My recent interview with El Colombiana newspaper in Medellin...translated!
1. Tell us three innovations, that you would highlight, that can drastically change the future of fashion.
First, I think digital product creation, using 3D software tools to design everything from textiles to garments to entire line plans in the ‘virtual’ world will not only change how we produce fashion, it will change how consumers view and even purchase fashion. There are e-tailers today showing virtual 3D designs online and not producing the item until someone orders it. No only is this almost instant gratification for the consumer, but they will have the ability to customize the product as well. And, with no inventory, no lead times, no markdowns, and no waste, it becomes a financially, socially and environmentally sustainable solution at the same time.
Second, manufacturing technologies such as digital printing, automated cutting, bonding and robotic assembly techniques will enable producers to create product much closer to the customer. Speed to market has been discussed for years but supply chains still stretch all over the world looking like spaghetti in many cases. This will change as brands and retailers realize that true speed to market is how long it takes to get from the designer’s head to the customer’s back. In the future that will be measured in days, not months.
Third, huge amounts of data — not just collected by brands and retailers, but on every social media platform — combined with artificial intelligence and machine learning will enable fashion designers to anticipate what we want before we know. The Amazons, Googles and Facebooks of the world already know more about us than we can imagine, everything we like, everything we look at, everything we buy and everything we return. As they integrate with, or take over the commerce side of the fashion industry we can expect that the majority of what they show us are things they know we will want and buy.
2. How will this innovations benefit the users?
While there are huge benefits to the industry to reduce inventories and markdowns and be more sustainable and transparent, there are significant benefits for consumers. We will be able to buy unique, creative designs, customize them for our personality, get them almost immediately and be contributing to a truly circular fashion economy. We will also get valuable styling information to help us look our best, wear the most appropriate outfit for any occasion, and save the world (metaphorically speaking) while doing it on our budget.
3. How to apply artificial intelligence to the fashion industry?
Artificial intelligence is only applicable if the people using it have the right data in a sufficient amount. AI can discern patterns of past behavior and tastes and predict future patterns of desire and consumption. Currently, most individual brands, retailers and designers do not have access to sufficient, relevant data to take advantage of AI. That will change, however, as the ‘big data’ collectors, the social media giants, start giving access to their data (for a price) to the rest of the fashion community. That is not a matter of if that will happen, but when.
4. You are an expert in personalizing the consumer experience in areas such as sizing, what is the importance of personalizing in fashion when it seems that more trends and stereotypes tend to standardize?
Consumers will say they want to look special or unique when dressing for a special occasion; or they want to have a distinct fashion look when dressing for work or everyday activities that reflects their personality. But the reality is that the industry produces product that all looks the same, so we consumers tend to all look the same. Most retailers are not risk-takers so why create something unique unless its been proven? The good news is that, going forward, with digital product creation technologies, advanced manufacturing and sourcing techniques and data interpreted with artificial intelligence, almost any brand will be able to customize the consumer experience with much less risk. This will not only benefit large, traditional retailers (if they have the sense to innovate) but it will benefit small designers and individual entrepreneurs as well because the barriers to entry will be minimal.
5. In the issue of size, what has been the big mistake of fashion companies in Latin America?
Fashion companies in Latin America may be among the most creative and exciting in the world. Part of the reason for that is an absolute devotion to fashion as art. The biggest mistake the industry has made, in my opinion, has been to not recognize how fashion needs to be a balance between art and science. Instituting technical processes, procedures, tools and training are critical steps if any fashion business wants to engage and retain customers in the long term. As online shopping continues to grow, the brands that continue to treat fashion as purely art will suffer and lose customers. Those that implement the proper disciplines and tools to consistently execute product, especially from a fit and quality standpoint, will be the winners.
6. Do you believe that people know their size accurately?
Unfortunately, while most consumers have a good general idea of what size they might be, they also know that different brands fit differently, even different styles within one brand don’t fit the same, and most brands and retailers production and sourcing strategies do not allow for consistent execution by their factories. It would be great if brands and retailers followed industry sizing and grading standards and then required their factories to use the right tools and processes to ensure consistent execution. With e-commerce growing every year, brands have to consider these strategies or risk frustrating their customers. Most consumers would love to just confidently buy “their size” and brands have the power to make that happen.