How Technology is Changing the Fashion Industry

By Michael M. Clements | September 12, 2018 | Style & Beauty

Technology is changing our relationship with our wardrobes.

“Trend” is both the fashion industry’s greatest strength and biggest weakness. What’s in vogue today won’t be tomorrow—and like ’80s glam, you might have to wait 30 years for it to flash briefly like a shooting star again. Now the fickle nature of fashion is being applied to how we find, purchase and interact with our daily outfits.

“Technology is touching the fashion industry in multiple ways,” says Trisha Gregory, who cofounded Armarium (armarium.com), an online vendor for luxury fashion rentals that also includes styling support. Looks can be worn for four days before being returned, without the hassle of dry cleaning. “Shared economy platforms are disrupting the consumers’ mindset and making them question whether owning fashion is actually that important,” says Gregory. The platform’s most popular items range from a ruffled printed Johanna Ortiz dress to a fringed strapless Missoni cocktail dress and a statement necklace from Roberto Cavalli.

armarium.jpgA model wears an outfit offered on Armarium—an online vendor for luxury fashion rentals that also includes styling support. The service provides high-fashion designer looks straight from the runway.

Founded in 2009 by Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss, subscription clothing company Rent the Runway (renttherunway.com) has a foot in two worlds with a retail storefront in Georgetown as well as its digital presence. It leverages the power of machine learning and robotics to handle sales, marketing and fulfilment. The company allows customers to rent a designer piece, with a backup size as well, for four to eight days. Returns are free, but don’t be late—there’s a $50-per-day late fee. They’ll need that revenue to justify their $800 million valuation.

Washington, DC-based LePrix (leprixclothing.com) is hoping to emulate Rent the Runway’s funding success. Founded by DC natives Elise Whang and Emily Erkel in 2014, the service connects brick-and-mortar consignment shops with online shoppers allowing customers to swap out underutilized vintage and modern wardrobe pieces for the new looks from top designers, all within a platform that the founders say is “as easy as ordering a meal from Seamless.” It features 500 designer resale stores across five countries and, according to Crunchbase, has received five rounds of funding totaling $2 million.

Disruption is hitting runways, too. At the recent New York Fashion Week, designer Badgley Mischka, via a partnership with official NYFW technology partner SAP, unveiled a mobile app that allowed audience members to interact with the collection as it debuted in real time. While the app is unique, it’s certainly not as “out of the box” as Stitch Fix (stitchfix.com), which is literally out of the box. After customers set their style preferences and pay a $20 stylist fee, they receive a box of clothing that matches their style profile and body type. Mail-order fashionistas have three days to try on clothes and send unwanted pieces back without charge. Once again, new technologies are leading the charge. “Stylists listen to clients’ needs alongside data-driven recommendations to curate a selection of clothing and accessories personalized for them,” says Katie Watts, director of Stitch Fix Women.

village-luxe.jpgA model in an outfit available to rent through Villageluxe. The service currently is only offered in New York City.

For fast-growing NYC-based startup Villageluxe (villageluxe.com), the focus has come full circle back to being hyperlocal. Customers can use the site to lend designer clothes to other women in their neighborhood. Users must be invited and approved from the waitlist, and from there can begin lending and borrowing luxury goods and high fashion. Ladies locally will have to wait for it to launch in DC, but in the meantime can enjoy a day shopping at CityCenterDC, Chevy Chase or Tysons Galleria, no artificial intelligence required.



Photography by: ARMARIUM PHOTOS BY MATT EASTON, STYLING BY MICAELA ERLANGER; VILLAGELUXE PHOTO COURTESY VILLAGELUXE