Digital Is So Fashion…
The digitizing of fashion is recent but has greatly evolved. We can distinguish the impact of this digitizing on two main categories which are « the conception and creation of products » and « challenging all the fashion world system, in an economic and strategic sense ».
Impacts in the conception and creation
♦ Computer-Assisted Design Software
The time when designers were using a paper-pencil material to work by drawing and trying patterns on top models is over. Now, they use Computer-Assisted Design software like TUKAcad or Optitex like Roberto Cavalli does. These kinds of software are similar to those used in the design of cars or buildings.
Hence, creators now draw their sketches and patterns directly on computer. They then try them out on virtual top models as well as instantly adjusting them to different morphologies. So, working time is considerably reduced. Prototypes are made in hours instead of weeks and collection reviews within 3 weeks instead of 5 months.
Software developers became fashion creators’ important partners because creation software is not just a simple word processing software for designers but the heart of their activity. Moreover, conditions in which they create have an effect on their work. Indeed, if a competitor has a more powerful software than his or hers, he might be able to produce better sketches, for example by trying more colors or shapes, having better picture quality etc than with a less powerful software.
♦ 3D printings
3D printers are used at the stage of production. Some creators like Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht or the duo of British creators CuteCircuit already have a 3D printed collection.
Basically, clothes are sewed, but with 3D printers they are simply put together.
In addition of being a representation of art for famous and big designers, 3D printing is an economic opportunity for small creators. They can print a lot of prototypes for inexpensive costs. They also do not have a minimum or maximum volume issue.
3D printing is very widespread in jewelry, shoes and bag creation.
♦ Wearable technologies
This is the revolutionary union between fashion and technology as it really suits the fashion industry because of the “wearable” aspect.
From the dress giving signals when someone is approaching you, to the purse which recharges your phone, everything is possible.
According to Anouk Wipprecht, designing a dress is like designing a building or a car because the tools are the same. She has created a dress and integrated in a parking sensor and LEDs. So that, when someone is close to you, the LEDs will turn on.
These are concrete examples of the artistic impacts of digital in the fashion industry. Besides, there are impacts which challenges fashion in economic and strategic ways.
Impacts in the fashion schedule
Fashion rules are simple. There are four seasons divided into two groups: spring-summer and fall-winter. Designers show their collection twice a year in specific cities known as « Cities of Fashion », and they are New York, Paris, London and Milano Cities. Collections arrive in stores about six months after the show.
Thanks to digital and social media along with networks, everything has changed. Customers want what is new and when eyes get used to something, they do not appreciate the product anymore.
Neiman Marcus’s fashion director said in an interview (article from Feb, 11 2016) that he showed a $11,000 jacket from the latest collection to a client who then asked for something new. Even if he told her that that product was new as it arrived the day before, the customer would reply that “it is on the net since October (2015)”.
Thus, because of social media the delay between the shows and the sales is too long. Creations are online at the same time of the shows. The flow of pictures and information is so important that the supposed “new” creations quickly become old-fashioned. It is impossible to change the digital era. So both fashion and designers have to adopt new strategies to keep up-to-date their “new” collection.
As Diane Von Furstenberg, designer and chairwoman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, accepts that it is now very difficult to deal with fashion schedules and consider that change is better for everybody.
Anyway, great designers such as Tom Ford, Mattew Williamson, Rebecca Minkoff and Thakoon Panishgul have already stepped off the official schedule and changed their strategy. They reinvented the “see now/buy now” method. This takes place in a small committee with an appointment. People can purchase on the day of the appointment and receive the creation one or two months later.
They are directly in contact with their customers. Tom Ford presented his Spring Summer 2016 collection during the Oscar Awards in Los Angeles, directly with his potential customers who made purchases on the same day and received them later on. The most important action is the purchase not the reception.
As Tom Ford says “the fashion calendar is from another era”.
Digital Economy Law Student
Université de Strasbourg