How virtual is the fashion industry becoming? At TextilWirtschaft's Digital Fashion Summit, held on 15 September, in Berlin, experts from Highsnobiety, S. Oliver, Olymp and H&M, among others, discussed the transformation of the industry. How relevant will the metaverse become for the mainstream? How can orders be digitized? What can AI do in collection development?
Do you remember the year 1997? Yes? Congratulations. Then you may remember your Nokia 6110, fax machine, AOL CD in your mailbox, 56 K modem that promised to dial up the Internet in minutes. In 1997, the forecast for the coming year was that 1998 could be the year when the Internet became a little more relevant for business. And economist Paul Krugman believed the Internet's impact on business would be comparable to the invention of the fax machine.
That the issue cannot be ignored in the long term, even in the mainstream, is already supported by the facts. 46% of U.S. teens report being online non-stop. And 62% of Millennials care more about how they present themselves online than in the physical world.
Early movers such as major luxury brands like Tiffany, Balenciaga, Gucci, and even sportswear brand Nike were making "drug smuggling margins" with NFTs.
"Don't wait until everyone has virtual glasses on their nose. You can already put something on the screen," says Oliver Lange, Head of H&M Beyond, the Swedish fashion group's innovation hub. "We don't want to leave the field to Meta."
S. Oliver and Olymp are also looking into the digitization of their showrooms, but agree that completely digital solutions are hardly effective. By the end of the year, Olymp will therefore roll out hybrid showrooms throughout Germany.
"We can't and don't want to be 100% digital," says Tina Anschütz, Teamlead Digitalization at Olymp. Hybrid showrooms will be rolled out across Germany by the end of the year. Together with the Berlin-based digital agency Experience One, the shirt manufacturer has digitized its orders. Instead of spending hours laying out merchandise in circles and then assigning sizes, buyers can now do this with the new order tool via touchscreen. But: "Emotions don't come via the touchscreen," emphasizes Anschütz. The human, personal contact is still central. The digital folder in the showroom leaves much more time for the personal consultation.”
S. Oliver Wholesale Director Daniel Schmidt also relies on hybrid formats. "We see showrooms as a platform and not just for pure ordering purposes." S. Oliver has largely digitized ordering, could already do the entire process 100% virtually. But partners also sought personal contact, conversation in the showroom. Even though the vast majority already prepare their order online. For new products, new fits, new qualities, the skepticism towards a digital order is still very high. After all, physical samples have been reduced by between 30-40% in the individual product groups.
"Our AI is basically a digital designer that researches, evaluates designs and analyzes bestsellers," says Michels. Ideal for print design, for example, or to repeat bestsellers. "AI is not for great creativity, though." That still requires human designers, he says.
But any digital solution is only as good as the data it is fed with, warns Simone Morlock, head of Digital Fitting Lab, at the Hohenstein Institute.
In addition, he said, unlike in other industries, clothing sizes are not standardized. "But the successful use of technology requires standards." Many companies don't have reliable measurement charts with which to feed data models, he said. Pants fits have been known to vary from supplier to supplier. Developing digital fitting models, he said, is tedious, goes against creativity, but is essential in an increasingly digitized world.
And this is the homework for a few insiders from the audience of the Digital Fashion Summit.
This article was published by textilwirtschaft.de on 15 September 2022