The buzzword Industry 4.0 is on everyone’s lips. But how exactly can technological advances and digitalisation influence fashion and its production? Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics is certain: FashionTech is the future for Germany, and the industry is well-positioned here.

FashionTech – the term includes technical textiles, such as wearables or high-end sportswear. It also includes the influence of technology on the fashion industry’s value chain. That runs from the use of “virtual reality” in the design process right through to the use of smart data in marketing. For the fashion industry, there are numerous points of contact that can create more efficiency and savings for manufacturers, and more comfort for customers.

Billions in sales potential for smart textiles

Smart textiles are in demand. Whether it’s babies’ wearables, such as a sock that measures oxygen levels , or high-end sportswear with special physical properties, the market is big. The Center for European Economic Research forecasts a market volume of around 700 million euros for Germany in 2022, which should rise to 4.2 billion euros by 2030. Federal Minister of Economics Brigitte Zypries sees good opportunities for the German fashion industry here: “FashionTech is still about niches right now, especially in the health sector, but also in a few isolated areas of fashion and accessories. Competitive sport is a potential future driver and other customer groups will follow suit. This is good news for the German textile and fashion industry. We are a land of engineers and creative people, and we are particularly strong in combining quality, inventiveness, and high technical standards. ”

Making the fashion industry’s strengths visible

These strengths are also becoming more and more visible in the fashion industry. The combination of fashion design, technology, and new materials has given FashionTech new fields of application and created new opportunities for the fashion industry. For example, Tommy Hilfiger has developed a solar jacket that charges a smartphone . Function meets Fashion was the motto of the presentation of the new Levis/Google cycling jacket, in which the smartphone is operated by moving the sleeve while cycling. Creative impulses also come from the Design Research Lab at the Berlin University of Arts. Among other things, novel tactile forms of interaction with end devices and textiles are being developed, and students are learning how to design prototypes of interactive clothing . One product is the “Industry 4.0 Smart Maintenance Jacket”, which helps the user navigate through a building and indicates danger zones.

The production process is also running in mode 4.0

FashionTech is not only producing the clothes of the future, it also uses innovative methods, such as 3D printing. Internationally acclaimed designer Iris van Herpen uses this technique to create her haute couture robes. Adidas offers the ability to produce soles using 3D printers, tailoring them to the runner’s foot. The market for 3D printer technology is growing rapidly. This year, around ten billion euros will be spent on 3D printing. That’s an increase of 20% compared to 2017. In addition to innovative products and flexibility, this production technology promises enormous efficiency. According to the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, it could save US manufacturers 18.3% of their production costs.

Digital innovations save time and resources

Numerous other digital innovations are helping to further optimise the manufacturing process. Computer-based virtualisation technology facilitates the idea generation, design, and production of clothing. Hugo Boss already uses this technique in several categories. “Their use reduces the number of physical patterns and related resources,” says the company. Even complex logistics will be supported by new solutions in the future. An example is a glove with an integrated barcode scanner. This frees up both hands for the warehouse employee to scan, performing several steps of the workflow simultaneously. BMW has tested this innovation in its Dingolfing plant. They found it to save up to five seconds per scan, which meant about 4,000 minutes of saved working time per day.

These examples show that production is facing a profound change due to Industry 4.0 and its new possibilities. Standards will need to be defined for the industrial networking of various systems, devices, and components. This is the aim of the Industry Business Network 4.0 association. It brings together companies, institutions, and individuals to promote the implementation of Industry 4.0 in the SME sector . Last November, the experts presented the standard IF4.0, which is designed to manage the vendor-independent exchange of information in a smart factory. “Thanks to the standardised exchange of information between different machines and systems with IF4.0, implementing a smart factory will finally become attractive for small and medium-sized enterprises, offering direct added value,” says Igor Mikulina, CEO of Industry Business Network 4.0 eV, commenting on the benefits of the standard.

Digitalisation helps with sales

With FashionTech, new technologies also play a major role in sales. Virtual Reality is a great way to add value for the consumer. eBay Australia has opened a virtual department store with the country’s leading retailer Myer. With the help of VR glasses, customers stroll through a department store environment. Through fixation with the eyes, they can get more detailed information about the product and place it in their shopping cart. In selected stores, Dior is using its VR headset Dior Eyes to offer an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at a fashion show . In addition, the VR glasses can also be used to try on clothes. Here, the customers are open-minded. More than half of all Germans assume that they will be able to try on clothes virtually in ten years’ time.

Starting this year, Boss will be using a digital showroom. This table with a 65-inch touch screen will present a complete collection, showing the colour and combination options, and allowing collection items to be ordered directly. With the digital showroom, the company will no longer provide a complete sample collection for the order phase. The collection will only be offered to the customer digitally, which should reduce complexity and create flexibility.
Whether online or in-store, retailers are collecting data on every customer contact. It is important to leverage this treasure trove and to draw the right conclusions for sales, pricing, and marketing. This service is offered by companies such as Blue Yonder, which supports the retail giant Otto. Blue Yonder, a provider of AI retail solutions, says that retailers can cut their out-of-stock rates by up to 80% and increase sales and profits by more than 5%.



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