Fashion Technology in Asia
Photo by Carson Arias on Unsplash
Transforming the Fashion Industry through Technology
The fashion industry is undoubtedly one of the biggest industries globally. Experts have projected the industry will be worth US $3.3 trillion by 2030. It is also constantly evolving: the industry has always seen some form of technology usage – such as sewing machines, fashion designing technologies, etc – and today it has taken a significant leap forward with the type of technology being adopted by brands in a bid to redefine fashion.
Almost a decade ago, Uniqlo, one of Japan's leading brands, used technology to create its iconic AIRism fabric – an artificial fabric designed to enhance breathability – and HEATTECH, a lightweight, warm material. The unique fabric created waves in the fashion industry, and Uniqlo has constantly developed and enhanced its technology to stay ahead of its competitors. Today we see fabric suppliers such as Italy's Albini Group creating antiviral fabric, known as VIROFORMULA, using cutting-edge technology. The material, launched at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been designed to repel viruses and bacteria, essentially helping to reduce the risk of falling ill.
Within Asia, more brands and new ventures are emerging and deploying the latest in technology as a way to advance fashion in the region. More than just adopting technology in fabric development, fashion companies have gone a step further to use technology such as AR and VR, livestreams, digital fashion platforms, and more.
One example is Reflaunt, a brand that promotes fashion sustainability. Incorporated in Singapore with investors from Europe, Reflaunt has built a platform for the fashion industry that allows for a circular model. The technology, which also offers a digital footprint for authenticity verification, enables brands such as Balenciaga and COS to connect to the secondhand marketplace, and allows consumers to resell their past purchases on the brand's website, earning shopping credits. Brands can leverage this technology and capitalise on the fast-growing secondhand market, which they would otherwise have had difficulty accessing.
In China, Alibaba has taken an advanced approach to fashion technology by offering its consumers VR shopping experiences – a technology that they aim to continue developing. Launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alibaba's Buy+ gave consumers a platform to continue shopping in the comfort of their own homes by browsing brands' VR stores. Such technology has given fashion brands a new channel for revenue, which is poised to grow in the future. It will also allow international shoppers to indulge in the local store experience without having to physically fly to a country.
Another start-up in Singapore, BlinQ, was created to give consumers the experience of trying on outfits, similar to the experience they would have in the fitting room but online. Consumers can virtually try clothes on photographs of themselves and make their purchases online. Before its launch pre-pandemic, BlinQ secured funding of US $2 million, with the company setting its sights on the Southeast Asian fashion industry. Today, BlinQ has managed to secure tie-ins with Italian fashion retailer YOOX Net-A-Porter Group, expanding its reach and fashion technology endeavours internationally.
Fashion technology has seen accelerated growth in the past few years, mainly due to the pandemic and the need for brands to change their modus operandi. As the global digitalisation process evolves, the fashion industry will continue to see innovations andadvancements that will benefit both consumers and the industry.