More and more industries are getting prepared to enter the digital age. Look no further than how drones are replacing helicopters to take aerial photographs or chatbots are taking over certain aspects of online customer service duties. Yet, people do not expect the fashion scene to have robot models parading up and down the catwalk garbed in this season’s latest fashion wear. This is because what’s in this season for the fashion isn’t flashy strutting cyber-models. It is big data.
The advancement of the digital era brings with it vast volumes of valuable information that can be converted into opportunities for companies to capitalize on such as reducing costs, managing systems, developing new offerings and so forth. This revolution is so ubiquitous that it is even changing the way fashion designers create and market their clothing.
For many years, the industry relied on guesswork and gut feeling when it came to their creative direction during a particular season. With the availability of big data and the ability to conduct in-depth analysis to derive meaningful insights from the data collected, the fashion industry is now both capable and willing to take full advantage of this new prospects.
One thing to note in the world of fashion is that the industry still relies on qualitative processes to identify new aesthetic ideas. Instead of disrupting the fashion scene, big data can be employed to complement the creative force thanks to the high volume of consumer data such as fashion tastes, needs, interests and preferences. Big data analytics can illuminate fashion designers and retailers with pricing, marketing and even gauging customers’ sentiments towards clothing styles.
Color authority and paint company Pantone is known for driving the fashion scene with their highly anticipated announcement of Color of the Year every December. Millions in revenue is at stake as fashion and design sales can blow through the roof when the absolute voice on color make their pick. But how is the color of the year chosen?
Color forecasting for Pantone is all about being able to identify key styles or leading trend indicators to see what the future looks like and what it means for color. Other factors such as politics, pop culture, sports, technology and social issues also impact Pantone’s decision. As such, if they were to incorporate big data analytics into their selection process, it would quicken data collation and accord them more meaningful insights that would better aid their decision making process. This amalgamation could be a great example of what fashion and technology can accomplish together rather than being total strangers.
A real world example of this can be seen in the recent actions of luxury clothing brand Ralph Lauren. The organization harnessed big data to launch a new sports shirt that has sensors attached to its threads to measure movement, heart and breathing rates, number of steps taken and calories burned. Using an accompanying app, customers could also monitor their data and access customized work out routines thanks to the analytics provided afterwards.
Then, there is also India’s top online fashion hub Myntra, who combined big data and artificial intelligence to create one of their bestselling T-shirts on their e-commerce platform. Using two neural networks, one of which is fed various data like browsing history, sales results, colors, fabrics and preferences to generate new designs, while the other critically scrutinizes and provides feedback to the first network. This interplay between big data and analytics allows Myntra to produce clothing that is more in-tuned with the tastes of its customers to convert more shoppers into buyers.
So what does all of this mean for the fashion industry? It is easy to think that machines are intruding the creative industry by allowing data to dominate the final say while restricting the roles of the creators and designers. This is not entirely true. What it does is enhance and empower fashion designers to embrace the marriage between creativity and empirical judgments in order to take the fashion industry to the next level.
The nature of creative people will change but there are still cultural subtexts and nuances that need to be continuously fed into the machine. This is a never-ending process as the world is constantly evolving each and every day. Designers, however, can be much more confident of their works as their plans are backed by data. This finer layer of human intelligence is what makes fashion and style truly unique among the pursuits our species has undertaken.