Is fashion digitalisation beneficial to environment & to the fashion industry during pandemic?

Fashion industry was referred as an 'environmental emergency' due to the pollution that it creates by United Nations in 2018. From production to consumption fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global emissions and 79 trillion liters of water consumed which makes fashion industry the second largest polluter of clean water. It is also responsible for 35% of microplastics found in the oceans. Starting from March 2020 world have entered a pandemic crisis. Fashion industry has been one of the hardest hit industries by the pandemic with canceling fashion shows, photoshoots and many other aspects. Brands and organizations needed to find effective and fast solutions to implement to their business strategies to survive.

Here is how digitalisation have helped overcome both issues, but everything has consequences.

Online prototyping & 3D

The 3D concept is a significant aspect in the design process. It enables designers to be more creative in a real-life visualization of designs that could only be imagined through 2D sketches previously. It is clearly visible that the world is going digital, and 3D plays a key role at this.

Fashion industry is responsible for over 92 million tons of waste produced per year. By designing on 3D softwares waste created by wrong prototypes can be cut down. There are multiple softwares that will allow designers to create a 3D garment. The most commonly used software is CLO 3D which enables companies to save money, time and waste. For instance, Imperfectionists , a new Copenhagen based sustainable and ethical athleisure wear brand – launching April 2021, creates their prototypes on CLO 3D in order to cut down the number of reject prototypes.

One of the newest design software is Swatchbook which is a California based tech company offers designers & companies to design and visualize the designed items online with Augmented reality. The tech company also offers 99% reality rate on the textile's texture which and all the textiles on the software belongs to real suppliers. Therefore, it can also be referred as a textile hub.

Online shopping & Augmented Reality:

COVID-19 pandemic led to changes in consumer decision-making and online shopping behaviour. With the stores being closed, online shopping has experienced a boost. A survey held by Digital Commerce 360 ​​released that COVID-19-related shifts in buying behavior proven that due to pandemic an additional $41.54 billion in digital revenue for online commerce was gathered November-December 2020. Furthermore, surveys conducted by UNCTAD showed that online purchases have increased by 6 to 10 percentage in 2020.

However, online shopping has consequences as well. Such as people weren't 100% sure of their sizes online since they couldn't try it on, which led them to order multiple sizes and return the ones that didn't fit them. This situation causes massive harm to the environment due to plastic packaging & carbon footprint. 10% of online returns are burned or donated. In USA only returns create 15 million tons of carbon emissions and 5 billion pounds of landfill waste according to Vogue Business.

Technology came to help with Augmented Reality (AR), which provides computer generated image on a consumer's view of the real world. This enabled people to try on an item prior to their purchase. Apps such as the Dressing room came out. This app helped customers to try on the items which they are interested in by using an avatar.

Ralph Lauren have been one of the first companies to blend AR & fashion. They have created a collaboration called Snapchat X Ralph Lauren which provided customers to see designs of the brand via their phones on snapchat. This collaboration was claimed to be the “first-ever combination of AR & Fabric”

Also, American fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff created their own AR filter which enabled customers to see the brand's products as if the items were in their own homes, through their phone. It not only allowed customers to identify the size of the products but also provided a unique brand experience. Rebecca Minkoff 's campaign has proved that 27% of customers are more likely to make a purchase after interacting with 3D, & 65% of the visitors on the website are more likely to make a purchase after interacting with AR technology.

Therefore, AR have helped cut down the number of wrong shipments and amount of waste.

Online Fashion Shows & 3D Technology

On 1st May 2020 YouTube hosted its first ever at home fashion show livestream. Later on, we have experienced fashion weeks all around the world going digital due to lack of in-person experience during pandemic. Latest Copenhagen Fashion Week have taken place online and it is just one of the examples of the fashion weeks.

One of the most crucial points of a fashion week is showroom visits.

“Do you believe that in person experience can ever be replaced?”

No matter what, as humans we are social beings. With the developments in technology & Covid-19, most activities, that would take place in person in the past, now cannot safely take place face to face. For instance, the importance of physical meetings and showroom appointments during a fashion week, was addressed by Martina Bonnier , the editor in chief of Vogue Scandinavia - launching Spring 2021, in every interview after the first hybrid mix of Copenhagen Fashion week (CPHFW72H).

However, due to Covid-19 restrictions a solution for showroom visits was needed. Recently, the London based concept store Machine-A have collaborated with the Institute of Digital Fashion to create a virtual store. Further NYC based fashionnovation have collaborated with tech company Big Thinx to create a virtual concept showroom for their website. Maybe in-person showroom experience cannot be replaced but AR does offer a solution for fashion brands during covid-19 as well as offering unique customer interaction.

In terms of 3D fashion, we have experienced multiple 3D shows and an example can be the Turkish designer, Niyazi Erdogan who presented an entire 3D fashion show with digital human avatars in Istanbul Digital Fashion Week .

How about consequences?

With online shopping and global shipping options, customers have more option than ever before. As a result of this situation retailers are having a hard time attracting loyal customers. With the developments in AR, brands can provide a unique shopping experience to customers. It'll be for some brands & organizations to keep up with, and it'll cause job losses.

But on the other hand, with innovations, there will be new job opportunities as well. For instance, previously there weren't many online help services on brand's websites. Now Jacquemus , the French label, have an online assistant system to help people with their questions relating to their products. Plus, some new jobs such as 3D designers, AR creators will increase its worth.

Overall, innovative technology is certainly moving the fashion industry forward, keeping on providing unique customer experience, and helping the environment, significantly by cutting down waste mainly. The brands and organizations who are not embracing the progress and development will be left behind.

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