experience to more mass market brands. And indeed, more affordable products are also entering the resale space in a bigger way right now.
For more on the evolution of the secondary market, and the evolving role of the brand and the marketplace, look for an upcoming episode of The Interline Podcast.
First quarter events – bringing technology to the heart of the fashion business
In the first three months of the year, The Interline has travelled to Europe and North America to continue with our goal of increasing awareness of the pivotal role that technology has to play in the future of fashion.
First, we headed to Munich Fabric Start, where our Editor spoke on a panel dedicated to exploring “The Status Quo Of Fashion”. Benchmarking the industry at the moment is, of course, a delicate matter: costs are high, uncertainty reigns, and the baton of power in determining trend is being passed back and forth between brands, influencers, and creators. But across all of this unpredictability and uncertainty, technology is hugely important – both as a tool for re-establishing efficiency and profitability, to put fashion back in a comfortable status quo, and as a foundation for the kind of business model and product-level innovation that’s going to be needed for the industry to flourish in the near future.
Next, we travelled to Paris, where The Interline partnered with Première Vision to take over the education and talks area for a full afternoon of technology conversations – for the first time. Over four hours, our Editor chaired a series of panel discussions dedicated to exploring the importance of technology in tackling key industry challenges. Replays of each of those sessions are now available to stream:
- Digitalising Design
- Capturing Supply Chains
- Revolutionising Product Journeys
- Transforming Transparency & Sustainability
Last, but by no means least, we headed to Las Vegas to continue our North American partnership with SOURCING at MAGIC – deepening the way the technology conversation was woven into the overall thread of the USA’s milestone fashion industry event. From panel discussions focused on the definition of sustainability and traceability, to a wide-ranging foundation course in 3D and digital product creation, our Editor spoke across all three days of the show to audiences that were hungry to explore the possibilities presented by digital transformation.
Look for more announcements about The Interline’s involvement in global fashion industry events for the rest of 2023 very soon.
The best from The Interline:
This week we published two further instalments in our series of digital product creation executive interviews, extracted from our industry-defining DPC Report. We also published an exclusive from Mark Harrop and Chris Jones, examining ways for the industry to measure and manage sustainability return on investment (or SROI) as well as the latest instalment in The Interline’s podcast.
In the first of this week’s DPC conversations, we talk to Pierre Maheut, Director Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, 3D & Immersive, Adobe, to discuss how widespread access to powerful digital tools, and the codification of standards, is empowering the next generation of fashion designers.
In their exclusive feature, Mark Harrop & Chris Jones make the case for fashion to recognise the importance of sustainability as a return on investment – something to be measured, managed, and benchmarked as a key metric for fashion’s future, and technology’s role in delivering that future.
Sponsored by Kalypso, this month’s podcast explores how fashion’s ambitions for DPC and all-round digitisation might influence the way the industry develops its digital capabilities. As we approach the final stretch of the first quarter of 2023, uncertainty is still everywhere in fashion – from the mechanics of production to the patterns of consumption – and digital product creation will be a central component of the industry’s toolset for managing the unforeseen.
In the second of this week’s DPC conversations, we talk to Anne Christine-Polet, Founder of Stitch, about why incremental change is unlikely to deliver on fashion’s objectives, why sweeping transformation to the fabric of fashion is necessary, and what it means, technologically and culturally speaking, to deliver change on that scale.