The Evolution of the Fashion Industry
Complacency — not the virus — was already killing fashion brands. The pandemic has merely exposed the absurd business models that left more than a few weeks of cash runway. 20% of all brands made 100% of the profit for the last decade. The rest were already in financial distress because their business models held up their cash in mountains of inventory the customer would never pay full price for.
Essentially these businesses are to blame for their own internal crisis – their organizational inertia prevented them from making easy fixes throughout the last decade. The solution is not complicated, but what it requires are people who constantly challenge the status quo and are not held back by fashion’s notorious hierarchy.
To reinvent themselves and flip control from an industry that pushes products out to its consumer, to an industry where product is pulled in by the consumer quickly will be difficult – it requires a radical cultural shift, experience and skillset.
As Ray Dalio says:
“These bad periods were like cleansing storms that got rid of weaknesses and excesses, such as too much debt, and returned the fundamentals to a sounder footing, albeit painfully. They eventually caused adaptations that made the whole stronger, though they typically changed who was on top and the prevailing world order.”
A New Way Forward
In a post COVID-world for a fashion brand to survive they must have domain expertise in both the full fashion value chain as well as technology. The key to success lies in the cross-pollination of both elements to be truly disruptive – creating compelling brand differentiation and providing an end-to-end solution. By combining the product-to-market lifecycle and embracing innovative technology, brands can drastically improve current sales. This also directly affects marketing and production efforts that will ensure their success and drive the industry forward.
While pandemic-induced social isolation has altered the relationship consumers have with technology, you need to know how to apply it across the chain. This requires the skills and expertise to execute it flawlessly and continuously. It’s not about adding a shiny new tool to the toolkit. It’s time for the entire system to change. This includes how merchandise, and the experience around it, is created, ordered and sold.
“The proof is in the process, and our process —from concept to customer— is focused entirely on pleasing the customer at every point in their journey. Our deep experience in advanced technology and supply chain enables us to be swift, responsive, and accurate.”Joanna Williams / Moore Collective
A Breath of Fresh Air
Moore Collective, a fashion startup, focuses on eliminating the waste and excess inventory issues plaguing the industry whilst developing innovative technological solutions to bring the best of a real-world experience into a digital solution.
dandelion + burdock, a special projects company, are driven by creating culture content, launching strategy, design and production to realize award winning interactive content
This research study explores the opportunities available today both from an organizational point of view in relation to the production and sales of fashion and how technology can be a conduit for this.
Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows, the impact of online shopping on total retail sales in the United States is still smaller than many people might think – E-commerce share of total retail sales in 2019 has not kept up with new consumer behaviour – it was a meager 11.1%
So, it is foolish to think all of these non-digital players can suddenly participate effectively given the decade that slipped away with such dismal results.
Data / AI
Market insight comes with profitable rewards – but it goes back to speed to market. Decisions must be made with speed and conviction – this is where the industry has struggled as it makes decisions on bias and gut. If data is used it goes through layers upon layers over time and committee, rendering it irrelevant because data is only beneficial to the extent that it can be acted upon.
Companies must relinquish unnecessary control and hierarchy. By using real-time data and artificial intelligence (A.I) to empower people to fast-track decisions, increase operational efficiency, define roles and responsibilities, whilst hold everyone accountable to move the process along.
Data shows consumer spending is not dead, in fact it is over-performing in some regions and categories. The trick is being able to find pockets of opportunity anywhere in the world to supply the demand. Through the use of artificial intelligence and data analytics, Moore Collective have developed a nimble and efficient value chain at scale that accomplishes speed to market in 4 to 6 weeks. This eliminates fashion risk and achieves more efficient working capital by being close to market. Nothing matters more than understanding customer behaviour by market to then be able optimize the product offering.
While everyone is talking about lounge and athleisure, the reality is certain markets are seeing significant increases in other categories such as swim in China and South Korea or lingerie in Italy and the UK over the last week. It’s about these pockets where Moore Collective can achieve a critical advantage through their supply chain.
“With the right workflow we can realize fashion in a variety of digital realities whether it’s virtual, augmented or in the real-world. These creations can then be interacted with, live-streamed, embedded in e-commerce sites, or even used for in-store experiences.”Niall Thompson / dandelion + burdock
In this current climate we are seeing an accelerated appreciation of digital worlds. As the globe moves towards online learning, virtual concerts and video chats this also transcends into the fashion world. It’s evident that consumers are exploring new e-commerce opportunities as they begin to rethink their style and reinvent themselves.
Digital fashion also has a real potential to drive forward responsible design as new tools allow consumers to pre-order and customize. This methodology also reduces waste as producers can target better sell through rates and therefore reducing the environmental impact.
The advent of new and emerging technology offers exciting opportunities to alter the way that the fashion industry is making, showcasing and retailing products to this captive audience. Designers are exploring new ways to promote collections and reach customers to adapt to the age of social media and e-commerce.
The industry will change more in the next 5 years than it has in over one hundred, all driven by technology. We all know fashion is the last industry to go digital. There is a tsunami of articles and posts around 3D and other digital solutions, but the real problem has been the failure to interact with the consumer.
dandelion + burdock have been experimenting with a range of different options around digital fashion leveraging their skills as 3D artists, software developers and event producers. The old rules of design, manufacturing, marketing and customer service don’t work in a post-COVID world.
3D for Product Creation
3D is a table stake now. The benefits of 3D sampling are clear both to mutinational fashion houses as well as emerging designers. The high cost of sample creation is eliminated and there is no longer a need to create numerous prototypes and fit samples. It creates a tool of understanding for the buyer, key stakeholders and the manufacturer. The reduction or even entire elimination of a physical sample leads to a zero-waste product development process which in turn reduces the carbon footprint.
In addition to saving money and time in product development, a 3D sample allows brands to get product in front of the customer for real time feedback before buying decisions are finalized. The pandemic exposed how critical this is as big brands are now left with mountains of inventory no one wants at full price. This leads to excessive waste and major financial losses.
There has been little innovation in the presentation of apparel with all brands following traditional methods. Once a 3D asset has been created, it can be used in a variety of presentation methods. They can be used in animations, commercials, virtual reality, augmented reality, e-commerce and interactive in-store presentations.
This is where brands can truly break free of the typical fashion cycle.
The “see now”, “buy now” debate failed because it just moved the goalposts. Collections were still conceived up to a year in advance and wholesalers still had to commit to product prior to the show.
Post COVID-19 the debate has moved to “Buy now, wear now”. A group of fashion brands and retailers want to realign fashion deliveries with real-world seasons or move Autumn/Winter seasons to August, and Spring/Summer to July.
The problem with this is seasons are not the same everywhere in the world. Brands should release themselves of all the self-imposed limitations to bring the industry forward and break from seasonal deliveries all together. Afterall, it is not how the global consumer shops anymore. Why not make your own rules?
This is where the virtual runway can truly differentiate brand experience, optimize product sell-through rates and increase consumer loyalty.
Creating virtual runways or digital catwalks combined with “see now, buy now” ecommerce capabilities empowers labels to break free of the typical fashion cycle. At these events everyone gets a front row seat in an interactive digital venue. These live streamed digital events create a dialogue, extending the brand experience. It makes digital fashion feel more attainable. Virtual runway collections can be presented as live streams, virtual reality (VR) apps or augmented reality (AR) projects.
“With modern 3D software we can simulate the way a garment moves so that it’s true to life. This added dimensionality gives the consumer a better visual understanding and compatibility with the item.”Dickon Knowles / dandelion + burdock
The World of Augmented Reality
Using augmented reality transports users to new worlds, can add virtual runways to your living room and enables consumers to build real-time customizable clothing tools. These enriching experiences motivate consumers to create and share content which enhances sales opportunities and brand awareness. Creating filters and experiences on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook enables fashion labels to reach the world’s largest audiences.
Creating Looks: A 3D Outfit Configurator
Using Previz technology we have built a 3D, real-time product configurator. The athleisure example enables users to put together a complete outfit. Lightweight and mobile-friendly the configurator could be applied to a whole catalogue of items. The viewer has been designed to be embeddable directly on e-commerce websites. The same technology could be applied to banner ads or interactive touch-screen experiences in-store.
3D Interactive Product Configurator
Click and drag to move the model in 3D space. The buttons below are options for selecting the different pieces for the outfit
In-Browser Interactive AR
The viewer example below enables an in-browser AR experience if available, otherwise it launches a native application: either SceneViewer on Android or QuickLook on iOS. Bringing AR into the browser instead of relying on a native app is key to leveraging the power of the web to enhance your AR experiences.
3D Interactive Model with Interactive Labels
The 3D viewer gives your website an interactive, accessible 3D experience, including AR placement on both Android and iOS.
View live demo at https://digitalfashion.tech/
Speed to Market Business Model
More development time does not equal a better or more saleable product. By the time all the changes are made, the sale is lost as there is no scientific method to predict consumer demand a year in advance. Those silos are not going away any time soon.
Therefore, the old guard will not survive. Long lead times, high volume, a seasonal based process is mismatched to how consumers purchase and there is simply too much risk being so far away from consumer demand.
Speed to market is the only way to meet consumer demand and dramatically improve margin and working capital. It’s no secret, but it’s difficult to duplicate because it requires such a radical shift to company-wide culture.
Moore Collective’s proven business model dramatically improves margin and working capital. It’s simple economics – given the speed at which the market and consumer desires shift, the sooner a brand can supply the demand, the more of the market share it can consistently own.
You can only unlock the keys to speed through the power of a collaborative and agile supply chain who can then action that data quickly. All the market insight and technology is irrelevant without a responsive supply chain.
Current relationships are not set up correctly because the brand has all the power. COVID-19 uncovered the utter failure of the human system with each brand and retailer exposed. It became clear that too many fashion companies were running their business at the cost of their supply chain.
Fashion brands are harming tens of millions of workers around the world as they refuse to pay for orders that have already shipped and cancelling orders where suppliers paid for fabric. This old way of thinking must die with the brands – the solution for people, planet and inclusive profit will rise.
Going forward, businesses are going to compete on their values where the entire ecosystem benefits, creating conditions for all people to thrive. Prioritizing people improves productivity, working conditions, wages and profit.
This is perhaps the hardest of all to change and yet has the most impact to the bottom line. Companies have a cost first culture and continuously want to go cheaper and cheaper without realizing the enormous profit on the other side of collaboration and shared goals.
The future of retail is the consumer, it always has been. By adopting the latest technology brands can truly personalize the customer journey and reach new heights.
There is more productivity, profitability and humanity on the other side of collaboration.
Authors – Joanna Williams, Niall Thompson
Motion Director, Modelling – Dickon Knowles – dandelion + burdock
Fashion Design, Modelling & Fabric Simulations – Alec Strang – dandelion + burdock
Design & Development – Niall Thompson – dandelion + burdock
3D Product Configurator – Joel Bradbury – Previz
The original article publication is at dandelion + burdock