Dr. J. Anandhakumar M.Tech. M.B.A. Ph.D.
Lecturer, Department of Textile Processing,
GRG Polytechnic College, Coimbatore, South India E-mail: email@example.com
Design is one of the biggest industries in the world, generating an estimated $1.5 trillion a year, and it’s surprising to learn that the way fashion operates today hasn’t changed that much in the past twenty years.
This is, in part, because it’s still easy to source low-cost manual labour in many countries and to outsource any pricey production costs. However, the rising concerns about fair wages, pollution, as well as the need to satisfy the hyper-connected consumers of today, have given way to new exciting technologies.
Indeed, we live in the age of technology. Social media is changing how fashion is consumed and has trained customers to want instant access to the latest trends, as soon as they hit the catwalks. At the same time, younger generations, who want to stand out from the crowd, seek products that can be tailored to their needs and preferences. Moreover, ‘mass-made’ cloth- ing or ‘fast-fashion’, seems to be gradually losing its appeal.
As this trend continues to rise, it makes less and less sense for companies and brands to keep producing large quantities of apparel, months in advance, with no certainty of how well it will sell. Those brands that pick up the pace and become more responsive to market needs will be the likely winners in this fast-changing modern environment.
As customers’ real lives become increasingly inter- twined with the digital world, many designers and brands must embrace the latest technologies to push the limits of manufacturing, production, marketing and wearability. From the latest in artificial intelligence to the boom of mobile commerce, 3D printing and block- chain, we’ve rounded some of the top tech advancements being used in fashion today.
Technology Intervention in Art
Steve Jobs famously said, “…technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”
Instead of looking at technology as a way to replace traditional artmaking, one should wonder “how can I use technology to enhance the artmaking process?” Both art and technology explore creativity in different ways, so let’s use both to make meaningful and engaging learning opportunities for our students!
Here are eight, approachable ways you can combine the power of technology and art.
- Digital Manipulation
First off, digital manipulation is a way to transform art- work digitally. Using a variety of techniques and methods, artists can alter a traditional artwork to achieve new results. We commonly see this style in the form of photo manipulation. However, the same can be done to a drawing or painting created by a student. Here are three ways you can transform a traditional artwork by enhancing it with technology.
- Create a digital paint pour
Paint pouring is all the rage. Although this scientific process can achieve exciting results on its own; you can take it a step further with digital manipulation. After the paint pour process is complete, photograph the painting and challenge your students to create a new image. This activity can be a lesson in creativity as your students play “I Spy” looking for shapes and images to spark their ideas. Any digital programme that allows for digital drawing and editing can be used for this process.
- Create water colour and chalk
The next time your students are exploring a new medium, try creating an interesting design that can serve as a background piece of digital editing. Exploring with water colour and chalk are wonderful mediums to enhance digitally later. Use the traditionally made art to explore digital abstract art or to serve as a background image as part of a digital design.
- Animate existing
Another simple way to transform an artwork with technology is by bringing it to life with animation! Using basic animation techniques, students can transform any painting or drawing into a GIF animation in no time. Not sure how to start? Check out Art Ed PRO’s Digital Animation pack made just for art teachers like you. Next step is using technology as a design tool for traditional artmaking. There’s something magical about having the ability to move objects around on a digital creation to find the best composition, and it really speeds up the process. There is also power in using the ‘undo’ button when designs don’t go as planned. The following are three ways digital designs can be used with traditional art processes.
- Demystify typography
Students love the printmaking process, but the design process can be complicated for first-timers. Printmaking is an excellent way to teach typography, but students often get confused about the proper way to use text, so it doesn’t print backward. Designing digitally to help compose a piece and easily flip an image is a great solution.
6. Create custom
Stencils can be used in a variety of ways in the art room. If you’ve ever tried to grow your stencil collec- tion, you’ll find that they can be expensive and they aren’t often what you’re looking for. Digitally creating a design for stencils will speed up the creation time by allowing students to easily replicate design elements. Students can turn their digital creations into stencils by cutting them themselves or using a tool like a Cricut.
7. Introduce drawing
Digital drawing is the perfect way to introduce students to beginning drawing techniques before using traditional drawing materials. For example, students might have a difficult time understanding shading, value, and light sources. Instead of creating 3-D shaded forms with a pencil first, try it digitally. The process works much quicker and alleviates intimidation be- cause if a student makes a mistake, they can simply “undo.” Think of digital drawing as a sketching process for traditional drawing methods.
8. Explore New Technologies
Finally, there will always be new inventions and technologies to try out in your classrooms. As this is written, something new is being invented to take the place of what I’m using now. Don’t be afraid to try out some of the latest or newest devices in the art room. Here are two things you can try now.
9. Explore 3-D pens and
3-D printing is a design focused application of STEAM within the art classroom. The 3-D printing process allows students to explore sculptural design using current technologies blended with artmaking materials. Using 3-D pens and printers, students can take 2-D designs and transform them into 3-D creations. Try having your students create 3-D printed objects for use with clay. For example, students can create 3-D printed tools like ceramic ribs or stamps for clay. Both of these can be created with a 3-D printer or 3-D pen. Check out 3-D Printing Basics with Art Ed PRO for a step-by-step guide.
10. Enhance digital literacy with coding.
In the digital age, coding has become a digital literacy. It’s also aiding as a way to bring more creativity into the digital realm. Coding can be an extension to almost anything you do in the art room. Sometimes students want to tell more than just a visual story. Using coding devices like a Makey Makey can bring a traditional artwork to life. Using the device, students can code to create an interactive experience for viewers. Students can record and create sounds to go along with any art- work or record an artist statement to tell the viewer even more.
Working together, art and technology can do powerful things. Instead of viewing technology as one more thing to do in your classroom, think of it as one more way to empower your students! If you’re not sure where to start, try out one of these ideas!
11. Artificial Intelligence
In recent years, brands have been using AI to enhance customers’ shopping experience, analyse data, boost sales, forecast trends and offer inventory-related guidance.
Chatbots and touchscreens are being used in stores to improve customer experience and customized product suggestions. It’s almost impossible to head to a fashion brand’s website and not find some form of AI chat technology that’s being used to help enhance the customer experience. The technology behind AI includes algorithms that track customers journeys to match them with the right products.
Although these customer service technology tools are promising, trend forecasting and supply chain management are some of the most profitable avenues for AI. For instance, real-time inventory tracking has become key for brands as they save time and make for efficient warehouse management and operations.
Furthermore, if we combine inventory tracking with AI’s powerful data prediction tools for trend forecasting, brands could have a significant competitive advantage. Instead of solely relying on traditional ways of trend forecasting —which requires observation and data collection from fashion designers, trend spotters and influencers— brands can instantly have access to data that allows for planning the right styles and quantities in a timely manner.
Take for example, FINERY. The British fashion label has come up with an automated wardrobe planning tool that, using analytics, records its female customers’ purchases and introduces them in a virtual wardrobe. The platform also allows women to create looks from their wardrobe and even choose from over 10,000 shops.
Meanwhile, the personalisation platform TRUEFIT em- ploys an online fit engine that helps users find an adequate fit with brands and new styles on the market
Online fit engine by TRUEFIT
Other, smaller retail technology companies are also filling this gap for brands. Edited, a company based in London, provides live data analytics software to give their retailer customers access to complete market data instantly. It has charmed brands like Boohoo, Tommy Hilfiger and Marni and can synthesise the global market in seconds.
Another interesting example is Intelligence Node, which allows users to track trends in real-time. Cus- tomers can enter specific keywords, user navigation patterns, price points and more. Intelligence Node AI-driven search discovery platform lets users track the exact or closest matches to your product, which can provide invaluable insights about competitive differentiators.
Streaming live videos has become a huge part of our lives. From virtual events to fitness, Instagram shop- ping has taken over 2021’s post COVID market. 5G allows new streaming media formats with high-definition graphics. Now, customers can “try on designs” before making their purchases. Some brands, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Gucci, are offering digital showrooms to gauge the market’s appetite. Some, like Taylor Stitch, allow customers to pre-order digital designs before they go into production. Likewise, many online-only eyewear companies such as Firmoo and Glasses Direct are also offering a digital ‘try-before-you-buy’ service that lets consumers visualise the frames on their face before committing.
Intelligence Node: an AI-driven search discovery platform
Historically, fashion trend forecasting solely relied on prior trends to predict the future. New technologies like Heuritech define audience panels on social media. To predict future trends, it applies image recognition technology to social media pictures to access shapes, prints, colours and attributes to fabrics.
Image recognition technology that predicts styles trends.
Google also deployed a similar experiment, in partner- ship with German fashion brand Zalando. The neural network was trained to understand style preferences, colours and textures. After that, the algorithm was used to create designs based on users’ styles preferences. There is also the collaborative project between IBM and the Fashion Institute of Technology, known as “Reimagine Retail”, which uses the high-tech IBM AI tools to indicate real-time fashion industry trends, themes in trending shapes, colours and styles.
These technologies highlight how AI is the bastion of future developments in the fashion industry, shaping everything from trend forecasting to how consumers may actually see and buy products.
In the past fashion has always followed the traditional seasonal format. Designers released spring/summer and fall/winter lines, as well as prefall and prespring runways. Lately, as the reality of the climate emergency sets in, we’ve seen designers move away from seasonal collections in favour of designing timeless pieces that can serve consumers for years. Does this mean that we are seeing the end of seasonality in fashion?
In fast fashion, designs move quickly from runway to store shelves. Fast fashion giants can produce as many as 52 micro collections per year. To keep up with the rapid consumer demand traditional brands have to keep up and release up to 11 collections per year. As rapid production runs create excessive textile waste, lots of apparel ends in landfill and harms both factory workers and the environment. Around 12.8 million tons of clothing are sent to landfills annually. The fashion industry is responsible for up to 10% of global CO2 emissions, 20% of the world’s industrial wastewater, 24% of insecticides, and 11% of pesticides used. Due to this environmental impact, more consumers and fashion brands are turning to the concept of “slow fashion” and away from the long and costly manufacturing process. As a result, more brands are opting for sustainable production and more consumers are choosing conscious brands over fast fashion.
Dr. J. Anandhakumar would like to express his gratitude to The Director, Directorate of Technical Education, Chennai, Tamil Nadu for continuous support, valuable guidance and motivation to carry out this work.
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