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Industry urged to embrace fashion technologies

Apprenticeships, fashion design courses and internships must put greater emphasis on the growth of fashion technologies in the sector, according to analyst group GlobalData.

Hannah Abdulla, apparel correspondent at GlobalData, said that fashion brands and training academies must capitalise on the attractiveness of digital technologies to tackle what she described as a skills shortage in UK garment manufacturing.

Abdulla called on the sector as a whole to embrace the potential of new technology as rising labour costs, and a growing need to bring products to market faster, makes more businesses think about reshoring apparel production. But she questions whether there is enough talent for this to help support the UK fashion industry in its current format.

“The concern is the skills base within the current fashion manufacturing network is ageing,” she explained.

“Many of the technical and production skills are dying out or have moved offshore. While apprenticeships are available, uptake is low. In this new digital age, pattern-cutting just isn't sexy, and young people simply don't want to work in factories.”

Abdulla claimed everyone with a smartphone is a photographer, and all people with access to social media can be a marketer.

“The world is more tech-savvy and everything revolves around technology,” she commented.

“Clothing brands and manufacturers know they need to deliver product at a much faster rate than they were before and so the rate of adoption of digital technologies is increasing. Fairly soon, jobs that were at the heart of the industry such as machinists and pattern-cutters will be obsolete.”

Companies such as Amsterdam-based The Fabricant are looking to win in this new fledgling space which is impacting the fashion world. Founder, Kerry Murphy, says he want his business to become a leader in digital fashion, and create products used in people’s digital lives – gaming avatars or social media, for example – rather than physical items.

There’s not a sufficient market for that right now, but Murphy predicts a complete change in the fashion world over the coming years – he also believes people will increasingly have a 'digital twin' that requires dressing. Right now, his company helps businesses such as Adidas and Tommy Hilfiger create digital content, but he believes these services can evolve into more widespread digital design and digital fashion.

“We want to create digital-only capsule collections with luxury brands,” he noted.

“They get excited about it, but they don’t see the ROI on it yet. We need a brand to jump on board with us and create something that no-one has ever seen before.”

Murphy was speaking after The Fabricant supplied its creations for the recent Hot:Second digital fashion pop-up retail experience, located in London's Shoreditch, which was attended by Essential Retail.