MAGAZINE COVER STORY
Reflections on How Tech Is Changing The Fashion Industry
Photographed by Moira Margolis
Essay by Kelsi Kobata & Caitlyn Mae Cairme
MAGAZINE COVER STORY
Essay by Kelsi Kobata & Caitlyn Mae Cairme
The fashion industry knows no boundaries. The $3 trillion industry plays a fundamental role in the way that we communicate, create and influence our own culture. The same could be said that culture, too, has an impact on fashion. With rapidly developing technology and diverse generational cohorts, the industry is constantly evolving, paving the way for innovation and discovery.
At the forefront of the fashion industry is its fourth industrial revolution. Advancements across digital, physical and biological worlds are stirring a new conversation in the world of fashion, driving the economy and overall business of the industry. Think of fibers made from discarded shrimp shells, garments that can react to our body temperature, and 3D printed wearables. These innovations are bridging the gaps between various industries and have a widespread effect on the way the world views and consumes fashion.
These movements are a result of the current consumer culture, which differs by region and ranges from one generation to the next. The Western world describes millennials and Gen Zâ€™ers as consumers who are digital natives and are more likely to spend their limited funds on technology or Instagrammable experiences, like dining out or traveling. Chinaâ€™s equivalent of these cohorts are their post-80s generation, which displays more brand loyalty than the post-90s generation, which is willing to pay large sums of money for unique brands. Though each cohort seems to have different consumer mindsets, they ultimately seek transparency, sustainability, uniqueness, and experiential moments.
Technology and digital innovations have helped the fashion industry tailor to the needs and wants of its consumers. One notable impact that technology has on fashion is its influences on the way people shop. For some time, people have been transitioning from brick and mortar stores to online shopping. Even more striking is how tech-savvy millennials are able to make a purchase directly through Instagram with a few simple clicks. Additionally, technology has become something that people can wear, such as an Apple watch. Designers have even found ways to create garments made of self-charging textiles that can power electronic devices. It seems as though anything is possible. Technology runs deep through the seams of fashion and continues to transform the industry.
Bloggers and celebrities have made their mark on the industry as digital fashion influencers. They post, snap and tweet to their millions of followers on social media platforms and as a result, their followers are influenced to buy the products or brands that their favorite blogger promotes. Not only do these influencers use their publicity to promote certain products, but they review them as well. Ever since fashion blogging took off in 2007, many consumers have relied heavily on the review of products as told by their favorite bloggers. What they have to say ultimately sways followersâ€™ purchasing decisions. No longer does the public rely on books or magazines for fashion advice. Shoppers now have these reviews at the touch of their fingertips on their electronic devices. The power that these influencers have is so immense that products they promote often sell out instantly. The world of fashion blogging has become a digital phenomenon that resonates with consumers in a stronger and more unique way than it has before.
Some may think that the shows are merely parades of models strutting up and down the runway wearing the newest collection from various designers. However, changes within culture, competition, and technology have turned them into a story that is told through thematic music, extravagant decor and striking venues. Fashion leaders, influencers, editors of renowned fashion publications,and media flock to these shows to enjoy, critique and document these performances.
A lot of time and money goes into the making of these elaborate shows, events, and previews, and with the transition into a digital world, there are alternative ways to host a Fashion Week that is much more economical and time-saving. That said, fashion mavens still crave the in-person experience of attending a traditional fashion show, so some brands have even used city streets, track fields, and public settings to compromise.
With the rise in demand for experiential moments and instant gratification among millennials, brands have planned alternatives to traditional fashion shows to tailor to these consumer behaviors. They include pop-up shops, collection previews, and See-Now, Buy-Now opportunities, a concept that provides show attendees, particularly buyers, with the opportunity to buy the collection immediately after shows. Instead of seeing garments float across the runway for a duration of a few short minutes, guests are able to see these new products up close and personal without being rushed. People have grown increasingly less patient to wait months before they can get their hands on highly-coveted pieces from their favorite designers.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) is the official organizer of New York Fashion Week for womenswear, menswear, bridal, and precollection. The CFDA is a non-for-profit organization that recognizes unique talents and seeks to maximize the impact of American designers in the global economy. Their educational and charitable initiatives, as well as their annual awards events, celebrate the impact American fashion has in their community and in the world. The organizationâ€™s initiative is to grow the American fashion industry. As stated on their website, â€œThe CFDA membership consists of more than 500 leading fashion womenswear, menswear, jewelry, and accessory designers. Membership is by invitation only, and is open to Americans designing in the United States or abroad or international designers whose businesses are based in the United States.â€ Each June, the international fashion community honors the best and brightest in American design at the CFDA Fashion Awards. The winner of the CFDA awards in 2017 was Raf Simons for Calvin Klein. Simons won womenswear and menswear designer of the year. This tight-knit network allows for unity and recognition among top leaders within the fashion industry.
On the other end of the spectrum is a large part of the fashion industry that cannot be ignored: fast fashion. Brands like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 are fast fashion giants that operate at an accelerated pace to bring the most up-to-date fashion trends to their customers as quickly and cheaply as possible. While the affordability, speed, and Ã¢â‚¬Å“trendinessÃ¢â‚¬Â of these brands may be tempting, the practice requires the exploitation of labor and natural resources.
Instead of releasing a clothing line once every season like traditional fashion retailers, fast fashion companies release collections multiple times per season, which means that these companies must optimize their supply chains to design, manufacture and distribute clothing as quickly as possible. The stress on quantity puts pressure on time, but it is not so much about the speed as it is about selling more goods and making more money. Some fast fashion retailers produce new collections for their brick and mortar stores as fast every two weeks. A global concern with fast fashion is that it is unethical and unsustainable, a prevalent argument among many. Though that may be the case, these companies are continuing to grow, becoming leaders in the fashion business and strengthening their presence in the market.
The landscape of the fashion industry has evolved tremendously. With the invention of wearable technology, the rise of influencers, and the art of runway shows, it seems as though the possibilities are limitless. The future of fashion is always unpredictable, but the insatiable hunger to improve and innovate always results in an intriguing surprise each year.