In the beginning, fashion and technology were two separate concepts. Then - boom - we were born into shoes that lit up, wearable music players and screens that magically followed the direction they were flipped. Of course, it didn't just all happen at once. Not every company director woke up and signed the agreement to scrap the traditional running of their business one morning. For one particular company, as you're about to find out, it took a lot of courage, while others embraced changing technology, merging concepts and giving customers the best possible value for their time and money.
While low-market disruptive technologies enhance existing services at a low cost, such as in broadcasting fashion events - video streaming and exclusive apps for access to live coverage - new-market technologies are often feared until they are understood, a little bit like the elephant in the room before we realise it's Dumbo (Mickey Mouse stuff). The only thing they really disrupt is the norm, but always for the better. One Swiss legend that knows this all too well is the Swatch (Happy Birthday) a brand that was born as a result of fixing an untimely reaction to The Quartz Revolution, the new-market disruptive technology of the watch industry that began in 1970. As the new electronic watches were cheaper to make and had a slim design, mechanical watches went out of fashion and out of the production line. Japanese Seiko raced ahead, being the number one watch in the marathon of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics; Casio lit up like a year-round Christmas tree with LCD watches; while the Grinch of the industry, Switzerland, clutching tradition with both hands, Swatched its Global Market Share drop to 15% from 50%. It was after the appointment of a fresh face, Ernst Thomke, that Swatch was born in 1983, trading the premium price for a style makeover and low-cost production rates. Changing history, Swatch had a new trend-setter status by becoming a mass-market brand, demonstrating the consensus between design engineering and retaining a brand identity that has an eye-opening presence in the industry minus the jaw-dropping price tag.
The EFC Fashion Summit dedicated an event to the digitalisation of the fashion e-commerce culture. The London event held on 24th April of this year was attended by eTailers and industry leaders eager to share technology trends and means of better engaging the customer. Amongst the model organisations, Luxury brand Smythson simply adapted to developments in existing technology, thereby increasing its appeal to customers. The 122% increase in mobile transactions translated to an increase in revenue by 115%, showing how a small but necessary change can go a long way. Similarly, Acne enhanced its digital experience through full-screen video homepages, giving immaculate detail, and look-book collections for a convenient shelf-view of its products.
As consumers of fashion, we know that one most definitely does not fit all. Identifying with this, You Magazine sees Dressipi as a solution to 'Eradicate the frustrating cycle of click, buy, try and return. It's the new personal shopper in your life.' So far, it boasts over 250,000 profiles and purchases of 50% using its Outfit Builder recommendation. A further 'disruption' we look forward to is the Style Advice App, giving recommendations on the go, 24/7. Claiming to remove the 'gamble' of online shopping, the website that gets to know its consumer's compatibility with the clothes down to the 'Fashion Fingerprint' - the websites unique selling point feature that calculates your most suited colours based on your eye, hair and skin colour, knows the right styles for your body shape, brings up results with your favourite brands, in your style. Will it be 'easy chic' or 'elegant?'
Another e-xhausting e-commerce issue resolved by Tom Alliason, founder and CEO of Shutl, is delivery. With a team of 30, Shutl has a one-click solution to what a huge 90% of online shoppers regard as a top annoyance, according to Royal Mail's 2011 statistics. 67% of shoppers last year avoided it altogether, fleeing the checkout area before facing the idea of the dreaded delivery, as Comscore's research shows.
To avoid being house-bound from the day of ordering your item until it arrives or having to go through that heart-sinking feeling when you discover a delivery note sticking through your post-box, use the Shutl service that guarantees delivery on the day and at the time you choose. This technological disruption to the way orders are processed is very adaptable to websites, already used by Argos, Warehouse and Karen Millen, and is an unbeatable benefit for the fashion buyer, as no longer will one be disappointed by a dress arriving at an unpredictable date after the special occasion it was intended for, or not at all received when one is at work!
A great example at the core of all disruptive technologies is Apple - endlessly bringing out the 'latest' iPhone, often making devoted i-consumers wonder if the only difference is a higher digit and an extra letter, and preventing teenagers who have been saving up all year from fully enjoying their 'new' model. However, these are exactly the things that tell us it is a market-leader, tweaking and inventing new elements that place it second-to-none.
On 16 September 2013, the Burberry Spring/Summer 2014 Runway Show in London was filmed and photographed by iPhone 5's iSight® camera. The collaboration between the two iconic brands evoked the key to the digital and the fashionable: the two coexisted, yet could not be separated. As Christopher Bailey, Burberry Chief Creative Officer stated, 'We have a mutual passion for creating beautiful products and unlocking emotive experiences through technology, which has made it intensely exciting to explore the capabilities of iPhone 5s.' Likewise, Apple's, as a digital medium, is governed by fashion, as fashion is instilled into its aesthetic, perceptive and physical parts of design and technological innovations. Further proof of this is Apple's recent addition to the team, including executives from Saint Laurent and Nike.
However, not everyone is in favour of fashion shows being as mass-produced as iPhones, especially, the industry leader Oscar de la Renta. Probably the least likely to be a fan of flashing mobile phones and young ultracrepidarian fashion bloggers, he commented that "Fashion spectacle has to become more manageable, more exclusive, shaped and sorted out and aimed, not at live multitudes, but at those who actually know what fashion is.' Offended by the elite circle of show-goers being rudely penetrated by the eyes of common people, De la Renta decided to have one show instead of two in the Fashion Week. Touché, but respectable, coming from a brand that identifies with classic style over everywhere-trend.
Balancing the authenticity of a brand as a luxury with its exposure to the masses can be a challenging step to adapt to, as the distribution lines between the exclusive and the mass-market are blurred. Can this be seen as a positive thing? In the digital fashion age, it can be. With fast-changing technology, the fashion industry on the whole is open to the public, encouraging customers to engage with it through all the technologies that have become the main medium to access it. Embracing change is recognising future success.