For NYC Fashion week, FashionHub organized an event and panel discussion to explore the quickly expanding role of technology in fashion, apparel and retail. The evening was structured around two themes; “Fashion Tech and Sustainability” and “Can Retail Tech Save The Retailers?”.

The discussion spanned from an overview of the fast-approaching technologies that will soon be impacting these industries, to the ones a bit further out that we should all keep an eye on.

Sustainability
The apparel industry is quickly coming to terms with the fact that it’s not only a major polluter but also very wasteful, its estimated that the world has a 10-year supply of clothing sitting in warehouses right now. A lively discussion was had on which technologies have the potential to address these issues.

  • Bio Materials: Whether developed from corn, kelp, coffee or mycelium (mushrooms!), bio materials are being experimented with to find sustainable options to reduce the industry dependency on petroleum-based ones. Particularly interesting was the research into bio materials that can be “grown” with inherent coloration, thus eliminating the need for garment dyeing and the pollution that comes from it.
  • Block Chain (yes, Block Chain really is everywhere): Groups are working on block chain systems to track raw materials through to end-use to create a “closed loop” system, where waste can be mitigated and re-use maximized.
  • Mass Customization: This one really has some momentum with the technology, infrastructure and business model quickly evolving. Although the kinks will take some time to work out, body scanning for the perfect fit, paired with on-demand fabrication (3D printing, knitting, robot sewing and bonding) will allow for the win-win of superior merchandise and near zero waste of resources or money.

Retail Tech
All agreed that although retail is traditionally a slow-to-adapt industry, it’s at a tipping point now with available technology quickly catching up with consumer expectations.

  • Unite Merchandise and Content: A new generation of field-tested technology is creating interactive displays that keep consumers eyes on the product (and off their phones), delivering product specific content as consumers interact with the merchandise. Allowing for online level depth of information (i.e. product attributes, company bio, sustainability details, etc.).
  • “No one wants to be 1st or 3rd”: It became a little bit of a venting session for the technologist in the room, as they pleaded with the retail industry to shift away from its default secrecy and risk adversity, and embrace the methods that have allowed high tech to evolve quickly and effectively. Methodologies like “A / B testing”, competitor collaborations and embracing failure are needed if retail is going to evolve at the speed everyone agrees it needs to.