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Opinion

Digitalisation is the future of fashion and it is fast

By Maddy White

Sep 5, 2018

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The Future

Sep 5, 2018

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Social media is an extremely influential part of our everyday lives. From Instagram to Snapchat and more, today’s fashion retailers are using these online spheres to encourage ‘fast fashion’: the quickest possible turnaround from design to manufacturer to consumer. And that’s really detrimental to our waste issue, isn’t it? Actually, not necessarily. Digitalising fashion is probably a crucial step to the survival of the sector, particularly in Britain.

The British high street is in peril; more shops are closing and many brands have gone into liquidation. This is due to several reasons, one being consumer spending has decreased and another is the rise of digital giants—like Amazon—who have entirely dominated the market. This trend aligns with the fashion industry too. Founded in 2006, online fashion retailer Boohoo claimed in their 2018 financial report to have 6.4 million users, up 22 percent from the previous year. The entire company had a pre-tax profit of £43.3 million for the year leading to February, which represented a 40 percent increase on 2017 figures, with revenue hitting £580 million, almost double last year’s £295 million.

The British high street is in peril; more shops are closing and many brands have gone into liquidation. This is due to several reasons, one being consumer spending has decreased and another is the rise of digital giants—like Amazon—who have entirely dominated the market. This trend aligns with the fashion industry too. Founded in 2006, online fashion retailer Boohoo claimed in their 2018 financial report to have 6.4 million users, up 22 percent from the previous year. The entire company had a pre-tax profit of £43.3 million for the year leading to February, which represented a 40 percent increase on 2017 figures, with revenue hitting £580 million, almost double last year’s £295 million.

The increased speed of fashion because of a digitalised process has enabled companies like Boohoo to reap massive benefits as proven in their financial report. Hundreds of styles are uploaded every day to the website, with likely just as many discontinued and sent to the sales page. The company reportedly sources 50 percent of its production from U.K. factories—a very high proportion, as for example ASOS produce around 3 percent of products in the U.K.—and distribute these garments from a central warehouse in Burnley. This is impressive as less than half a century ago, the clothing manufacturing industry in the U.K. employed 900,000 people, by 1999 this was down to 130,000 and now it is less than half. Companies like Boohoo are bringing textile manufacture back to the U.K. in a more innovative way.

Fast fashion also doesn’t have to mean cheap, however with examples like ASOS and Boohoo, the two seem to work in tandem. Fast fashion needs to be locally produced in order to make the production ethical, reduce air miles and at face value, be the fastest method. The process cannot be completed so quickly halfway across the globe; it is just not viable.

Despite the rise of fast fashion, this is an industry that produces waste, a lot of it, and consumers are more aware of this than ever. According to EDGE, a company that connects and supports emerging designers, about 15 percent of fabric intended for clothing ends up on the cutting room floor and it takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just one t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Surely though, creating products via fast fashion would only act as an antidote to the above? Retailers do not have to order products in large amounts, they can instead order smaller numbers, see how they are received and then purchase more. This is a more ethical approach to a potential overproduction problem. Yet, this doesn’t counter the idea that consumers could be ordering more clothing, therefore likely throwing them away more regularly.

Fast fashion that it ethically sourced and produced could be the U.K.’s chance to revive the textiles sector, which has been in decline for decades. There are many constraints however on implementing an ethical version of fast fashion and it is not what consumers might initially think. Fast fashion is reacting to trends, increasing production line speed, and not overproducing. ‘Fast’ could certainly be the future of fashion, as it offers huge opportunities like garments to be locally produced rather than being created and shipped from offshore sites. Utilising the internet, social media and collecting data enables a digitalisation of the fashion industry, which will only continue to grow as the high street fades and online giants soar.

Digitalisation is the future of fashion and it is fast


By Maddy White

Sep 5, 2018

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Alyx: when blockchain technology meets fashion innovation

By Sofia Gallarate

Jul 9, 2019

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In 2015, designer and creative director Matthew Williams decided to channel his vision towards the creation of his own fashion brand 1017 Alyx 9SM. Following an already praised career during which he worked as a creative director with celebrities like Kanye West and other top fashion designers, since the founding of Alyx, Williams has added outstanding collaborations with brands like Moncler, Nike, and Dior Men to his impressive catalogue. Constantly pushing the boundaries of design, technology, and sustainability, Williams announced recently that Alyx was going to be the first brand to introduce blockchain technology to unveil the garment production in a way that is 100 percent accurate.

Sustainability has been part of the brand’s agenda from its start. Alyx uses recycled materials, as well as a leather dyeing process that consumes CO2, and has always been transparent about who—and under what working conditions—the collections have been produced by. Working closely with the worldwide leader in adhesive technologies Avery Dennison and the Internet of Things (IoT) software company Evrythng, Alyx has now implemented supply chain transparency into the brand by launching a blockchain-powered pilot programme on nine of its garments. Taking the brand’s history into consideration, it feels like a natural yet visionary step forward to add blockchain ledgers to its supply chain, making it visible and understandable to clients.

The nine products’ tags now feature a scannable QR code that reveals the entire supply chain history of the garment. According to Vogue Business, the data—which can be accessed by phone—include information about where the materials were sourced, where the product was manufactured, and its shipping movements. With 80 percent of its garments produced in Italy, the process of uploading and tracking the data of the garments is easily doable for Williams. In this transparency procedure, each supplier is in charge of entering the data into the chain.

Not only is this change innovative, but it could also prove the implementation of this feature to be a crucial addition to the brand’s history, and, if it works, to other fashion brands. “That’s what we want to continue to communicate, and that’s what brings value to our pieces,” Williams said. “It becomes a really great storytelling element”. Alyx belongs to that category of brands which promote durability rather than fast-fashion consumerism. In this regard, Williams and Dominique Guinard, founder and chief technology officer at Evrythng, believe that by knowing the digital identity of one garment, or its ‘journey’, customers might get more attached to the product. In an industry where overproduction and exploitation are toxic constants, sustainability and transparency are increasingly demanded by consumers. Alyx’s experimentation with blockchain technology stands as one of the finest examples of fashion innovation. By exposing its own brand’s data, Williams seeks to inspire a new approach in fashion, calling for other designers to follow suit.

The sustainable production process behind Alyx’s collections, which is now traceable thanks to the new technology, makes sure that its aesthetic is coherent with the message. The use of innovative technologies and the emphasis on transparency never overshadow the technical and aesthetic research that makes the brand’s design so on point. Some say that Alyx anticipates design trends, I’d argue that Alyx is doing way more than that. It is paving a path for a new way of thinking about fashion, technology, and most importantly, an industry future that is sustainable.

Alyx: when blockchain technology meets fashion innovation


By Sofia Gallarate

Jul 9, 2019

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