“Fashion is the science of appearance, and it instills the desire to appear rather than to be” – Henry Fielding.
In 2021, IBISWorld predicts a 5.8% increase in the global apparel manufacturing industry (IBISWorld, 2021). As a result of our desire to stay abreast of the latest fashion trends, the global apparel manufacturing industry won’t slow down during COVID-19. The Mckinsey & Company report showed that the revenue for the fashion industry would fall by 20% by 2021 (Mckinsey & Company, 2021), but this is mostly due to the closure of small and medium-sized enterprises that were forced off the market as a result of financial difficulties, leading to deeper inequalities in the market. Currently, the fashion industry is experiencing disruptions in the market, but it is also contributing to the risk of global catastrophes within the fashion industry itself.
Fashion industry impacts the environment in a number of ways. All of the steps along its value chain, from the fibre production stage all the way to the design stage to the production stage to delivery and usage stage, contribute to the sustainability crisis.
Twenty percent of global wastewater comes from textile dyeing, according to the UN Environment Programme. Ten percent of the global carbon emissions are emitted by the apparel industry. Furthermore, cotton farming is responsible for 24 percent of insecticides and 11 percent of pesticides. [source: Ellen Macarthur Foundation, 2017].
Although apparel production is harmful to the environment, our unsustainable consumption habits and how we dispose of it have made it worse. In the decade from 2000 to 2015, clothing sales doubled to 200 billion units, yet the average number of times an item was worn decreased by 36% overall. Source: Ellen Macarthur Foundation, 2017. Buying – wearing – disposing is a standard practice in the clothing industry due to its linearity.
Fashion industry has a long way to go towards being sustainable and the fact that big steps must be taken to achieve that is not a new phenomenon to us. According to Mckinsey, “Sustainability Credibility” was included in the top 10 fashion agendas in 2018, and “Circular Textiles” is on the agenda for 2022 as well. For so long, the problem has not been resolved, but progress was slow. In his response to the question of whether or not the clothes themselves are sustainable, Mohammed Benchellal, winner of the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize said, “The whole business model in the industry is not sustainable.”. Rather than incremental changes, there are revolutions to be made across the board – on the runway, in our wardrobes, and in endless inventories.
Digital technologies can help accelerate the pace of transformation, but changing the business model isn’t easy. Here are a few possibilities.
2. Marketing Campaigns and Fashion Shows going virtual:
A Mckinsey survey found that 83% of respondents believe that physical samples will be used less frequently than virtual samples by 2025. COVID-19 is actually causing the shift to occur faster than expected as a result of COVID-19. Some of the luxury brands, such as Gucci, have taken their fashion shows virtual in a creative way.
With the help of artificial intelligence, we are able to make a 3D digital fashion model. In my opinion, they appear even more visually appealing than human models. The Fabricant is one of them. It calls itself the world’s first digital fashion house, reporting that using digital samples instead of physical garments during development and design phases dramatically cuts the company’s carbon footprint by 30 percent. Through collaboration with well-known brands such as Puma, Adidas, and Aape, it reduces the waste of water and toxic chemicals, and eliminate the CO2 pollution that results from the production of clothing for advertisements, which can’t be resold to customers in traditional practices.
Virtual Fitting Room and better customisation reducing returns and enhancing customer experience
In the value chain, there are also implicit sources of pollution such as delivery systems, where shipping is extremely efficient and inexpensive. Where the shipping is so efficient and inexpensive, returning purchased products has become a better option than not buying them in the first place if you’re not sure how they fit. This causes the environment to be polluted in an unnecessary manner.
It is also possible, in the near future, to create virtual fitting rooms for each individual based on the latest 3D model technologies as 3D virtual model technologies become more widely available. We may be able to use artificial intelligence to measure our size accurately and adjust the digital models to match our measurements. MySize developes such technology that allows it to get done with the help of only a smartphone camera, enabling customers to order clothing in the correct size when they shop online.
It should also be noted that recommender systems, in combination with AI and personalised styling, are improving the online shopping experience for many customers. As part of the process, Stitch Fix generates a Style Profile for each customer using an initial Style Quiz as well as data points from the customer’s personal characteristics, clothing characteristics, post-Fix feedback, and historical interactions with the service. The Personal Style Profile will be used to develop predictive algorithms. This streamlined experience eliminates the traditional frustration that comes with searching online for clothes that fit your style, thereby reducing the chances of unsatisfaction and the need to return the unsuitable items.
3. Propelling the second-hand market
As part of a project by RISE, AI is being used to study ads of clothes to develop its own pricing model. Learning from ads for pre-owned products, it is able to recognise features associated with specific price levels, which can then be used to develop reliable models for price prediction. In return, the ability to trust the pricing of the second-hand clothing market makes it possible for more customers to take part in the market with confidence.
A short look at how thredUP has disrupted the industry: Vue.ai was used to process images using image recognition, to provide accurate pricing and tagging based on pattern, colour, and fashion edginess, making their processing center much more efficient and making it possible to process 100K unique items a day. The company also provides a service that sends 10 items hand-picked by stylists to further reduce waste and returns. Based on the consumer’s previous history, as well as fashion trends, the stylists use artificial intelligence to help them fill out orders quickly and accurately, thus maximising their efficiency.
4. Rental Fashion meets AI
One of the objectives of the Circular Fiber Initiative is to increase the use of clothing as a means of achieving a more sustainable textile economy. As women, we are all aware of how we can spend a hundred pounds on a gorgeous evening gown for our best friend’s wedding, and then the very next time we wear it is ten years later. Our wallets as well as the environment suffer when we buy clothes to wear for special occasions. It is a solution for people to save the expenses of purchasing expensive garments that are almost like single-use garments but with the added benefit of saving millions of under-used clothes. Rent the Runway – an e-commerce platform for renting and buying fashion-related items – went public in the late 2021, marking the beginning of a new era for the sector of rental fashion. The platform is based on a membership subscription model, which allows customers to rent clothes for a very affordable flat rate from the service every month.
5. AI sales prediction prevents stockpiling
I believe one of the most well-known and widely adopted practices in the industry is the last potential. There is a great deal of waste generated in the fast fashion industry due to the stockpiling of clothes since fashion trends change so frequently. Among the most obvious uses of Artificial Intelligence in this field is its use for advanced data analytics and machine learning sales forecasting in order to better forecast sales, clothing trends, customer behavior, and even to reduce the number of unsold clothes each season. In order for this technology to be cost-saving and environmental friendly at the same time, a great deal of research has been done with the goal of making it flawless.
The possibilities I’ve listed here are often complementary. For instance, MySize is developing a version of its functions specifically for pre-owned clothing.