Dressing smart: Carla Buzasi on how the fashion industry has finally found a flair for tech

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Carla Buzasi, global chief content officer at fashion forecaster WGSN and former editor-in-chief at Huffington Post UK, says the fashion industry is finally catching up with technology.

Rebecca Minkoff in her NY store

The fashion industry likes to think of itself as ahead of the game. But when it comes to technological innovation, in reality it’s been by and large slow on the uptake and nervous about exploiting the opportunities on offer. However, times are changing, and there are a wave of brands not only getting in on the game, but teaching other industries ways of playing… and winning.

American designer Rebecca Minkoff has carved out a niche as a designer not afraid to experiment with technology. In the changing rooms of her New York flagship store, for example, interactive digital mirrors allow customers to change the light settings on the mirrors from ‘afternoon on the High Line’ to ‘Soho after dark’ and a few others aside to test how items will appear at different times of the day. But that’s not the clever bit. Sensors in the mirrors also detect the code on clothing tags and automatically pull product information onto the screens, including additional sizes and colours not available in store.

It’s no great secret that, thanks to the likes of Natalie Massenet at Neta- Porter, shopping for fashion online can feel almost as luxurious as in a boutique on Bond Street.

However, it’s only recently that that luxury has been matched with an equal dose of simplicity. Just as long queues at the checkout frustrate the hell out of fashion lovers, the digital equivalent – trillions of steps to convert your online basket to a purchase – will do the same.

Selfridges and All Saints have both reduced 11-step basket-to-purchase marathons to just three simple clicks, the latter by introducing Amazon Login and Pay. Zappos and Asos, meanwhile, both have iPhone apps that take advantage of fingerprint identity, cutting down on the need for passwords, credit card details and security codes.

Sometimes it’s not about using new technologies, but being inspired by current ones. Grabble is the fashion version of Tinder. Users build online wardrobes by swiping items from high street collections. The more you swipe, the more personalised your feed of clothes and accessories becomes.

At WGSN, we took SoundOut technology used by the music industry to crowdsource opinions on potential hit singles, and repurposed it for the fashion industry. Buyers for big retailers can test items to gauge opinion with a given age group and gender, and then decide whether to buy deep, or not.

Personalisation is where technology and fashion have found their perfect match, and where ecommerce can really take things to the next level – and that doesn’t mean just a, ‘Hello, Miss X’ message when you log on to a site. It means the clothes you’re more likely to want to buy, delivered at the top of the page and sorted with relevance. So no more scrolling through 742 bikinis to find the one you like. Leading the field in this space is ShopDirect, which is in the middle of implementing a single decision engine to automate personalisation on its young fashion Very.co.uk site.

If they can just work out how to add a ‘murky Northern-line-platform’ lighting option to their site, and all my digital shopping needs will have been answered!

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