Together with the article published in WeAr‘s most recent issue, WeAr asked ChatGPT to explain how AI impacts the fashion industry and ChatGPT in particular.
The below was written by the AI itself, no further editing happened:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has already revolutionized various industries, and the fashion industry is no exception. From product design to marketing and sales, AI has the potential to streamline and optimize different aspects of the fashion industry, leading to increased efficiency, better customer experiences, and higher profitability.
Product design and development is one area where AI can have a significant impact. AI-powered software can analyze vast amounts of data on consumer preferences, market trends, and other factors to identify patterns and insights that can inform design decisions. This technology can also help designers generate multiple design options quickly and cost-effectively, reducing the time and resources needed to develop new products.
In the manufacturing process, AI can improve production efficiency by automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks. For example, AI-powered robots can help with cutting, sewing, and other processes, enabling faster and more accurate production while reducing labor costs.
AI can also enhance the customer experience by providing personalized recommendations based on individual preferences and shopping history. This technology can analyze vast amounts of data to create customer profiles and suggest products that match their style, size, and budget. AI can also assist with sizing and fit, reducing the number of returns and improving customer satisfaction.
ChatGPT, as a language model, can also play a crucial role in the fashion industry. For example, ChatGPT can be used to develop conversational AI-powered chatbots that can handle customer inquiries and provide personalized recommendations. This technology can improve customer engagement and reduce the workload on customer service teams, enabling them to focus on more complex issues.
ChatGPT can also be used to generate product descriptions and reviews automatically. By analyzing product features and customer feedback, ChatGPT can create compelling and accurate product descriptions that can help customers make informed purchase decisions. This technology can also generate reviews based on customer feedback, improving the credibility and authenticity of online reviews.
In conclusion, AI has the potential to revolutionize the fashion industry by improving efficiency, enhancing the customer experience, and driving profitability. ChatGPT, as a language model, can also contribute to this revolution by enabling conversational AI-powered chatbots, generating product descriptions and reviews, and providing other valuable insights and services to fashion companies.
WeAr global magazine’s Editorial Director asks Binita Bhuta, Vice President Marketing & Sustainability at CovationBio about its product Sorona®, the group’s future and their sustainability efforts.
What are Sorona®’s plans going forward after the acquisition?
Let me give you a brief intro of CovationBio and how Sorona® is part of newly launched CovationBio. Sorona® is part of CovationBio, a newly launched biomaterials company focused on making high-performance sustainable biomaterials accessible to all. CovationBio builds on Sorona®’s 20-years of experience delivering a successful, commercial business at a global scale.
As CovationBio continues to expand and diversify our business to displace fossil-based materials, we are finding ways to improve our environmental benefits while offering quality, value, and performance to our customers.
In addition to Sorona®, CovationBio has other biobased solutions to offer into the fashion industry such as Susterra®, and we continue to evaluate other scalable solutions to bring to market.
Scalability is fundamental to bringing a sustainable business model to our customers making a significant impact on the world. We are already operating at scale. Our success in scaling up the production of Sorona® is due to our close collaboration throughout the value chain.
Traceability and transparency are also fundamental to the work we do. We are working closely with our value chain partners to drive traceability through both our Common Thread Fabric Certification program and our Preferred Mill Network for Sorona®.
We recognize that moving the materials industry toward a more sustainable or circular production model is going to require a combination of bio-sourced and post-consumer recycled feedstocks as raw materials. Therefore, we do not limit ourselves to working in the bio-derived space only. For example, we are evaluating the state of technology and partners for recycled/ biobased and lower footprint options for our conventional raw materials.
Most recently, our focus has been on establishing our Common Thread certified fabrics—Sorona® Agile, Aura, Luxe, Profile, and Revive—and the global Preferred Mill Network. The Sorona® Common Thread Fabric Certification program enhances the transparency and traceability in the textile value chain and ensures quality products that customers deserve. The Preferred Mill Network is a global catalog of mills certified to offer the full collection of sustainable Sorona® subbranded fabrics.
In just our first year, we saw more than 43 million garments with Sorona® hangtags worldwide and more than 500 mills participated with Sorona® certified fabric to date. There is still more work to do and our team is expanding its reach into more regions and having conversations with apparel brands every day. We are excited for what is next as more brands integrate bio-based materials like Sorona® into their collections.
You mentioned lessening the impact on the environment. How is sustainability a core part of Sorona®? How does Sorona® in the future treat the topic of Sustainability?
As a biomaterials company, sustainability and product stewardship are core to who we are. Our Global Sustainability Leader Lauren Johnson ensures our program is science-based and focuses on the most relevant opportunities that will “move the needle” in advancing the materials industry toward a more sustainable state. CovationBio’s priorities are driven by data from life cycle assessments (LCAs) for our products, and our commitments naturally align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly the following four: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Climate Action, Circular Economy, and Life on Land.
Sorona® is 37% bio-based, derived from annually renewable crops. Using renewable bio-based feedstocks is important because bio-based products contribute to the defossilization of the global supply chain—decoupling materials production from fossil fuel extraction and reducing global reliance on fossil resources.
I am excited to share about our recent membership in an agriculture program called Truterra designed to provide visibility into the environmental impact data on 100% of the acres supplying this corn. The participating farms use cutting-edge technology to improve soil health, protect biodiversity, and potentially sequester carbon. Through this program, farmers receive insights into their crop yields and resource consumption and output including greenhouse gas emissions, soil health indicators, wind and water erosion rates, and more.
Our participation in Truterra actively promotes transparency about our supply chain and educates farmers using a science-based and data-driven approach to improving farming practices. Improvements in farming will lead to reduced footprints for the farm, our raw materials, and ultimately the apparel that is made using bio-based resources.
Are there any new product groups that will become relevant for Sorona®?
We have a rich pipeline of products that we are hoping to commercialize in the next couple of years. Our strength is providing a quality, sustainable alternative to traditional materials and we will continue to find creative ways to do this in apparel.
One segment where we are seeing success and growth is with footwear. The launch with Puma for a football (soccer) shoe made with a Sorona® upper along with Susterra® was our first entry into athletic footwear. Other brands like EcoAlf use Sorona® in footwear as well as apparel.
Because Sorona® offers many exciting performance attributes, we see it used across many different applications.
Within apparel, we have a broad range of growth opportunities. Brands like Stella McCartney and Maison Atia value the bio-based faux fur Sorona® made with Ecopel. Blauer USA uses Sorona for insulation, Lilly Pulitzer has incorporated Sorona® into tops for the soft handfeel and shape retention, and LIVE! in Brazil launched a capsule collection called LiveBIO! that’s entirely made with Sorona® Agile fabric. We look forward to strengthening these relationships, establishing new ones, and developing in areas where we can make an impact at scale.
We are focused on and committed to delivering on our promise for a sustainable alternative to traditional fibers like spandex and nylon. As you may know, Sorona® is proven to keep garments looking new for longer and can be used for spandex replacement. It offers outstanding comfort stretch, an ultra-soft hand feel, and dimensional stability. These qualities are meaningful for designers as they look to strengthen the sustainability standards of their collections, and we look forward to supporting them in their journey.
How will Sorona® continue to help educate the industry about general trends and also its own products?
It all starts with our team. We are transparent, honest communicators who understand what drives profits for our customers and genuinely care about our impact in the industry and on the world. This knowledge and openness allow us to be nimble and bold when we are innovating or addressing a challenge.
It is in our CovationBio culture to ask ourselves and others tough questions. We recognize that the topic of sustainability is a complex area and advances in one impact could have unintended consequences elsewhere. We make the time to be engaged and have exchanges with leaders and drivers in the textile and fashion industry via organizations such as Textile Exchange and Renewable Carbon Initiative (RCI).
We believe education is central to driving innovation and creativity. With that in mind, we are continuing our support of the Central Saint Martins’ first year students. We donate two types of fabrics made with Sorona® to create original pieces for their annual White Show. The results are breathtaking. It is the perfect place to start a conversation about source materials, quality, sustainability, and performance.
It is also so refreshing to meet up in-person again! We have enjoyed reuniting with our friends and colleagues at shows around the world this year. We will continue to have a presence both virtually and in-person at events including trade shows and speaking engagements.
We are committed to working through the value chain and offering our team as a resource for questions. We welcome questions about performance, sustainability, and distribution to better support your goals.
I believe with the momentum we are building for biobased materials through CovationBio brands— Sorona®, Susterra®, and Zemea® and our pipeline products —will be a catalyst for global change.
by: Shamin Vogel
WeAr interviews Martijn Hagman, CEO Tommy Hilfiger Global & PVH Europe on the potential of the metaverse, future of retail, brand strategies, crypto, sustainability, loyalty programs in the NFT world, and the phygital world.
What was your essential incentive to enter the metaverse in its early stage?
For a few years now, we have been at the forefront of exploring digital innovations. We are stepping into an inspiring and exciting new era of commerce that offers endless opportunities to connect with consumers in the digital and physical worlds. We stay strongly committed to our consumers by creating brand experiences that are authentic and unexpected, while encouraging them to express their individuality.
What is Tommy Hilfiger’s attitude towards digital fashion and NFTs?
Digital fashion is stronger and more appealing than ever — from 3D product development to the digitalization of the supply chain, to self-expression through an avatar. By increasing our investments in digital, we can enhance and improve our sustainability efforts in many ways. For instance, when it comes to the consumer, offering direct interactions and personalization, through to a complete virtual wardrobe experience. NFTs are a big part of this new digital space, which can add incredible value to the community and our brand. We see NFTs bringing the next iteration of brand access, membership, and loyalty, while also providing new opportunities for collaborations through projects, digital artists, and innovators in this space.
Can you explain how you will adapt your strategy to fit the current phygital trends?
There is an undeniable acceleration in the merger of digital and physical worlds. Web3 will continue to evolve, pushing brands to break barriers and lead the industry with new experiences that surprise and excite consumers. We are currently developing our metaverse strategy, which will be a clear indicator of how we continue to innovate in phygital brand experiences that add value to our business and bring us closer to consumers. At the same time, we are leveraging technology in our physical stores to enhance the omnichannel experience.
Will the metaverse help tap into a new consumer group that previously was not a prime target group for fashion companies?
The metaverse has opened the door for us to engage with new consumers we wouldn’t otherwise reach using traditional channels. It’s also allowing us to stay connected to our current fans in more inclusive, new, and exciting ways by offering virtual fashion that gives a whole new meaning to “universal” clothing. One of the great aspects of the metaverse is its inclusive nature, which connects to our brand values of “Welcoming All.”
As a pioneer in Web3, which lessons have you learned? What can be improved to achieve a holistic experience for consumers?
Over time, digital will become the leading sphere of everything we do and making sure we have a well-thought-out strategy is key to success. One key takeaway so far is not to get swept away with the fear of missing an opportunity. There are many new ways to connect with consumers on a whole new level, giving them access to the brand in experiential and personal ways. The key is to be strategic and considerate, to understand what they want, and deliver at the right moment.
How do you see the future of cryptocurrency and fashion intersecting?
It’s already happening — some brands are accepting cryptocurrency, others are offering digital wearable NFTs, and some are just observing. The e-commerce landscape will change, cryptocurrencies will be just another payment method available. Once blockchain protocols become more consumer-centric, shopping will become much simpler. Right now, the instability of crypto must be carefully considered when thinking of traditional retail.
Brands have started to issue NFTs together with roadmaps, tying them directly to brand loyalty. Will this be the ultimate future of using NFTs, or do you see other options for fashion companies, which live from one-off purchases thus far?
As we continue to seek innovative ways to connect with the community, NFTs can be powerful allies for membership and loyalty programs. The overall demand for NFTs is progressively increasing, presenting an opportunity for them to evolve from simple collectibles to utility assets – think of exclusive access to clubs, communities, and virtual or in-person experiences. By creating exciting NFTs that unlock exclusive brand experiences we can stay more connected with consumers in new and unforeseen ways. Looking ahead, NFTs could be the central digital touchpoint between brands and consumers – one that can be fully controlled by brands.
Looking to the future, will you create specific collections with different aesthetic approaches for the physical and the virtual stores?
We are already on this path – our recent Roblox collaboration presented exclusive virtual items that were very well received by the community. We will continue to explore partnerships that enable us to create these smaller digital capsules which allow us to interact with a new generation of consumers. Be it by collaborating with digital players, or developing our own collections, there are great opportunities when it comes to creating fully digital products that defy the laws of physics — customization can not only empower fans to celebrate their individuality, but also builds long-term loyalty.
What would the perfect phygital world look like?
I am passionate about the word “phygital” and what it represents – the heights we can reach are endless. Breaking boundaries and having an innovative mindset are critical to creating a phygital world. The shift to a digital-first mentality will become the norm and we are already seeing the integration of physical and digital becoming more and more realistic – digital activations in-store, virtual initiatives that deliver physical products to your door, and many others. We are committed to investing in innovations that will bridge the gap between online and offline in exciting ways, not only to our consumers, but also in upgrading internal processes and operations.
Congratulations on finding the QR Code to hopefully get one of the limited numbers of NFTs that Tommy Hilfiger and artist Gigi Gorlova made available to WeAr readers. Each supplied 71 NFTs, for WeAr issue 71, as a gift to our readers. Scan the QR Code and follow the instructions. Kindly understand that due to the limited number not everyone can get one of the NFTs.
by: Kristina Gligorovska
Iris van Herpen is a frontrunner in interweaving technology into fashion design. Everything she designs comprises innovation, mirroring the world we live in. For this edition of WeAr, she speaks about her vision of the future of fashion.
WeAr: How do you feel about experimenting with hybrid scenarios which seem to be the right formula for the fashion industry today?
I love thinking and creating in hybrid realities. The designs challenge our notion of reality, playing with the perception of the future and past. Haute Couture has an incredible history of craftsmanship, yet by entwining new technologies into them, the designs are showing a futuristic perspective of identity and materiality. I search for symbiotic relationships within my designs, exploring the hidden beauty at the intersection of the artificial and the organic, nature and technology, combining a thread and a needle with high-tech to symbiotically blend them. This philosophy of duality has interestingly been ground in all my designs. This philosophy of duality has interestingly been ground to all my designs from the beginning. So the current technological evolution into the metaverse is a natural one. In the digital designs, we can express this duality even further and the full vision of concept and inspiration is extended into the whole space around and beyond the body.
WeAr: Being a couturier, you fuse multi-disciplinary technologies with refined artisanal craftmanship, echoing immersive sensory experiences. Is it possible to transfer that notion to digital clothes?
Absolutely, in all the designs and shows, I’m exploring performance and metamorphoses. The designs transform through motion and often seem to defy the laws of our physical reality. Through my dance background, I learned that movement and transformation are our most powerful language of seduction. Designing digitally is so exciting because I can push the boundaries of surrealism, motion, and metamorphosis even more. Multiple realities can apply at the same time in one garment. And a garment becomes a story through time, like music. Through the mixed reality transition I’m working on, I want to create synaesthetic experiences. Synaesthesia is when our senses are mixed, you can feel sounds or taste colors, for example. I have a bit of synaesthesia as when I hear beautiful music, I start seeing patterns. This multi-sensorial experience is what I want to give people through my mixed reality experiences. Twelve years ago, I made my Synesthesia collection, dreaming of shifting the public sensorial reality. The time for such an emotional shift is becoming possible now.
WeAr: You connect with your clients on many levels when creating garments. How do you achieve a holistic experience for a customer in the metaverse?
Very good question. The metaverse is developing, and it is inspiring to bring the client’s journey into the metaverse in the near future and bring them even closer to the creative process, from sketch to final stitches. Currently, clients visit the atelier one, two or three times for fitting; at that moment, they have a glimpse of the process. In the future, they will be able to visit our metaverse atelier with their avatar, experiencing all the key moments of the process as they would during the physical fittings in the atelier in Amsterdam. They will experience our mixed reality show in Paris, seeing physical models and mixed reality performances with digital designs combined. This is an overwhelming experience that they will be able to experience again at home afterwards. Before we start our client’s custom design journey, the client visits the Iris van Herpen metaverse museum. They walk through all the archive pieces and experience performances and shows to fully dive into our DNA to be immersed in the creative vision and start imagining their new IVH design.
WeAr: Everything you design comprises technology and innovation, mirroring the world we live in. Your approach speaks at a great level to a younger generation – the early adopters of the metaverse. Do you plan to enter the metaverse/the NFT world?
Absolutely! We have been working on this for two years now. As a perfectionist, I want the metaverse designs and performances to be as wholesome and detailed as the physical Haute Couture. Part one will be unveiled in two months.
WeAr: You are a prominent voice for sustainability. In your opinion, does the metaverse hold solutions to the environmental problems created by the fashion industry?
Indeed, the big promise of the metaverse and digital designs is that brands will first release their collections digitally, their customers can respond, and the brand will know which designs are popular. This selection will then be produced physically. A major flaw in the traditional fashion system is the inexact matching of supply and demand. Between 30 and 40 percent of all the garments produced are never sold – take a moment to realize this. Creating the collections digitally first can tackle the entire overproduction.
We – IVH, only do Haute Couture, meaning we only create what is ordered by our clients and therefore have zero overproduction. With the metaverse blooming, this can become a reality for every brand. Their customers can try on the digital creations on their avatar and order the pieces they love, and only the loved looks are produced physically.
WeAr: We hear very often that we need to rethink the fashion system. What would be the right way to grasp the potential of technology to amplify progress?
The system is utterly broken. It is painful to know how badly it functions and it needs to transform radically. Three things need to change: production, materials, and behavior.
Production: as mentioned above, 30 to 40 percent of the annual 148 million tons (estimated) of garments produced end up in landfill before being worn. This can be avoided by having consumers choose their favorite designs in the metaverse, they can wear the looks they love, go out, share it online with their community, and brands can transparently monitor what needs to be produced physically.
Materials: all brands can create entirely from sustainable materials; full transparency is needed to change each brand’s behavior. The blockchain can create full transparency of all the materials used, and where they come from, to even how and where the individual yarns are produced: each part of the process becomes visible. The brands behind in their sustainable transition will become visible, criticized, and perhaps even fined if laws are tightened.
Behavior: the last transition needed is our buying behavior, which we all hold power to change. On average each garment will be worn seven times before getting tossed (WSJ 2019). We can all buy fewer clothes and wear and treasure them for many years. This last change has to come from within; technology cannot change this.
WeAr: What represents your greatest challenge moving forward, and could you depict the design of tomorrow?
My greatest challenge is to keep on evolving, meaning creatively and evolving my vision. This has always been my greatest challenge as fashion creates a dialogue between our insides and our outsides.Both art and fashion are linked to our deepest desires, moods, and most personal expressions. Each collection we make is a search to reach beyond my understanding of female form and today’s definition of a garment. My greatest challenge is this continuous exploration of new forms of identity and a more conscious approach to fashion for the future.
We spoke about the brokenness of fashion’s system; on a contrary note, I have to talk about the positive transition the fashion community is going through. It has become so much more intellectual, inclusive, and conscious in recent years. Even the fashion press goes beyond the superficial and expresses politics, sustainability, and inclusivity. Fashion’s intellectual community is growing, and the young designers start from a very different perspective, wanting to do it differently, and looking for a new system of creativity. Being part of this new perspective, and steering it, is what is most important to me.
Fashion’s tech-driven future is now our present. For brands, connecting to buyers using digital showrooms is crucial in the upcoming season as buyers may not be able to visit you in person. High-touch and sophisticated platforms such as WeAr DigiShows give buyers a look at collections, highlighting garment details while simulating a physical showroom visit. Investing in a digital showroom keeps brands connected to buyers, press and influencers. The same can be done for stores who want to virtually sell to their regular customers in a professional manner.
For retailers, implementing a video clienteling service allows customers to see collections and buy in real time. In Paris, Galeries Lafayette launched ‘Shopping à Distance’ which allows customers to use video calling to contract a personal shopper or brand representative for Alexander McQueen, Off-White, Loewe and Prada, among others.
Offering a ‘Click and Collect’ service should form part of your online strategy. According to Michael Burke, Director of Branded Apparel and Durables at Google, online data shows a three thousand percent increase in organic searches for ‘curtsied pickup’ in the last 12 months. Customers expect to be able to shop your entire assortment online, then visit your physical location in person to pick up their items. As shoppers stay close to home, adapting your existing physical retail space to accommodate and e-commerce fulfilment area will help you better serve online customers and avoid additional operational costs. An up-to-date inventory with detailed photos on your website will help customers understand the look and feel of your assortmement when they cannot browse in person.
Increasingly, consumers use their mobile devices to shop. Sales transactions may end on your website, but customers could have discovered you on other platforms before making their purchase decisions. Enhance your presence on Instagram by using the Shopping feature to highlight a smaller range of products. When using other digital platforms, ensure a strong and consistent brand identity across platforms, as Burberry did when collaborating with Tencent on its interactive shop in Shenzhen, China, that allowed customers to explore the store using WeChat.
It’s important to know which of your customers are most likely to make a purchase in the near future so you know where to invest your time. E-commrce agencies like Paris-based The Other Store are specialised at working with mid-sized multi brand retailers to develop personalised online strategies for customer relationships management. By analysing your existing customer data, you can predict future shopping behaviour and plan your assortment. By analysing your data, you can develop the right strategy to maximise profitability from e-commerce.
This article is part of WeAr Magazine Issue 65.
In this section, WeAr reviews the best apps and software platforms used by retailers and brands. Some of them are available to all stores; others are exclusive to one retailer or territory, but will hopefully inspire others and help them keep abreast of changes in the digital fashion landscape.
The High Index
The Higg Index is a suite of sustainability measure- ment tools for brands, retailers and facilities of all sizes in the apparel and footwear industry. Developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), these tools span design to end of use in three catego- ries: product, facility, and brand and retail. The first includes the Materials Sustainability Index, which allows designers to create materials and understand their overall environmental impact. Brands can employ other modules to measure product sustain- ability and life-cycle, and contextualize this with their internal system to generate analytics. The Facility Tools focus on environmental and labor impacts, determining, for instance, measures of emissions, facility safety, waste management and worker liveli- hood. Finally, the Higg Brand & Retail Module analyzes data to give companies a wide glimpse into the supply chain to see how they rank in sustainability – from manufacturing metrics, transportation of goods, and packaging, to measuring the environmental cost of office headquarters.
CoGo is a UK app that connects consumers and businesses that strive to become more socially and environmentally responsible. Users sign up to the app by connecting their bank account and stating the social and environmental issues they care most about helping. The app then calculates a person- alized carbon footprint that is based on spending transactions and lifestyle choices, and offers ways to take action and make simple lifestyle changes to reduce the score. An ethical recommendation engine will point the user towards UK businesses that score best on the social and environmental issues the user shows interest in; these 20,000+ rigorously approved businesses exemplify ethical or sustainable prac- tices. When criteria are achieved, businesses earn at least one of twelve CoGo accreditation badges – badge examples include, but are not limited to, offer- ing fair trade, organic or vegan products, paying a living wage or actively pledging to reduce waste to landfill.
According to research undertaken by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2017, disposed excess inventory had been causing almost 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. In the years since, increased press coverage on burning and other forms of clothing disposal has spurred efforts to re-channel this excess stock. But the pandemic is testing these sustainable options. With consumer spending on non-essentials down and many stores around the world still closed, the fashion industry is facing an unprecedented oversupply of goods, from S/S 2020 in particular.
Some companies including Ralph Lauren, Next, adidas and Gap are putting aside a portion of their Spring inventory to sell off next year. Any items that fall within non-seasonal or trendy categories may also be re-sellable for later periods. There are many shoppers who – after months of staying at home – are now eager for goods, and for finding deals. Currently, we are seeing re-opened off-price stores reaping the benefits of this market. Brands and retailers should consider selling through these channels.
Don’t want to simply sell at a loss? There are companies who work with clients to manage excess inventory and customer returns in ways that generate profit and brand value. One good option is the UK-based company Parker Lane Group.
With a global reach, they help retailers find resale markets for unsold garments and recycle the rest. They recently launched the Coronavirus Support Service to deal primarily with unsellable S/S 2020 inventory, lack of warehouse space, and accumulating unmanaged returns. The US company Optoro offers similar services. They use AI and machine-learning software to generate real-time brand analyt- ics, which helps them organize garments into recommerce (to Optoro’s resale site Blinq, or elsewhere) or donation options. Both companies primarily work with activewear and high street brands, but also accommodate image-sensitive luxury brands who don’t want to sell in discount markets. The re-sale marketplace Tradesy opened a business unit in April 2020 to cater to brands who have excess stock due to cancellations.
There are also companies that can help with charitable donations specifically. Gift- ing Brands works with retailers to resell their private label and upscale brands, and donates the profits to charity. Soles4Souls also accepts inventory donations, and has a portfolio of brand partnerships. It is now connecting essential work- ers with donations: an action and message that resonates loudly during these unsettling times.
WOMENSWEAR TREND: COUNTRY GETAWAY
[Left] Runway Look Dior [Right] Salvatore Ferragamo
Getting out into the country was a theme in multiple S/S 21 presentations. After months spent indoors, an emergence of such a sensibility seems almost unavoidable. Organic colors infused the collections, which used intricately detailed fabrics in simple silhouettes.
The Jacquemus collection, presented on a runway in a wheat field in the French countryside, used larger, looser silhouettes and unfussy tailoring. The collection was imbued with natural, muted colors like sage, ecru, black and clay. Flowing bias-cut dresses, oversized trousers and unstructured blazers recalled a simple country wedding, in designer Simon Porte Jacquemus own words.
The Dior Cruise 2021 collection, presented in the center of Lecce, Italy, was a spectacle that paid homage to the Italian countryside in the southern province of Puglia. With fringed skirts, headscarves and embroidered dresses, the collection featured a black gauzy material, warm whites and grays on intricately handwoven fabrics. Muted reds and greens rounded out the colors in the collection.
Salvatore Ferragamo used eco-friendly fabrics throughout an elegant and distilled collection comprising sleek silhouettes, clean lines and organic materials. Burnt orange, tan, beige and black infused a collection focused on sustainability with responsibly sourced materials like upcycled leather and cashmere, recycled nylon and organic cotton. Photographed in the countryside of Provence, France, the See by Chloé Resort 2021 collection imbued playful clothing designed for relaxing in with hues of sage, peach, burgundy and sand. And Ermanno Scervino Resort 2021, photographed in Tuscany, Italy, presented intricate knits and lace details, ruffled white dresses, and gauzy skirts with plissé inserts. Colors were whites, with a smattering of pastel pink, and pistachio green; perfect for getting lost in a field on a lazy summer afternoon.
MENSWEAR TREND: A LOVE LETTER TO NATURE
[Left] Etro [Middle] Ermenegildo Zegna [Right] Reese Cooper
“A moment like this can easily lead to a glorification of flawless precision of the machine but at Ermenegildo Zegna, with respect for a humanist tradition that is profoundly Italian, we believe that the human being always sits at the center, in harmony with nature.” This is how artistic director Alessandro Sartori explained the vision behind his S/S 21 collection that features soft and elegant knitwear with foliage-inspired patterns. The brand (which turns 110 this year) celebrates a strong connection with nature, seeing it not just as a provider of resources and raw materials but also recognizing the need to preserve its richness and diversity.
At Gucci, flower embroideries appear on a seventies-style sleeveless fur coat, a suit and a trench coat. Volumes are fluid like water at Etro, where shirts feature beautiful flower prints, too. Pebbles and stones seen in rivers have inspired a print in Reese Cooper’s accessories line; the models in the brand’s show walked barefoot through a brook in the wilderness, hinting at the need to reconnect with the Earth. His color palette comprised vivid green, orange and fruit colors.
The world of tailoring and classic menswear explored similar topics. Lardini is inspired by a bamboo forest through which the sun filters, by water games, by the intensity of hues seen in flowers and birds as depicted in Oriental art. Roberto Collina explores earthy shades – from cream to beige – and is enchanted with the shades of the sky: powder blue, navy blue and sapphire. And Paoloni proposed an unlined shirt jacket, both in cotton and light linen, with paintings in a bursting color palette of summer fruits.
Below we review some of the best apps and software platforms used by retailers and brands to bridge digital with physical customer experiences. The latter is crucial during unprecedented times as this is where all effort must go into optimising the customer journey and putting great emphasis on digital innovations.
STORE OCCUPANCY SOLUTIONS
Solutions that calculate the number of customers in your store are vital in a post-quarantine world. SmartOccupancy by retail tech firm Checkpoint combines the overhead people counting sensor Visiplus 3D with a cloud-based software portal, HALO. Similarly, Prodco, a company that specialises in footfall tracking, utilizes an advanced PC-3DR Stereoscopic camera at each entrance or interior zone, pushing entrance and exit count data (excluding staff and/or security guards) to cloud servers in real time. Suitable for buildings of all sizes, a SafeCount solution delivers live occupancy data with visual warnings and alerts when limits are approached or exceeded. If you are not yet ready for complex solutions but need to keep track of customers entering and exiting your store, there are plenty of simpler counter apps that work on Android, such as Counter Plus (free!), AllCounter or Klickr (under 6 EUR).
Aiming to make omnichannel easy for retailers as well as end consumers, Hero is a timely solution in an era when a lot of communications with customers need to happen remotely, yet need to feel personal. It allows staff to send photos, product videos and make video calls directly from the shop floor, giving shoppers the confidence they need to buy, and making them less likely to return items. Moreover, it enables the retailer to see what shoppers are browsing in real time as they move around the website and allows them send recommendations for other items straight into the chat. Already used by the likes of Harvey Nichols, Chloe and Diane von Furstenberg, Hero is backed by an impressive team of investors and advisors, including the former EVP, Technology at Macy’s and the Director of Commerce Partnerships at Google.
The ShoeFitter app designed by German company Formigas aims to bring returns down and boost customer satisfaction. With the help of Apple’s FaceID sensor, a feature of recent iPhone models, customers can scan their feet and use the measurements to check whether the chosen shoe will fit. This technology can be integrated into existing shopping apps or be used as a link connecting users to the ShoeFitter app. The company offers multiple schemes to retailers: Rental for a software development kit option, where brands and online retailers pay royalties to use the ShoeFitter functionality in their own e-commerce channels; an Affiliate scheme where end consumers utilizing the app are forwarded to an online or offline retailer, who pays up to 12% commission on the generated sales; and a Data insights scheme for companies that need access to shoe fitting intelligence to optimize and develop better fits for their footwear.
The current consumer mood is anxious, and the messages that might appeal to a customer today are completely different from those that appeared just last quarter. Great sensitivity is necessary in all communications. In a recent article on health crisis brand strategy, e-commerce selling platform Shopify recommended that brands reconsider whether their message seems “appropriate and considerate of the context we’re in”. Sellers need to be responsive to the current situation without being negative, while also being reassuring and authentically empathetic.
Being authentic means going beyond mere product presentation to offer an online experience that communicates the spirit and ethos of your store or brand. Retailers and designers have been posting uncharacteristically personal stories: for example, the owners of London-based online retailer Scout & Co. have been documenting the lives of their kids in lockdown in Instagram Stories and sharing the struggles that come with balancing home schooling and running a business – a challenge that most of their customers can relate to.
It is telling that advertising spend on social media has declined since the start of the year, according to Facebook’s recently released revenue report. As they reduce their paid advertising budget, brands are relying on organic social media content shared with their followers on Facebook and Instagram. For example, Epoque Evolution, a US-based sustainable leisurewear brand, is using social media content on Instagram to educate customers about their product range. The brand shares yoga classes, product giveaways and recipes on Instagram Live, thus becoming part of household life in ways that extend beyond a simple sales transaction.
It is important to remember that online is not the be all and end all of marketing. With their lives mostly happening in the digital realm under quarantine, custom- ers are longing for physical objects. Now is the time to advertise in exciting print media. Also, put creative effort into designing the windows for your bricks-and- mortar stores to wow those customers hungry for real-life experiences once lockdowns ease.