The article first appeared on the Forbes.
Recent global fashion summits held in Bangladesh and Denmark have demonstrated critical sustainability shortcomings in business models, design and manufacturing processes in fashion. Legacy systems rooted in the old six-month fashion cycle driven by brands and retailers are now heaving under the strain of new, monthly small batch production orders driven by consumers; with their ever-changing fashion choices in response to fleeting Instagram trends.
The summits also revealed that the same challenges in the fashion industry are being debated year in, year out (living wages, reducing textile and garment waste, how to use technology in retail experiences, amongst others) with little change from the inside. So where to from here? Inaction spells environmental disaster and failure to keep up with consumers. Who will disrupt an industry in desperate need of radical change in both sustainability and the adoption of new technologies? Why not a group of fashion students?
A collaboration between Microsoft and London College of Fashion has supported six teams of students who co-opted a range of Microsoft hardware, software, artificial intelligence and cloud computing tools to create hugely ambitious (and surprisingly polished) retail-tech and sustainability software and hardware solutions—in just three months. No mean feat for design, marketing and business students at a fashion college that does not have coding on the curriculum.
What London College of Fashion does have is the Fashion Innovation Agency(FIA)—a facet of its Business and Innovation service that brings creatives and technology heavyweights together to hack and hypothesize solutions for fashion creation, promotion, and sales. LCF also has a Digital Learning Labthat lends technical and developer support on such collaborative projects. Crucially, the collaborations that the Innovation Agency orchestrates place creative and disruptive criteria ahead of commercial, providing scope for unbridled ideas that most agencies couldn’t (or wouldn’t) have a stab at. The FIA provided an industry "sense-check" throughout the three-month collaboration in order to shape the students' ideas into industry-relevant solutions.
The outcomes of the Microsoft X LCF "Accelerating the Future of Fashion"project include SWAPP—an Azure-driven software solution that allows consumers to swap their face into promotional brand content to "see themselves" in ads. From a 20-second video of the user's face, the SWAPP team are able to generate a high-resolution face swap experience within 20 minutes, thanks to cloud computing power.
Offering another consumer-centric solution, E.M.I. is a collaborative design platform linking 3D garment design software and HoloLens, allowing shoppers to customize garment design in real time by choosing the collar or fabric, for example, and interacting with their design in mixed reality. With mass personalization a key driver for sales in the Gen-Z audience—soon to make up 40% of consumers globally—this solution seems timely.
Read more on the Forbes.