Originally published on WhichPLM
It is of no doubt that the fashion industry of today is going through transformation. And it’s transformation nobody was able to see coming, and certainly nobody was able to plan for. This transformation has been forced upon us by a natural disaster with a strange name – COVID-19 – much like a tsunami or hurricane that came suddenly, without notice, and heavily damaged or destroyed what many had been building for decades! If the COVID vaccine is good news, the less good news is: we are still in the eye of the storm, trying to survive!
Adoption of 3D technologies has been accelerated by the pandemic enormously. Digital prototypes replaced the physical ones and so many people in our industry suddenly discovered the real power and benefits of 3D and PLM systems – the moment that I, as a 3D pioneer in particular and digital advocate in general, have been desperately waiting for. On a narrow, personal level, I can consider this a small silver lining. But – and here it is – if I’m trying to observe the situation in our industry more broadly, I’m seeing many different impressions. For example, it seems sustainability (that was such a “topic of the day” before the pandemic) is not in high priority anymore, while all forces focus on e-commerce. It’s also understandable how online shopping became almost the only way to sell and buy physical things. This only reveals that talks about sustainability, which started in a pre-COVID world, are really hard to convert into deeds as the pandemic evolves, and as we all hope for a post-COVID future.
Wait, can somebody tell me when this mess will all be over? When this sweet term ‘post-COVID’ will become a reality? And what will this reality look like? I am not familiar with the person that can certainly predict this, and so everything happens in our hopes and imaginations. Some hope that everything will return to the way it was before, with shopping malls, sales, fashion shows, showrooms, collections, mass production, huge quantities, the faster and cheaper way is better, pollution and waste, child labor, minimum wages, flights, vacations, etc. While some can imagine: only recyclable materials, sustainable production methods, on-demand manufacturing, upcycling practices, conscious consumption, slow fashion, virtual fashion weeks, and digital fashion replacing fast fashion!
The future of the fashion industry is up to us; it’s up to our choices and decisions, for short term and long term. So, if we want to see our industry recovered, the old business models need to change enormously. Some brave choices need to be taken. Let’s take Elon Musk, for instance, as an example of someone who is investing in long-term sustainable goals with Tesla. Counterintuitive, but it’s a fact: he has also recently become the richest human on our planet!
“Along with the passage of time the value of things changes too”- Lucretius
Did you know there was a time when salt – yes simple salt, a very basic and very cheap ingredient today – was very expensive and even called “white gold”? In Africa, salt was used as currency south of the Sahara, and slabs of rock salt were used as coins. It’s hard to believe, but Moorish merchants in the 6th century traded salt for gold, weight for weight!
If we really want to transform the fashion industry into the most beautiful and sustainable industry in the world, we should accept that digital transformation should go together with transformation of values. Green-washed campaigns may help to keep heads above the water but in the long run, those tactics will not sustain. Already today, there are organization like B-Corp which are responsible for figuring out and constantly updating sustainability measures – then, only the companies that stand those strict parameters are certified as sustainable. So, in the future, fashion companies will find it almost impossible to claim that they are sustainable without actually proving this. The decision of fashion companies to transform to truly sustainable methods of working will be also dictated by the consumers, they will simply refuse to buy products without trusted certification embedded.
Digital fashion: passing trend or start of a new era?
If we carefully compare digital fashion with fast fashion, we will apparently find a lot of similarities between the two, like: fashionable, trendy, rich look, disposable and very affordable, provides a feeling of transient satisfaction and fun. One major difference is that digital fashion, unlike fast fashion is fully sustainable. Today’s digital fashion is, in its very initial versions, available to consumers through composing photography methods: a picture provided by the customer is “dressed” into the image of a digital garment that the customer chooses to purchase. Already today, this method has been implemented as an alternative to fashion editorial photo sessions, advertising campaigns and so on (visit VALENTINS to learn more). Whereas big tech and gaming companies do not hide their interest in digital fashion, intuitively understanding the full and even unlimited potential of digital fashion. I believe that in a very near future we will see exciting innovations in this field – automated AI, VR and AR apps capable of integrating digital apparel smoothly and quickly into photographs and videos as well.
People caught in a rip current may notice that they are moving away from the shore quite rapidly. Often, it is not possible to swim directly back to shore against the current, so this is not recommended. Contrary to popular misunderstanding, a rip does not pull a swimmer under the water, it simply carries the swimmer away from the shore in a narrow band of moving water. It’s recommended that people caught in a strong rip should simply relax and go with the flow.
So, don’t loose your strength trying to survive, swimming back to familiar shore against the flow. Just relax and go with the stream. Let it take you directly into a new, post-COVID fashion world.