Fashion + Technology

Fashion’s Digital Evolution: What’s Next for the Industry?

Life is advancing toward total digital integration, a process that is affecting every industry around the globe. These technological leaps sometimes seem unthinkable, but it only takes a single spark of innovation to disrupt the status quo. In this interconnected age, technological change happens almost daily, so often we don’t always notice. In fact, many digital technologies are interacting with the industry even now. Fashion is more deeply connected to innovation in digital space than we might realise.

21st century digital boy

Coronavirus has demonstrated the importance of digital fashion. Much of the fashion industry has transitioned to digital mediums, including recent fashion shows. Additionally, CGI models have made a huge impact on platforms like YouTube and Instagram. “AI Influencers,” Liam Nikuro and Lil’ Miquela prove how successful these models can be. These CGI creations exist between reality and fiction. There’s already proof of their success within the industry; Prada embraced a collaboration with Miquela in Milan Fashion Week. Not only that, but she also had a controversial CALVIN KLEIN advertisement with Bella Hadid. The industry has embraced these digital models openly. And with thousands, to millions of followers, they’re far from a niche gimmick.

But the impacts of digital innovation land closer than CGI boys and girls. AI can generate hyper-realistic bodies in an instant. And that could affect you greatly.

Digital dress-up

The implications of this AI is the ability to find a body type, skin tone, and aesthetic identical to yours. In other words, a personalised model. ASOS has already trialled an AR “See My Fit” tool. Take that one step further and consider concepts like the “Virtual Mirror” placed into a digital space. An online dressing-room, with a perfectly proportioned avatar, as part of a user profile. It’s far from an impossibility. 3D scanning is already an emerging technology. Fewer returns due to sizing, clothing made to order to reduce waste? Questions that readily present themselves in the wake of these concepts.

These 2D images of bodies could go further. With leaps made in the coding of physics, we can witness hyper-real 3D clothing in motion. Many stores provide videos of their models alongside stills. They display how the fabric moves, drapes across the broad shoulders or hugs the thin waists of the models. They are excellent at letting us consider how the attire may look on us in motion. 3D clothing in AR and VR is already demonstrating its legitimacy. Our mastery over animation and physics grows daily. The borders of the uncanny valley are blurring. With such advancements, we may no longer need to imagine how clothing might look on us, in motion, at all.

We may be adjusting our own bodies and testing digital outfits in our own online catwalk with our own avatar. It’s The Sims-meets-online shopping. In many ways, we would be our own models, with our own bodies representing the catalogue we are browsing. Sounds farfetched? While not as personalised, “AR Catwalks” are already a reality (of sorts.)

Runway fashion in uncanny valley

In a post-coronavirus world the phrase “digital fashion show” isn’t an irregular term. They are a far cry from the neon-haunted holographs of Ghost In The Shell’s New Port City, however. A quick fix to a global crisis, rather than digital innovation. Despite this, it’s not as far off as it seems. Conversations suggest expanding on technology seen in the popular Pokémon Go. Digital runways that use AR and VR technologies, with models and displays. Almost like an invisible flash mob beneath the London Eye. Or, perhaps, there will be no runway at all. Shows that are there in an instant and then gone. The city-scape a canvas for digital renditions of nature, or cyber lights. And then the ability to interact with designs of collections you like, immediately. Maybe even try them on.

This, in turn, could provide an idea of what designs did, or did not, succeed before production. The technology is already there to paint London in digital colour, the question is what’s stopping us?

Fashion’s digital dystopia

In an age of data fraud, machine labour, and the fear of big brother’s ever-watchful eyes, it’s hard to not have concerns. For example, any of these changes could have a significant impact on industry models. AI that can execute any pose, any look, with no story, no personality or agenda. There’s arguments that this could push the human element out of advertisement. Additionally, divulging so much personal information may not sit right with some. Hardware may also be an issue, and only 59% of the global population has access to the internet. There’s a list of limitations.

Recent events demonstrate the importance of digital space. There are pros and cons far beyond what this article covers. Either way, digital innovators are being taken seriously. We’re undeniably closer to Ghost In The Shell’s “Soligram” cityscape, than we are from it. How that will take shape will be decided in the years to come.

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