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Technology Evolving Transparency

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In his latest piece for WhichPLM, Yotam Solomon (resident Expert), discusses how true sustainability, advanced technology, and fashion design are more closely linked than we might think. Yotam is a fashion designer & product developer focusing on cradle-to-cradle innovation in RFA.

Fashion is an ever-evolving industry that depends on changing trends, which occur on a seasonal basis, inspiring consumers to purchase new products. Most countries across the globe adhere to this methodology, though some regions – like the United States – tend to focus on mass consumption. Unlike other industries, fashion products must adhere to very specific proportions, dimensions, and fabrications to ultimately fit and protect the wearer. And now, the industry must factor in technological innovations to stay relevant in the current era, which is strongly influenced by computing, both physically and virtually. Corporations and startups are investing in new solutions like nano-computing, temperature control, dynamic shape, color changes, and much more.

More importantly, some companies are beginning to utilize blockchain to create tracking metrics and algorithms that will lead to better production standards, along with more consumer transparency as blockchain will allow them to trace the origins of their products and the materials within them. But what is blockchain exactly? Think of it as an ever-growing record linked together using highly secure technology. These “blocks” of information, protected with cryptography, contain critical information about production, including timestamps from each stage of manufacturing, transaction data, and pertinent details from the previous block. Once this data has been inputted, it cannot be modified ensuring accountability and compliance with environmental and labor standards. The adoption of blockchain in the fashion industry would dramatically overhaul outdated and destructive manufacturing methods.

Most developers and companies set specific goals to provide consumers with information on the products they purchase, such as design efforts, the raw materials used, the manufacturing process, and the methods of distribution. They supply product care instructions, post-sale information, and warranty services. Blockchain technology will take these efforts even further. Additionally, blockchain will also protect creative intellectual property and combat advertising fraud.

Cognitive intelligence is another source of computing advancement leading innovation in the fashion industry. This technology simulates how the human mind performs tasks like problem-solving, learning, and reasoning along with mimicking social intelligence. Implementing multiple technologies simultaneously will allow companies to generate seamless accessibility within complex distribution networks, while also resolving logistical obstacles. Advanced software can pre-determine best practices by engineering and designing higher quality products that carry a lower carbon footprint which will be produced in quantities derived from calculated consumer demand. Cognitive intelligence could do much more than project and forecast consumer habits and trends, it could potentially design products that are based on qualities and performance metrics we have yet to even conceptualize. These could range from comfortability, fit, temperature control, protection, and even automation that could transform the way we live and behave. These systems can perform functions that industry leaders could not even imagine ten years ago!

The state of our environment has been the catalyst for much of the wonderful innovation in the fashion industry. Sustainability is being developed as a metric that goes beyond merely protecting our natural resources and reducing pollution. The industry is beginning to realize that corporate growth and scale up has serious implications and a balanced approach must be implemented to curb poor manufacturing practices. The accessibility of technology and information also puts pressure on these companies to be more transparent. Previously, the fashion industry avoided consumer education because they had concerns about confidentiality and competition. Funding for conventional educational resources was limited and the interest was simply not there. But now, in the era of information, companies are feeling the pressure. Resources are being deployed and advanced computing systems are being rapidly adopted to meet the needs of the modern consumer. Interactive algorithms and cognitive intelligence platforms will reshape the way consumers evaluate their shopping experience.

Soon, advertising jargon and simplistic product quality data will not be enough. In the next few years, consumers will begin to shop based largely on the manufacturing details of the products and the origins of the materials with which they are made. Fashion companies who do not adopt technology like blockchain will find themselves faced with unattainable demands from consumers, resulting in the loss of market shares.

We are approaching the year 2020, which will herald a new decade of innovation thanks to the development of advanced computers, the internet, and environmental sustainability efforts. Consumer demand has shifted dramatically since 2010, due to the fight against climate change and mass consumerism, as the impact of fast fashion and overconsumption has become more visible overtime. It is clear that we are starting a new chapter in the ever-changing world of fashion —a journey into uncharted territory that encompasses two very different concepts that became dependent on one another. Some may argue that advanced software and computing technology is far from natural or sustainable, but it is the leading source of innovation as a strategic tool for humans to help save our planet. True sustainability is proving to be a highly involved and difficult issue to solve, yet we are finding solutions that wouldn’t exist without advanced technology. Fashion design directly reflects the evolution of humankind. More than ever, we are witnessing how political fashion can be and how our decisions as consumers can transform the way products are made. Consumer education has never been more important or prevalent. And we will only continue to expand our consciousness. As a designer and product developer, I’m truly proud of the new sustainability standards and consumer awareness that I’m witnessing within the fashion industry. We are on the brink of a new age where corporations and consumers are advocating for the same cause and it is going to be a truly fun ride.

Yotam Solomon Yotam Solomon is a fashion designer and product developer focusing on cradle-to-cradle (C2C) innovation in apparel and footwear. Yotam draws inspiration from the natural environment; he has designed collections based on the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico and on the relationship between prescribed drugs and its effect on our DNA.His approach to design goes beyond the aesthetic of a product; it’s about supporting people, building an economy, and preserving and enriching our natural resources. By working with mass manufacturers and smaller production houses, Yotam initiated new research and development projects to eliminate toxic chemicals from today’s manufacturing process.Yotam brings insight about the relationship between sustainable design and the purchasing habits of the end consumer, and serves on our Expert panel as a sustainable fashion design expert.