The fashion industry has not traditionally been an early adopter of new technology, and is viewed by many as being slow to embrace new media and the rapidly changing digital landscape. There are plenty of signs that this is changing though.
Even Tom Ford, an outspoken detractor of the immediacy and impersonal nature of online retail, has admitted defeat and launched an e-commerce platform. At London Fashion Week, it was reported that many designers back-stage, who set the trends the rest follow, could be seen wearing technology. Fashion retailers are turning to beacon technology to track customer footfall, improve in-store experience and boost sales (as we explore in our article, "The data collection"). The majority of the major luxury and fashion brands now have dedicated and sizable in-house social media teams to build brand loyalty and drive sales. There is also a burgeoning tech start-up movement in the fashion space that is growing in London and around the world, with dedicated organisations such as Decoded Fashion looking to demystify technology and foster creative partnerships between the digital and fashion industries.
We have seen a number of new business models using technology in novel ways to drive fashion forward:
- Farfetch.com, headquartered in California, recognised that there were independent, bricks and mortar boutiques with fantastic reputations and loyal customer bases all over the world who, despite being well established offline, were not exploiting their potential online to the full. Farfetch allows these boutiques to continue to grow that goodwill online, so that customers can browse their distinctive collections (carefully selected by their buyers) and purchase directly from the boutiques. Farfetch then takes care of fulfilment and delivery and the results have been a commercial success: Farfetch is now a community of over 300 fashion boutiques located everywhere from Paris and New York to Bucharest and Riyadh, united in one e-commerce website.
- Ormary.com, a UK-based start-up, is another innovative example of an e-commerce platform. Ormary (which means "wardrobe" in Serbo-Croat) looks to alleviate barriers to market entry for emerging and talented fashion designers by showcasing their wares on its website and allowing customers to buy them from the designers direct. Given the abundance of talented designers making their way in the fashion community and the consumer desire for beautiful and original designs, Ormary is a concept that neatly resolves a palpable supply / demand deficit. The site also uses a new attribution technology which populates personalised stylefeeds based on a user's favourite designers, bringing new designers from every corner of the world to the fashion-loving consumer.
- Dressipi.com is a pioneering technology which allows users to create a 'fashion fingerprint' based on their own body shape, style and preferences. Dressipi can then deliver unique style advice to its users based on their 'fashion fingerprint', offering guidance on what clothes would be most flattering (and what styles should be avoided). Their technology searches online stores every day to source recommendations and new styles, and these tailored findings are then collated and presented in one place to their users.
Technology has an undeniable power to disrupt traditional retail models. Whereas once the fashion world appeared to treat tech with suspicion and look upon it nervously from the side-lines, now only the most foolish would choose to ignore the positive and transformative effects it can have on their business. Current trends would suggest that the overlap between fashion and technology will only continue to gather pace, as the fashion world looks to further harness the power of tech to foster brand loyalty and sell clothes.