In 2024 fashion trends are not just about who you wear, but how clothes come to life and where they can take you.
Garment producers are increasingly pressured to meet the demand for affordable products while also producing garments that reflect a growing social conscience. But does this mean that fast fashion is out?
While fashion may not be as immediately associated with technological innovation, both rely on continuous innovation. As early as the mid-18th century , technological advancements were shaping the fashion industry, providing greater productivity, and enabling the mass production of clothing.
Fashion has traditionally involved a largely one-sided exchange between producer and consumer, but now it is transforming into a dynamic, interactive dialogue, where consumers can influence design and production through new forms of feedback.
With the emergence and proliferation of new technologies, people are no longer the passive spectators they once were. Fashion is becoming more transparent, immersive, and tailored to individual preferences.
For some time now fast fashion retailers and high-end fashion houses have started to replace 2D imaging with 3d, the latter providing great benefits for the time-efficiency needs of fast fashion and on-demand manufacturing, but also reducing waste, and enabling complex designs that were previously impossible.
Sophisticated 3D and AR tooling has already opened up new possibilities for the creation of immersive experiences. In 2021 Adobe’s research team showcased two experimental technologies at Adobe MAX; Project Material World which uses AI to convert pictures into digital materials, and Project Scantastic, which digitizes real-world objects into 3D assets, using a mobile phone.
But while 3D tools can create more immersive experiences, they are still separate experiences.
Consumers may once have been satisfied by watching something on a screen, but the advances in technology mean we are now able to immerse a consumer in the experience itself.
XR (augmented reality, mixed reality, and virtual reality) can blend the virtual world with the real world, providing greater use cases across many industries, with strong applications for the fashion industry.
Responding to a Twitter use, Google AR & VR, hinted at new tech innovations:
“Keep an eye out because this is just the beginning. We are excited to keep innovating in this space to make AR tools more accessible & bring helpful AR experiences to all.”
While we might not see the widescale implementation of immersive technologies in every large-scale fashion company – some of the biggest companies in the world are developing the technology that will then have applications in fashion and retail.
2024 promises to see a greater crossover between AR and 3D in the fashion industry, enabling designers to create immersive virtual showrooms and try-on experiences, while also leveraging 3D printing for sustainable, customized clothing production, and even digitizing clothing.
Digital fashion consumption is changing, and the places we purchase our products are also changing.
Consumers are currently most open to buying digital items or NFTs from luxury brands such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton. This reflects the current value of NFTs which are often high-cost investments. As the popularity of digital items meets accessibility, digital items will become much more common.
“I really believe that video games will be another retail platform in the future,” Tommy Hilfiger said in an interview with Vogue Business. “The amount of shopping that goes on during gameplay is, I would say, incredible,” he added.
Physical retail locations, first transformed by the advent of online shopping platforms, will now have to compete with new retail platforms that include gaming, and metaverse.
Phygital fashion is the blending of physical and digital realms, introduced by blockchain fashion companies, and now used by major fashion brands such as Nike which provides in-game wearables that are tied to physical products. Physical garments are paired with NFTs as digital twins and customers can see the trajectory of their physical items via the blockchain.
The fast-paced nature of microtrends driven by platforms such as TikTok has increased the demand for fast fashion on social media. The question of whether following these trends erases individual identity, while also fueling fast fashion, has led to a counter demand for more cost-effective and sustainable ways of doing business.
Some fashion companies are looking into eliminating the waste involved in the production of garments, although these are largely boutique brands. While it would take a considerable amount of time to make a dent in the waste produced by the garment industry, there are legislative initiatives aimed at restructuring the sector.
The popularity of the rental and resale models such as Vinted, ByRotation, and Clothing-As-A-Service (CAAS) models illustrated the growing interest in circular fashion tackling the problem of overconsumption that is often linked to fast fashion, leading to more responsive, inclusive, and sustainable fashion practices.
Although research shows that circular fashion is a step in the right direction, it is as of yet insufficient to change current business models. The outright erasure of fast fashion in the next five years is, at a stretch, unlikely. But supported by tech like AI and blockchain, people are much more empowered to shape the fashion industry than they once were. With the growing consciousness of individuals affecting big business, we have an indication of where fashion might take us next.
For both fashion brands and individual consumers, it is clear that technology innovation has already shaped the space by placing greater power in the hands of the consumer, fueling a made-to-order approach that allows consumers to design the clothes they want, choose the spaces they want to wear them, and ultimately decide where fashion goes next.