Digital fashion

Digital fashion is the interplay between digital technology and couture. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have been deeply integrated both into the fashion industry as well as within the experience of clients and prospects. Such interplay has happened at three main levels.

  1. ICTs are used to design and produce fashion products, while also the industry organization leverages onto digital technologies
  2. ICTs impact marketing, distribution and sales
  3. ICTs are extensively used in communication activities with all relevant stakeholders, and contribute to co-create the fashion world

Design, Production, and Organization

Among the many applications available to fashion designers to model the fusion of creativity with digital avenues, the Digital Textile Printing can be mentioned here.

Digital Textile Printing

Digital printing is a process in which prints are directly applied to fabrics with printer, reducing 95% the use of water, 75% the use of energy, and minimizing textile waste. The main advantage of digital printing is the ability to do very small runs of each design (even less than 1 yard).[1]

Digital Textile printing is “probably the greatest innovation of 21-st century fashion, “ Christina Binkley declared in the Wall Street Journal. The “vastly improved digital printing technologies allow designers to innovate while beefing up their brands“.[2]

Brand such as Prada, Pucci or Jil Sander are using this technology to invent their design ideas on fabric.

Marketing, Distribution, and Sales

While all digital channels can be used in order to market and sell fashion completely online (eCommerce), they usually are implemented in connection with offline channels (so-called "omni-channel"). Here Virtual and Augmented reality is playing a crucial role.

Online services

Prospects and clients can use ICTs - own computers, tablets and smart phones - to skip fitting rooms and cosmetics counters, and instead virtually see how they look in specific outfits and makeup via in-store kiosks, mobile phones or tablets.[3] Modiface is a web application that anyone can use to give them a virtual makeover. Customers can give any look and decide on what to suits and buy products.

Sephora, the beauty specialty retailer, and ModiFace, an augmented reality virtual makeover technology provider, today announced the launch of a 3D Augmented Reality Mirror that can simulate cosmetics on a user's face in real-time and in 3D. The new patented technology, created by ModiFace, tracks the precise location of a user's facial features and applies eye shadow colors directly on the video feed from a camera.[4][5]

Oftentimes beauty retailers will feature virtual fitting rooms to allow users to experience the look of their product before committing to a purchase. Some examples are color contact retailers Freshlook, which allows users to simulate contact lens wear in their color contacts studio before purchase.[6] Colorful Eyes also offers a virtual color contact lens try on room.[7]

Virtual Dressing Room

A virtual dressing room[8] (also often referred to as virtual fitting room and virtual changing room although they do perform different functions) is the online equivalent of the near-ubiquitous in-store changing room – that is, it enables shoppers to try on clothes to check one or more of size, fit or style, but virtually rather than physically.

The multimedia communication company Eyemagnet developed the Virtual Dressing Room for the Hallensteins menswear chain. The changing room is transformed to a single panel which reflects the user. These users can then use simple arm and hand gestures to ‘try on’ any apparel in the store, take a photo of any selected outfit and have it sent to their mobile phone. Newer versions of the technology eliminate the arm-waving altogether.[9]

Fashion retailer Topshop installed a Kinect-powered virtual fitting room at its Moscow store. Created by AR Door, the Augmented Fitting Room system overlays 3D augmented reality clothes on the customer. Simple gestures and on-screen buttons let users "try on" different outfits.[10] However, the high variability of virtual fit platforms to predict consumer clothes sizes called into question the accuracy of these systems in their current form.[11]

Communication and Experience Co-Creation

Fashion is also a matter of socially negotiating what is "in" or "out", fashionable or not. In other words, fashion items do not only play on the economic market of physical goods, but also - and sometimes even pore importantly - on the semiotic market of the production of social tastes and customs.

Thanks to social media, and to all services offered by the so-called web2.0, laypeople can contribute to co-create the fashion world, shaping tastes, customs, and fashion-related values.

Digital Fashion Education and Research

Nowadays, the fashion industry needs experts in digital fashion, equipped with the above-sketched knowledge and competences. Several Bachelor and Master programs in Fashion have in recent years integrated Digital Fashion courses.[12]

While there are not (yet) dedicated scientific journals devoted to the topic, several research activities have been done in the field. Among them, a dedicated Conference has taken place in 2015 in Seoul, South Korea (see its Proceedings[13]). In 2017, SComS - Studies in Communication Sciences, a Swiss-based Communication Journal, has launched a call for papers in the field of Fashion Communication,[14] stressing the role of Digital Fashion Communication.

Fashion is closely related with Art and Heritage: among the most important initiatives to digitize fashion history, thus making such heritage available to researchers, practitioners and all interested people, two projects can be mentioned: Europeana Fashion[15] and We Wear Culture[16] by Google Arts and Culture.


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