A laundry list of industry problems is being solved by digital dreamers and tech entrepreneurs: meet some of the most intriguing at Creative Victoria's M/FW Conversations series.
Imagine being in the habit of "checking in" with your favourite jacket or shoes before you put them on. You'd hover your phone over a placket or heel embedded with a tiny chip and - pop - up comes the ethical origins, composition and supply chain backstory of each item
Plus, on the same popped-up website, a micro-universe of just-updated links and facts you can plug into right now if you have a mo, or save for later. What’s new with this brand, for example, when’s the next stock drop, the next collection show or discount round, how supplies of that particular up-cycled or dead-stock or sustainably sourced fabric or lab-grown leather are tracking at the factory, where's the best re-seller for when, forbid, they’re not your fave jacket or shoes anymore.
Technology entrepreneur and Collaborative Projects lead for Design and Creative Tech at Torrens University, Saskia Fairfull believes this kind of technology will deepen our relationship with the clothes in our wardrobe and consequently, make us more careful, responsible and less likely to throw our money away on cheap crap.
“It’s what we call a consumer facing digital product passport,” says the fashion technology strategist and consultant. “It enables longevity through education and story-telling.”
Saskia is co-developing a version of the Near Field Chip (NFC) technology required for such a digitally enabled fashion future with Marcus Crook of social streetwear brand, HoMie. "We're in the exploratory phase," she says.
The technology is not new but dreaming up ways to exploit its full potential for fashion consumers and progressive fashion brands, is practically limitless. Sportswear brand Champion is already committed to a collaboration with HoMie next year and more companies are lining up for talks with Saskia and Marcus. With funding, an app and “extras” such as a digital wardrobe are planned.
Solving the industry’s global tangle of waste and emission problems is also in the tech entrepreneurs’ cross-hairs.
"In the world of fashion we are trying to give every new item a serial number (via NFC tech) that enables full transparency of that garment's life cycle from creation through to end of life," Saskia explains.
"That's a huge footprint; we're talking about hundreds of millions of items and sharing things like how each (garment) was made, the design process, material composition, maybe the percentage of recycled components, care instructions...information that stays with the garment through its whole life cycle."
Eventually a certain prestige will attach to garments whose NFC chips store evidence of a brand's policies of sustainability, circularity and technologies from rapid data analysis systems to virtual and augmented reality, 3D printing, Blockchain and AI use embedded along their life cycle to reduce waste, elevate human craft and discourage excessive consumerism.
"At the moment there's a whole journey that goes on but we have no visibility of it," Saskia says. "We'll be able to bring that to light so everyone understands the clothes they make and sell, the responsibility they have."
She says the explosive problem of fakery in fashion can also be addressed.
"This is a source of trusted information that can be verified and authenticated," Saskia says.
"At the moment it can be difficult to determine what's fake, what hasn't been cared for, what's true of an item's journey...This is an opportunity for a relationship of trust, an ongoing relationship with people."
Find out More
Saskia will be speaking at Tracking Change as part of the M/FW Conversations series, presented by Creative Victoria, Wednesday, October 25, 11.30 am. to 12.15 pm, Wesley Place Business Hub, Level 1, 130 Lonsdale St, Melbourne.
Tickets $25 or $60 for the bundle of three panels.
Other MWF Conversations events are:
"Circular Fashion in Melbourne" 9 to 9.45 am. and
"Fashion Tech Careers: VR, Gaming and Beyond" 10.15 to 11 am.