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Fashion and technology: a match made in cyberspace?

Wearable technology is having a moment, and fashion brands are starting to jump on the innovation bandwagon. But how easy is it for fashion to incorporate new technologies, in a way that won’t alienate or distract customers?

“Fashion brand buyers can be slow to pick up on what consumers really want, such as non-seasonal collections, 24-7 shopping and initiatives that leave them feeling uplifted and inspired”

Bradley Quinn, creative director of innovation research firm Stylus.

Consumers don’t necessarily want crazy innovations, they want enhanced, and meaningful brand experiences. The focus should be on technology encouraging us to actually make purchases, and creating a more enjoyable shopping experience.

Engage 3D is a boutique design house who create brand engagement through designing experiences that use technology and interactivity to enlighten and entertain. They were featured on Channel 4’s Gadget Man for their virtual styling pod. The pod features a life size screen/”mirror” and uses augmented reality technology to overlay realistic renders of clothing onto an image of the shopper.

engage

Whilst this is a novel experience for the user, it has its limitations – a 3D render, no matter how realistic, will only ever show you an idealistic version of an outfit. Can it accurately show how a garment will hang on you, or how closely something will fit without huge amounts of personal data?

We’ve all been there – picturing how you’ll look in a particular shirt or dress, only to try it on and find it’s cut slightly too short or fits too snugly around the shoulders. Can anything replace the feeling of actually trying something on? Perhaps this innovation will find its place in high end, luxury outlets, but how realistic is it for the masses?

This weekend sees the first Decoded Fashion Hackathon, taking place at Westfield London (Shepherd’s Bush). The Hackathon is an invitation-only competition for a select group of 60 hackers – entrepreneurs, designers and developers, who will compete to create a new way of enhancing the consumer experience for fashion and retail brands in Westfield.

Teams can choose from one of three challenges:

hackathon

This is a brilliant opportunity for the industry to source new avenues from the talented group of hackers involved – the potential for some insightful, considered and resourceful ideas is huge, could this hail a technological revolution for the fashion industry?

Some retailers have found that even a simple addition can make a huge difference. ASOS was founded June 2000 and now ships to over 237 countries worldwide. They’re one of the preferred online destinations for many already due to the huge range of products, from their own brand alongside many high street and luxury names, and how easy it is to browse and purchase items. They’ve recently added a new Personal Stylist chat feature where you can speak to advisors in real time to get advice on purchases and trends.

asos

For an online retailer this is a huge step, incorporating a human element into an otherwise impersonal experience. Whilst chat functions are not a new thing in the internet age, this is an excellent example of the fashion industry integrating technology seamlessly and naturally.

The lesson to be learnt here is that the fashion industry needs to consider its customers when thinking about how to integrate technology – is it a useful tool to improve the consumer journey, or a novelty? Will it engage people with the brand, aid and encourage transactions, or just be a fleeting entertainment?

What fashion names are using technology well, in your opinion?

@zebrapeople @laureneliseking

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