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Report: Six Innovations to Watch in Apparel

While technology continues to advance fashion retail, some innovations are more likely than others to take a firm foothold in the sector in coming years.

According to Drapers’ 2017 Future Trends and Innovation report, the digital revolution of fashion retail is in full swing, but the way in which retailers incorporate technology, including artificial intelligence and augmented reality, and use data could place them ahead of the pack.

The report noted how six innovations—on-demand clothing manufacturing, interactive hanging beacons, WeChat, HoloLens technology, intelligent fit and invisible payments could help retailers stay relevant and facilitate better consumer experiences in the future.

On-demand clothing manufacturing

Some fashion retailers are turning to on-demand clothing manufacturing to boost their businesses. Unlike traditional manufacturing, on-demand manufacturing enables retailers to quickly produce clothing after a consumer places an order. On-demand manufacturing could potentially cut apparel production from weeks to just one day. This technology reduces scraps and improves efficiency, so retailers can be more sustainable and keep up with consumers’ demands on a regular basis, too.

The concept has gained momentum in the fashion retail space lately, especially with retailers like Amazon. In April, Amazon secured a patent for an on-demand apparel manufacturing system. The system incorporates a coordinating computer device and a textile production assembly line to seamlessly produce apparel. What’s more, the system’s technology enables Amazon digitally group orders from all over the world, so customers can order apparel and Amazon can instantly fulfill orders in a compressed time frame.

Interactive hanging beacons

Beacon technology has made its debut at many fashion retailers, including Ted Baker and Urban Outfitters, but a more advanced model could be in the works.

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Although beacons already capture data and improve consumer experiences in stores, a new development in beacon technology is focusing on what happens after shopping trips.

Keeping the post-purchase journey in mind, the development aims to connect in-store and digital experiences after consumers leave stores. Future beacons would track consumer movements in stores and capture data. Once a consumer exits the store, the beacons would then send information to consumers about items they didn’t buy, so they could purchase them online later. By taking the post-purchase journey into consideration, retailers can utilize beacons beyond the brick-and-mortar environment and fulfill consumers’ needs across other channels.


WeChat—China’s social media-meets-commerce platform, is gaining momentum beyond the Chinese market. Fashion retailers worldwide, including those in the U.K., are currently looking at WeChat to tap into Chinese consumers’ needs. What’s more, the platform, which currently has more than 300 million users globally, enables users to send money to contacts and complete mobile payments. WeChat could be a potential boon for retailers, since the platform provides access to millions of consumers and a way for retailers to instantly boost digital sales.

HoloLens technology

Microsoft’s latest device could accelerate fashion retail in coming years. The company’s HoloLens, a pair of wireless augmented reality smartglasses, project holograms for users and provide them the ability to change their scenery instantly. Although furniture stores are incorporating the device to help consumers visualize décor placement, expanding HoloLens to fashion retail could really take off.

Using the HoloLens, consumers would be able to view products and change the fit and style of garments with slight head movements. Retailers also benefit from the technology, since the eye-scanning tech would enable them to track consumers’ favorite items. Beyond facilitating an individualized consumer process, this device may lead retailers to make better merchandising decisions in the long run.

Intelligent fit

When it comes to online shopping, finding the right style and fit could be challenging for some consumers. To reduce online returns, technology companies, like FitMe, have enabled e-tailers to post size guides based on consumers’ individual body measurements. This sizing technology is projected to become more advanced and suggest items that would complement desired products.

Invisible payments

Streamlining the checkout process is a top priority among fashion retailers. Credit card businesses, including Mastercard and Visa, are debuting payment technology applications that save card information. Instead of entering card details, the technology allows consumers to confirm their identity with facial recognition or a fingerprint scanner.

Mastercard launched Identity Check Mobile, which allows consumers to use facial recognition to check out, while Visa rolled out an invisibly payment system at Amazon Go’s Seattle location, where consumers are automatically charged for products they take from the store.