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Tue - 06 Apr 2021

Is Fashion Going Digital?

Your alarm clock rings… You reach to switch it off… Going through the motions of everyone’s morning routine, inevitably we all reach the critical decision: What do I wear today?

Clothing is a huge part of many of our lives. The fashion industry itself makes up 2% of the worlds GDP.  While some of us may be more involved in the industry than others, we are part of a huge process from design, to manufacturing, to retail. The industry has often come under fire for various elements, from failing to provide transparency through the supply chain, to an inability to address sustainability issues and treatment of employees in the fashion industry.

As technology continues to evolve and arguably shape our future, AI is looking to reshape fashion as we know it. The collaboration of AI and the Fashion industry has come a long way. We have seen many progressions in the recent years, with the first Fashion Brand designed by AI called Glitch making its way into headlines, companies such as Myntra, Stitch Fix and even Amazon are using AI in various ways to improve their way of operations.

With the current issues we are facing with sustainability at the forefront of discussions we are pressed to think and act more ethically. AI could revolutionize the way the fashion industry impacts our environment. It is currently estimated that the textile industry is using 378 billion  litres of water annually, an immense exploitation of our earth’s natural resources. While the industry has been responsible for at least 10% of global CO2 emissions, people have taken action and put in place a Fashion Transparency Index  which has driven companies to become more environmentally conscious as well as illustrate transparency throughout their various processes. An approximate whopping 40%  of purchases made online are returned due to a variety of factors a critical one being, sizing.  AI is able to design, and manufacture clothing made to size which could cut returns drastically, in turn reducing waste of materials, time and excess production of greenhouse gases.

But there is a side to digital fashion that might completely revolutionize the way in which we interact with our clothes. AI could eventually be embedded into almost every e-commerce website, creating a virtual changing room for consumers where they can try on essentially anything from the comfort of their home. While this seems like an exciting change from the changing rooms so many of us have come to resent. We can’t help but wonder, are we dissolving the materiality of clothing and the joyous process of feeling our favourite fabrics brush against our skin?  The confidence that flushes through us when a silhouette fits just right and the pride, we feel strolling out of our favourite store with our new piece seems irreplaceable.

But as we move into a digital society, so many of us have become accustomed to experiencing our lives through a screen. With the rise of the influencer, clothing has become as disposable as a single post on Instagram, here today, irrelevant tomorrow. We’re hearing whispers of digital clothing in the works… Potentially providing a solution to the unachievable concept of ‘never wear the same outfit twice’, brands will begin to sell clothes virtually, you will be able to post your clothes online and see them adorn your body through a screen but never actually feel the garment itself. This may sound incredibly bleak to some and overwhelmingly exciting for others, but the truth is with the way the fashion industry has been operating this is a solution we must consider. As we continuously strive to have the latest and greatest in our closets all for a single picture to be taken, the clothes discarded, never to be worn again. Virtual clothing is a sustainable approach to the mass consumption so many of us crave.

As our lives move to exist online, we need to begin considering ways in which we can improve our sustainability practices, that might mean saying goodbye to fast fashion as we know it. Nevertheless, we wait with great expectations for the designers moving online; to give us reason to stop clutching to our bright yellow Selfridges shopping bags and begin clinging to our computers… In the meantime, we will stick to window shopping…