Tech­nol­ogy & In­no­va­tion: The Core of Fash­ion Cre­ation

It is a com­pet­i­tive ecosys­tem to­day, and suc­cess be­hests in­no­va­tion to take a cen­tral stance in any brand or en­ter­prise’s busi­ness strat­egy. But how has in­no­va­tion evolved at the fash­ion in­dus­try in In­dia? IM­AGES Busi­ness of Fash­ion takes a look.

Business of Fashion - - Contents - Shivam Gau­tom with In­puts from Gur­bir Singh Gu­lati

It is a com­pet­i­tive ecosys­tem to­day, and suc­cess be­hests in­no­va­tion to take a cen­tral stance in any brand or en­ter­prise’s busi­ness strat­egy. But how has in­no­va­tion evolved at the fash­ion in­dus­try in In­dia?

We are liv­ing in the age of dig­i­tal Dar­win­ism – an epoch where evo­lu­tion of both tech­nol­ogy and lifestyle is way too fast for busi­nesses to adapt nat­u­rally. Rapid change in tech­nol­ogy and changes in the way we com­mu­ni­cate, con­nect, and dis­cover are car­ry­ing in­cred­i­ble im­pli­ca­tions for busi­nesses across in­dus­tries, com­pelling them to evolve through rig­or­ous in­no­va­tion. Whether it be global big­wigs like Toy­ota Mo­tors or a do­mes­tic fash­ion brand that has been just launched, busi­ness across the world are now com­pelled to en­dorse a for­ward-look­ing strat­egy and in­vest in both creativ­ity and tech­nol­ogy to adapt and out­per­form peers.

Even in In­dia, a coun­try whose dis­po­si­tion to­wards evo­lu­tion in gen­eral has al­ways been phleg­matic, ex­er­cises to in­no­vate, adapt and stay rel­e­vant is fast be­com­ing the trend for all in­dus­tries. This es­pe­cially holds true for a dy­namic, im­pul­sive, cre­ative and peo­ple in­ten­sive in­dus­try like fash­ion re­tail. Fash­ion it­self has had the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing ephemeral since ages; and this rapid meta­mor­pho­sis in the ecosys­tem has but only been in­stru­men­tal in mak­ing it a more chal­leng­ing busi­ness.

So, how are brands in the fash­ion in­dus­try be­ing in­no­va­tive? Be­fore we ac­cess that let’s gauge what the word in­no­va­tion

means to most of the play­ers of this do­main.

“For us, in­no­va­tion is the prof­itable im­ple­men­ta­tion of ideas that de­liver ex­cep­tional value to our con­sumers and to the com­pany,” says Mat­teo Lam­bert, VP Col­lec­tions, Bata. As a fore­run­ner in the In­dian footwear in­dus­try, Bata is pro­pelled by a 3 Key In­no­va­tion mantra that re­lates to com­fort, per­for­mance and sus­tain­abil­ity. The brand’s light weight, flex­i­ble and more re­bound out­soles made of en­hanced and

unique for­mu­la­tion com­pounds speak vol­umes

about the brands ded­i­ca­tion to in­no­vate. The healthy com­fort footbeds and in­soles of its Com­fit range and In­so­lia Col­lec­tion are some of the high­lights of its lat­est of­fer­ing.

Pop­u­lar home grown denim ma­jor Spykar holds that in­no­va­tion is all about cre­at­ing trendy and hi-fash­ion prod­ucts us­ing up­dated and ef­fi­cient tech­nolo­gies which pro­vide great look, feel and fin­ishes to the end prod­uct while re­duc­ing waste, and are eco-friendly and sus­tain­able.

“Some of the in­no­va­tions we use at Spykar in­clude less water in­ten­sive washes, laser tech­nolo­gies for dry pro­cess­ing and us­ing re­cy­cled yarns. We have cre­ated the en­tire line of jeans and jog­gers us­ing bi-stretch denim fab­ric. This col­lec­tion, for both men and women, pro­vides ex­tra flex­i­bil­ity and gives free­dom of move­ment,” says Ab­hishek Ya­dav, Gen­eral Man­agerDe­sign, Spykar.

As ex­plained ear­lier, even rel­a­tively younger brands are im­pelled by core prin­ci­ples of in­no­va­tion. Premium women’s wear fash­ion brand Samshék is a fine ex­am­ple. The brand be­lieves that in­no­va­tion is at the heart of the fu­ture of fash­ion and hence is driven by a pol­icy that re­volves around three Is – In­no­va­tion Im­me­di­acy and In­di­vid­u­al­ity.

“We ini­ti­ated with de­vel­op­ing a novel man­u­fac­tur­ing sys­tem to en­sure a quick turn­around time for cus­tom cloth­ing. We started with de­liv­ery of 48 hours for store bought prod­ucts and the ul­ti­mate vi­sion is to re­duce this de­liv­ery time to 99 min­utes. Our on­line or­ders are de­liv­ered within 5 days pan In­dia, USA and the UK,” says Samik­sha Ba­jaj, Co-Founder, Samshék.

“We have an ex­cel­lent man­u­fac­tur­ing sys­tem and a fan­tas­tic cus­tomi­sa­tion tool on our web­site. Re­cently, we launched an­other in­no­va­tion of 3D body scan­ner for per­fect mea­sure­ments in our phys­i­cal store. We are try­ing to work on re­cy­cled and wrin­kle free fab­rics for the fu­ture,” she adds.

Ur­ban Black­ber­rys is a fash­ion trend driven brand for the youth, where in­no­va­tion is achieved with a unique ‘Run­way to Mar­ket’ de­sign ap­proach rather the in­dus­try stan­dards that fol­lows fash­ion fore­cast agen­cies.

“Our in­no­va­tion re­lates to im­ple­men­ta­tion of de­sign think­ing and unique process that helps to iden­tify new ar­eas to ex­plore and de­velop, which in turn leads to in­no­va­tive prod­ucts,” says Kabeer Ko­daniyil, Head of De­sign, Ur­ban Black­ber­rys.

While most brands and com­pa­nies think of prod­uct or process in­no­va­tions, a slew of brands have been suc­cess­ful in cash­ing in on the pre­dic­tion of the fu­ture trends. Hyderabad based Syg­nal, an AI based firm that is cre­at­ing rip­ples across the globe with its blend of tech­nol­ogy-in­fused fash­ion, is one such name. The brand aims to en­hance the util­ity of cloth­ing by in­no­vat­ing smart cloth­ing for safety, health and fit­ness or to sim­ply make a fash­ion state­ments.

“We en­vis­aged ap­par­els will soon catch up with the boom in tech­nol­ogy. We fig­ured it would evolve to adapt more and more func­tions of the gad­gets we use rou­tinely, since ap­par­els cover a wider body sur­face area,” ex­plains Sau­mil Shah, Co-Founder, Syg­nal.

Syg­nal has the distinc­tion of pro­duc­ing the world’s first touch-en­abled t-shirt. The brand now spe­cial­izes in in­te­grat­ing elec­tron­ics with fash­ion and of­fers a range of smart fit­ness track­ing t-shirtd, a glow LED cloth­ing line and smart ac­ces­sories for men, women and kids alike.

De­sign Ca­pa­bil­i­ties

Cre­ative in­dus­tries sur­vive on the abil­ity to gen­er­ate ideas that ex­cel and in­no­vate and nowhere is this truer than in the world of fash­ion! Aes­thet­i­cally rich de­signs are one para­mount as­pect in fash­ion that busi­nesses can­not af­ford to ig­nore. In the re­cent years, de­sign has be­come pro­gres­sively more sig­nif­i­cant in the fash­ion in­dus­try, with de­sign-cen­tric prod­ucts, re­tail en­vi­ron­ments and pro­mo­tions now be­ing the sole facets in dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing re­tail­ers from their com­peti­tors in the volatile modern busi­ness weather.

“The abil­ity to con­vert in­ter­na­tional run­way trends into vi­able com­mer­cial con­cept is our key strength. To achieve that we fol­low a unique de­sign process which not only looks at run­way trends but also adapt the trends as per In­dian

“In­no­va­tion is cre­at­ing trendy and hi-fash­ion prod­ucts us­ing up­dated and ef­fi­cient tech­nolo­gies which pro­vide a great look, feel and fin­ish to the end prod­uct while re­duc­ing waste, are ecofriendly and sus­tain­able”

- Ab­hishek Ya­dav,

Gen­eral Man­ager- De­sign, Spykar

“Our in­no­va­tion re­lates to im­ple­men­ta­tion of de­sign think­ing and unique pro­cesses that help to iden­tify new ar­eas to ex­plore and de­velop, which in turn leads to

in­no­va­tive prod­ucts”

- Kabeer Ko­daniyil,

Head of De­sign, Ur­ban Black­ber­rys.

mar­ket and con­sumer needs. We re­fer to fore­cast­ing sites at a later stage just to val­i­date our find­ings, whereas most of the brands are de­pended on fore­cast sites and their out­comes make brands look sim­i­lar to each other,” states Kabeer Ko­daniyil.

In­dian fash­ion brands are pro­gres­sively in­vest­ing on pro­fes­sional de­sign teams to as­sist them in the highly com­plex, so­phis­ti­cated and am­biva­lent process of prod­uct de­vel­op­ment. “All our col­lec­tions are ex­clu­sively cre­ated by our team of de­sign­ers. We fol­low spe­cific sea­sonal themes as in­spi­ra­tion, from which we de­velop amaz­ing sto­ries,” adds Mat­teo Lam­bert.

Brands also are lev­er­ag­ing on cut­ting edge tech­nol­ogy to stream­line the pro­duc­tion process.

“Tech­niques like laser etch­ing and cut­ting is widely used for den­ims and indigo shirts dur­ing dry process. At the pro­duc­tion stage we utilise hy­per­fuse­and seam seal­ing ma­chines to cre­ate techno-aes­thetic prod­ucts,” says Kabeer Ko­daniyil.

Made-to-mea­sure brand Tailor­man is armed with the tech­ni­cal know-how to of­fer com­plete per­son­al­iza­tion of an en­sem­ble - right from the but­tons and lin­ings to the con­struc­tion and fit of the fi­nal gar­ment. “The cus­tomers can also choose to cu­rate their look ac­cord­ing to their per­sonal sense of style or oc­ca­sion, across dif­fer­ent price brack­ets. To fur­ther per­son­al­ize you can add cus­tom mono­grams or con­trast pip­ings to el­e­vate your look,” says Aswathi Kr­ish­nan.

Samshék utilises a slew of soft­wares to suit the dif­fer­ent stages of pro­duc­tion. “Start­ing from or­der to end man­u­fac­tur­ing some soft­wares have been out­sourced for pat­tern mak­ing and some are de­vel­oped in­house for in­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion with pro­duc­tion team. This has been done to ful­fill the or­ders smoothly on daily ba­sis,” says Samik­sha Ba­jaj.

The brand is cur­rently vy­ing to im­ple­ment au­to­matic sewing ro­bots and a mo­bile app for tak­ing mea­sure­ments from pho­tos. The au­to­matic sewing robot will help us to au­tomize the sewing process to some ex­tent as well. The mea­sure­ment app will help cus­tomers to ex­tract mea­sure­ments from three pic­tures of their front, back and side eas­ily and ac­cu­rately.

Bata is lev­er­ag­ing on three tech­nolo­gies to come up with power laden and tech­ni­cal lifestyle ap­parel — PWick fea­tur­ing fast dry and an­ti­mois­ture man­age­ment, Ac­tivent for en­hanced breatha­bil­ity and Psoft for com­fort.

In­dian brands and re­tail­ers are also in­creas­ingly draw­ing on Om­nichan­nel for in­creased rev­enue, re­duced costs and in­creased re­turn on as­sets.

“Our Om­nichan­nel ap­proach al­lows a seam­less shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence across all our plat­forms. Our team of stylists and master tailors are avail­able at the com­fort of your home to help you cu­rate an im­pec­ca­bly tai­lored look, while our web­site of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to vi­su­al­ize your cus­tomiza­tions through 3-D ren­der­ing,” says Aswathi Kr­ish­nan, Man­ager- De­sign & Mar­ket­ing Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Tailor­man.

Brands like Syg­nal have the ad­van­tage of be­ing a tech­nol­ogy-led com­pany, rather than ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing units. Most of the brand’s pro­cesses are now ma­chine based and it con­tin­ues to con­cen­trate its ef­forts to­wards re­duc­ing hu­man in­ter­ven­tion to the min­i­mal.

“Our in­house soft­ware plat­form caters to our cus­tom re­quire­ments to link each func­tion in a sys­tem based for­mat from the point to re­ceiv­ing an or­der to link­ing it di­rectly up to the pro­duc­tion stage. In lay­man terms, you can com­pare it with the func­tion­al­ity of a McDon­ald’s out­let, as soon as the or­der is re­ceived the kitchen starts pre­par­ing the re­quired item,” ex­plains Sau­mil Shah.

“We ini­ti­ated with de­vel­op­ing a novel man­u­fac­tur­ing sys­tem for a quick turn­around time for cus­tom cloth­ing. We started with de­liv­ery of 48 hours for store bought prod­ucts and the ul­ti­mate vi­sion is to re­duce this

de­liv­ery time to 99 min­utes”

- Samik­sha Ba­jaj,

Co-Founder, Samshék

Syg­nal is work­ing to­wards build­ing a plat­form of smart cloth­ing with sen­sors which can be fur­ther it­er­ated with fea­tures like touch, nav­i­ga­tion, ges­ture or pos­ture recog­ni­tion, so as to pro­vide bet­ter so­lu­tions in the do­main of safety, health, fit­ness, well­ness, etc. The brand’s range of Con­nected Ap­parel can be in­te­grated with such elec­tronic patches to pro­vide the user with a so­lu­tion to wear such patches with­out hav­ing to be be con­scious about the ap­pear­ance since it would be in­te­grated within the fab­ric. The Con­nected Ap­parel can com­mu­ni­cate with the brand’s Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence plat­form to use and trans­mit the data more ef­fec­tively.

Pric­ing Pol­icy

In­dian con­sumers have long been known to be price con­scious. While brands are com­ing up with de­signs and prod­ucts that align with the price sen­si­tiv­ity that In­dian con­sumers are syn­ony­mous with, there is a bal­ance of sorts as con­sumers too are slowly open­ing up to the idea of pay­ing more for qual­ity prod­ucts.

Kabeer Ko­daniyil echoes this say­ing, “More than af­ford­abil­ity, we fo­cus on cre­at­ing value in the prod­uct. For ex­am­ple, new tech­nol­ogy like seam seal­ing can hike up prod­uct costs. How­ever, we try and con­trol costs by con­vert­ing the tech­niques into aes­thet­ics rather than func­tion­al­ity,” he says.

Hav­ing said so, com­pet­i­tive pric­ing pol­icy re­main a para­mount strat­egy for all brands across the fash­ion in­dus­try.

“Our prod­ucts are af­ford­able lux­ury and we as­sure a higher qual­ity than oth­ers in the same price. Our vir­tual in­ven­tory model al­lows us to spend more on im­prov­ing qual­ity. Our av­er­age ticket size is `3,000 in­clu­sive of cus­tomiza­tion and ship­ping pan In­dia,” says Samik­sha Ba­jaj.

Also, af­ford­abil­ity is very sub­jec­tive, es­pe­cially in a coun­try with a vast de­mo­graphic di­ver­sity like In­dia. “When it comes to fash­ion, we can get a sim­i­lar look­ing prod­uct at very dif­fer­ent prices. What makes the dif­fer­ence is the raw ma­te­rial qual­ity, work­man­ship and fash­ion quo­tient. At Spykar, we en­sure to de­liver all the three fac­tors,” states Ab­hishek Ya­dav.

“In­no­va­tion is the prof­itable im­ple­men­ta­tion of ideas that de­liver ex­cep­tional value to our con­sumers

and to the com­pany ”

- Mat­teo Lam­bert,

VP Col­lec­tions, Bata

“Our Om­nichan­nel ap­proach al­lows a seam­less shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence across all our plat­forms. Our team of stylists

and master tailors are avail­able at the com­fort of your home to help you

cu­rate an im­pec­ca­bly tai­lored look, while our web­site of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to vi­su­al­ize your cus­tomiza­tions

through 3-D ren­der­ing ”

- Aswathi Kr­ish­nan, Man­ager- De­sign & Mar­ket­ing Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Tailor­man.

Sus­tain­abil­ity

Sus­tain­abil­ity is a cru­cial is­sue in the fash­ion re­tail in­dus­try es­pe­cially in this eco-friendly age; and in the wake of in­creas­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness among con­sumers, an in­creas­ing num­ber of brands are com­mit­ting them­selves to both the peo­ple and the planet.

“Tra­di­tion­ally, fast fash­ion model is not sus­tain­able. It pro­duces tons of in­ven­tory and the un­sold in­ven­tory is dumped caus­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal harm. How­ever, our model al­lows us to have a vir­tual in­ven­tory and make our busi­ness model com­pletely sus­tain­able. We are work­ing on util­is­ing re­cy­cled

“We en­vis­age ap­par­els will soon catch up with the boom in tech­nol­ogy to adapt more and more func­tions of gad­gets, since ap­par­els cover a wider body sur­face area as com­pared to our

gad­gets”

- Sau­mil Shah,

Co-Founder, SYG­NAL fab­rics in the fu­ture and also work on smart ap­par­els,” says Samik­sha Ba­jaj.

“It is a chal­leng­ing topic, but very ac­tual among con­sumers, es­pe­cially the younger gen­er­a­tions. Sus­tain­abil­ity is and will be­come more and more part of our agenda. Our tar­get is to make sus­tain­able col­lec­tions, with­out com­pro­mis­ing on style, com­fort, qual­ity and great pric­ing,” adds Mat­teo Lam­bert.

Syg­nal

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