Fashion and Technology may seem like an odd pair but in all actuality they make perfect sense. If you have been paying attention to the fashion tech world you would have noticed an increase in fashion technology products and experiences emerging. And if you have been paying even closer attention, you have noticed that many of these companies start and fail fast.
So why hasn’t fashion technology made a bigger impact on the industry so far? With all the talented engineers and computer scientist surely we should be way more advanced by now, right?
That’s just the problem, fashion is not an engineering or computing problem alone. Fashion retail is comprised of many components that create the unique experience and customers. Interactions, information, rapport, conversation, encouragement, some persuasion and then an array of feelings are just a small bit of what makes up the complicated shopping experience for a customer. Fashion consumers aren’t tech consumers, what matters to normal “techies” do not typically matter to the fashion customer whose focus flip flops between functionality, style, demand and trend. It is important for people with fashion experience to be on the design and development teams for the next fashion technologies alongside of engineer and programmers.
I am proposing is that the future of fashion technology relies more on the collaboration between data driven scientist and engineers and fashion veterans.There are a few myths that I can resolve for you right now if you are in doubt about the customer-engineer relationship and the need for fashion experts on the design team.
Wearable tech: Great feats of engineering, great fails of fashion
Myth: Apple Watches are an awesome fashion product that is the perfect combination of style and functionality.
Truth: Not at all. Watches have a completely different function in fashion and because we all have smart phones, it is rarely to tell time. Watches are more about romantic notions and emblems of power than functionality. Apple created an amazing product but the acceptance into the fashion industry has been up and down and may take a long time before it is a staple in every fashionista’s closet.
Solar Panel Jackets
Myth: Solar panel clothing is a good idea. Who wouldn’t want the latest technology in their jacket, its solves the problem of needing to charge an iPhone or Android but not having an outlet in sight.
Truth: Not really. Functionality wise, it is a great idea however as a fashion product it’s not something customers are rushing out to buy. It restricts the customer to wearing the jacket strictly for the reason of gathering solar energy to perhaps charge a phone. The overall look of the jacket is odd and since Tommy Hilfiger launched his line of solar clothing in 2014, nothing at all has been said about them. There is room for this technology in the future if it looks… cooler.
*Best Wearable Tech: Beats by Dre, Beats successfully created a trend and a demand. The headphones are an extension of an outfit, a look and the multiple colors provides customers with the option of self expression. Beats go way beyond functionality (everyone wearing Beats are not producers) and expand into a trendy statement piece. Making beats an iconic fashion statement had much more to do with placement, marketing and intrinsic value than engineering. Beats are an experience and not just a product.
Digital Innovation: Shaping the fashion experience
For digital innovation, engineers and coders have helped to provide better experiences for customers but fashion customers are super picky. Customers nit pick over everything from identifying their own body types, quality of self measurements and dissatisfied with avatars. So how is technology holding up in digital innovation?
Body scanning technology
Myth: Putting a body scanner in a store will help customer find their right size. The sophisticated mobile scanners are designed to take accurate measurements alleviating the question of “what’s my size?”. This alone should solve the issue of fit.
Truth: Studies have shown customers loathe being body scanned. The experience is too personal and data it produces it too complicated. Customers are very unhappy when they are made to see the images of themselves in 3D because most people have a completely different idea of what they look like. Levi Introduced the technology in 2005 for its customers to solve the denim fit issue, it did not last. Selfridges put a body scanner in the mall for customers to better assess their own sizing and it was met with similar feelings of dissatisfaction. The truth is, bombarding customers with sophisticated technology may seem like it solves a problem but it’s not always what the customer wants.
*Body scan data analysis is undoubtedly important when it is analyzed properly and then fed back to the customers in a way they can appreciate and utilize.
3D scanning Bespoke tailoring
Myth: Everyone will love 3D body scanning for bespoke tailoring , it’s undoubtedly the future of customer clothing. Using 3D scanners for bespoke clothing creates a more private and customized experience for the customer. It will replace traditional tailors, speed up the time to get garments and revolutionize the custom experience.
Truth: The technology is yet to successfully replaced the knowledgeable tailor and the personal experience provided by a hands on experience. Proprietors of the technology for bespoke fail to realized that many people love the personal experience of having a tailor, asking questions and the feeling of being measured and pinned. Yes the scanners would make bespoke more efficient but fashion customers aren’t always looking for a quick way out when it comes to their investments of fine clothing and they enjoy personal interactions.
Virtual Try On
Myth: Creating an experience where customers can enter their measurements online will alleviate the try on problem and help customers understand fit.
Truth: Entrusting customers to accurately enter their measurements is a faulty system. Customers do not keep that data on hand and measuring always leaves room for error. Also Inputting data about body measures does not alleviate the issue of fit completely. Many companies are yet to adopt a response to these technologies so customers have limited brands to choose from when inputting fit data. This method also incorrectly assumes the customer only wants one type of fit interpretation. This method is innovative but it is by far not the best solution.
Myth: A great deal of computing and engineering has been spent on the creation of “true to life” avatars for fashion customers to virtually try on clothing. The idea operates under the assumption that customers would love to try on clothing with avatars they can personalize and this experience will be awesome for customer engagement.
Truth: Save the fancy avatars for wii consoles. Avatars do not actually improve the online shopping experience for online customers. In fact, customers are very picky with avatars and get distracted by features, skin tone and other various details that I’m sure designers did not anticipate. Although many consumers like interacting with the avatars , it’s more for fun and less for serious online shopping.
Verdict on the Matrimony
I’m not saying some technologies haven’t been successful, many have gained much success. What I am saying is, to create the SUPERIOR virtual experience for the fashion customer, there has to be a meeting of minds between the experienced fashion veteran as the visionary and a talented engineer as the programmer. This marriage has the potential to be extremely successful if both partners learn to give and take while respecting each others roles, expertise and vision.
But what do you think? Comment below.
* My opinions are bases on research and real life experiences