Julien Pajot is Senior Consultant at the XL Conseil
How is digitization transforming the fashion world, and what changes is it imposing on the industry’s various players? These key questions will be discussed in a webinar* at our next Digital Show, in a discussion led by Julien Pajot, who shares some of his initial thoughts with us.
The recent pandemic forced brands to speed up their digitization. In what ways, specifically?
The retail sector had already begun this process with the whole development of e-commerce but the pandemic obliged brands to undergo a transformation in two areas in particular. The first were the sales sessions, traditionally a very “physical” moment, with buyers coming from all over the world during specific fashion weeks to see the new products in showrooms and to place their orders. As travelling became impossible, everyone had to act as quickly as possible to fill the void, which at times involved quite a bit of improvising. The second transformation involved the brands’ relationships with manufacturers in terms of prototyping and technical specifications. The prototypes and their modifications were done virtually, to replace – or at least limit – actual physical versions. In general these involved one of two approaches – either a 3D design of the product, or a computer virtualization of an already manufactured product.
There’s a lot of talk about digital continuity. What does that mean in practice?
The idea is to bridge digital discontinuity, which is a major challenge for the entire industry. For example, a designer or a materials developer who goes to a trade show to place an order has to re-enter the information, because there isn’t any materials master sheet in a universal format that can be shared between tools. In terms of computer-aided design, there is as yet no real interoperability allowing an item to be transferred from one software application to another. So the idea behind digital continuity is to make all the industry’s various operations more fluid.
Which brands successfully made the digital shift?
The word ‘successfully’ is slightly ambitious! Let’s just say that some have become more proactive in terms of this digital shift, and are seeking to move beyond sales to create an actual artistic statement. Balenciaga, in particular, has embarked on a very distinctive creative endeavor, venturing into the world of virtual reality. And while this is certainly a very spectacular approach for a fashion show, it encompasses a deeper transformation of the House, with the development of 3D product design. Brands also took advantage of this time to think up more immersive and creative buying experiences.
What can we learn from their experiences to develop a sort of charter of good practices?
The first piece of advice is, never forget the basics! It’s really critical to integrate new tools into existing processes, even if that requires upgrading them. To do this you need good document management, which lets you absorb new virtual files and environments without getting lost. It’s also necessary to re-examine your processes, to ensure that all the different actors along the chain can coordinate and share an increasing amount of information with a minimum of effort.
Digitization will continue its acceleration. What new areas will be transformed next?
It’s a tough question, we tend to go from one surprise to the next! The technologies are there and they will, obviously, mature. I think that the coming transformation will be cultural. How will designers imagine their products? How will this virtual world shape the mind of the designer? This new way of thinking will undoubtedly upset the entire creative process – from the design of the materials to the finished product.