T he world has changed plenty since the pandemic and the economic disruption that accompanied it arrived. We know that it's far from over and yet history also has shown that it will eventually pass. When that happens, people will repeat history. They have so far; look at the resistance to protective measures that is occurring. On the whole, people are creatures of habit, despite the warnings. But this post is about what designers can do once we overcome this hurdle and embrace our new "normal".
The full embrace of technology is a must if one wants to survive, and the investments to technology plus the steady pace of transformative innovation assures us that being invested in technological innovation is the best step forward. This starts at the design studio and how it connects to the manufacturing floor. At the most, investing in the kind of technology that allows one to turn ideas into patterns and digitize their designs and archives is a must. Not only is this for archival purposes, it serves multiple uses. For one, the ease of transforming ideas into patterns without wasting resources on sampling. Programs incorporating drape are much more sophisticated and will certainly be more so in the coming years. Gaming and the rush to explore digitizing collections in lieu of IRL collection presentation coupled with measures supporting environmental concerns practically begs it at the moment, fueling resource investment. The other is in the name of frugality. It costs money to maintain storage for archived garment. Digitizing removes this responsibility, keeping the ideas...the DNA of the label... on the cloud, taking up no physical room. But there is another aspect besides expenditure management where having garment patterns digitized come into play.
Designers need to be ready for when technology catches up to produce on-demand clothing printing when this technology arrives in a more accessible format. While it may not be cost-effective to keep actual garments, keeping the ideas...the DNA of the label... can be put on the cloud, and that takes up no physical room (again, another cost-saving measure). This way, when the technology comes available, a designer will have their archive on demand for times when the public is more interested in retro fashion, and allows for hybridization of pieces as one feels ready to move forward with creativity. All of this can be achieved, as can on-the-ready for garment production, when one's ideas are on stand-by. Plug the ideas into the appropriate program that can work with the kind of technology that produces garments, and one has garments on demand. Some technology, such as knitting machines, already exist to embrace this approach. And while early experimental research into 3D clothing printing was shelved, this was only due to technological and material limitations. Processes explored such as the collaborative efforts between Stella McCartney, Adidas and Evrnu involving liquefying cotton. Ecological innovations support the kind of material development that can be repurposed to harmonize with additive printing processes. Couple this with the technology to spin-print garments and you have the kind of innovation that only needs digitized ideas to convert into garments. Having archives ready for conversion puts one at the forefront.
Another possible business out of this will be servers that carry multiple designer archives and allow for on demand printing in more remote locations. Not only does this serve more established labels, it can also support fledgling design companies and independents, even at the student level. Some new companies can carry student or fringe designer works, and not necessarily whole collections either, allowing those at eh start-up level to put themselves out there without having to produce actual garments. This opens the door to more innovation by opening the doors for a larger talent pool to contribute at a global scale without creating a huge carbon footprint, especially as more and more of retail is being done at a virtual level online. The likelihood of a new influencer at the level of Christian Dior, Cristobal Balenciaga, Martin Margiela or Alexander McQueen could be more likely (and more frequent) and in a more democratic fashion as technology becomes more accessible. Thus, we have more support for a new type of growth in the industry without the environmental consequences, given that it centers on its fully recyclable nature.
A whole new form of fashion industry awaits as these technologies merge and are fine-tunes by the incredible advancements that we are preparing for. The global preparation for a 5G platform to support the internet of things will herald the kind of connectivity that, harnessed properly, will elevate us in ways that will both address our concerns and meet our needs beyond our imagination. Hopefully we can get the rest of society to be as enthusiastic, and it would be a shame if it took devastating environmental repercussions from our wasteful carelessness to be the impetus. The current global tragedy that is our current reality can be, for those with vision and determination, a huge opportunity. It can be more accessible for those willing to collaborate to get there. We have the platforms and networks to do this. We just need you.