Digital innovation in the fashion industry

Interview with fashion designer Ilinca LUNGU

Ilinca Lungu, a young fashion designer and recent graduate from London College of Fashion, has built up a strong background experience in the fashion industry, working with major brands such as Marc Jacobs. Due to the strong impact of digital transformation in the fashion industry, Ilinca has decided to look for alternative ways of expressing her creativity and skills. Therefore, she started working as a freelance 3D apparel designer and has successfully created her first fashion digital collection.

Ilinca will let us discover the impact of new technologies on the fashion industry as well as the way she seized the opportunities of digital transformation in order to design her own virtual fashion collection. 

How did you start creating digital fashion?

Last year, I was a final year fashion student preparing to sew my collection for the final presentation – a big opportunity to be seen by possible employers. However, since the lockdown was instated in London in March, it became difficult for students to create their final garments. Without a collection to show, the traditional fashion graduate portfolio guidelines changed – which pushed me to be more creative regarding the presentation of my work. This is how I discovered the emerging world of digital 3D garments, a perfect medium to learn and to present fashion ideas in.

What are the benefits of digital transformation in the fashion industry?

Digital transformation has proven to be beneficial in the past, making the fashion industry more accessible to everyone with an internet connection.

About the recent digital transformation, including e-commerce tailored for each individual, VR and AR (for example visualizing how garments would fit you through a filter) and 3d digital garments, I believe they bring a series of benefits.

Let us take 3d digital garments, one of their greatest advantages is the sustainable side: they are zero waste. In the development process of a collection, it usually takes around 3 prototypes of a garment until its final design and fit. Digitalising the process through a 3d software is time-efficient, saves the fabric used for the prototypes, and gives the same, if not, improved results. Moreover, they can be later used for marketing purposes, such as digital photoshoots showcasing how the garment would look on different people, in different environments, etc.

What are the biggest challenges that the fashion industry faces due to digital transformation?

Some brands can adapt more quickly to it than others, depending on the willingness to evolve and the size of the company. Talking about e-commerce, social media, and online marketing in general, most brands that were late to the party didn’t grow as much as the ones that quickly adapted to consumer demands.  

In the present time, I believe the same goes with adapting to the increased expectations of a digital audience, that is interested in innovative and creative thinking. In an oversaturated market, I think people want to see something different, and brands must be constantly alert, ever-improving, and ready to update their strategy. I believe that is a big challenge, hence it requires an open mindset and plenty of resources such as time and constantly trained employees.

How does technology affect the fashion industry and the work of fashion designers?

In general, I think technology changed the way fashion is consumed, both negatively and positively. Since the uprise of technology, fashion has become more democratic: for example, everyone can see the clothes in a catwalk show right the moment they are presented, through live broadcasted events on online platforms. On the other hand, technology allows fashion to have a very fast rhythm, in production, consumption, and after that, rapid disposal of items that are no longer thought to be ‘in trend’, which leads to massive landfills.

As for the work of fashion designers, I think that the creation process remained quite the same. However, especially in the pandemic, fashion is viewed mainly through a screen, so more and more fashion designers start to consider how the clothes would look in a picture.

How did you adapt as a fashion designer to the changes caused by digitalization?

As a young designer, I think I adapted rather quickly since everything is new to me and I am eager to learn. Moreover, my generation grew up in an internet era, so we are more receptive to fast changes and online-based interactions. Knowing how to use a computer from a young age, I learned computer programs intuitively and enjoyably.  

Is social media a good marketing strategy in the fashion industry?

I would say one of the best in these times. While this may not be a universal truth for every fashion brand, I think it is one of the quickest ways to be noticed. Nevertheless, since social media is already saturated with companies trying to sell products, the strategy needs to be well considered.

How does the fashion industry keep up with what is known to be the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ (Industry 4.0)? 

The fashion industry has been criticized in the past for its slow adaptation to technology. Let us take the previously used example – catwalk shows. Although they are more open to the public, they have remained more or less the same as 100 years ago: models parading in different outfits in front of a select number of people that are insiders of the industry.

I believe that the pandemic has increased the necessity of technology in the fashion industry, and more companies are becoming open to change. Diverse fashion/tech start-ups are appearing on the market and making headlines – let’s hope that the fashion industry will manage to become more innovative.  

Georgiana HRISCU

Master 2 Cyberjustice, Promotion 2020/2021

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