In its anticipated annual report, The Business of Fashion outlined its forecast for the industry in 2020 and the findings were pretty bleak.
Trade wars and changes in the social media ecosystem have put retailers in a sort of panic for the year ahead and industry leaders appear to be scrambling to make some immediate changes.
Unsurprisingly, sustainability topped the list of challenges for the fashion industry.
With Greta Thunberg’s movement at the forefront of the media, climate change has finally become a hot topic. Governments and businesses are being pushed to become part of the solution, but maybe more remarkable has been the course of action by average consumers, who are becoming more discerning about who they buy from.
The fashion industry has a long-standing reputation for extreme energy consumption and pollution, which is causing consumers to seriously consider their buying choices based on corporate responsibility. So naturally, retailers that want to maintain the loyalty of their customers will need to become sustainable very quickly.
Lihi Pinto Fryman, the co-founder of Syte, believes that technology will play a key role in driving down waste in the fashion industry. “Extreme challenges are best solved with technology,” she says.
Pinto Fryman was one of the early pioneers of visual search, a technology which allows shoppers to search for fashion items using a picture, rather than typing in keywords. The technology returns more accurate results to the customer because artificial intelligence analyzes the picture to learn exactly what the customer is looking for, instead of having to guess based on general words.
Having accurate insights like these can help retailers with their sustainable efforts, according to Pinto Fryman.
“Visual search will become a game-changer in evolving sustainable fashion businesses,” she explains. “Think about how Blue Apron eliminated so much food waste by planning their recipes in advance and working with farmers to grow the exact ingredients needed. That kind of efficiency is exactly what the fashion industry needs to emulate.”
Since visual search allows retailers to understand exactly which colors, cuts, lengths, and clothing types that customers are searching for by picture, Pinto Fryman is suggesting that retailers can use these specific insights to more accurately predict fashion trends, and streamline their inventories and supply chains accordingly. Doing so will reduce the waste and pollution associated with production.
Could this be the solution? The discussion will inevitably continue.
Last year, the Business of Fashion predicted the “end of ownership” trend – meaning that consumers would opt to rent clothes, rather than buy, which would have a major impact on the fashion industry and its sustainability. This trend hasn’t hit yet, if it will at all, but the point still stands: the fashion industry must do more to become sustainable. It will be interesting to see if visual search is the answer.