Imagine slipping on a sweater made to fit your body perfectly. Better still, it’s your favourite colour, it’s knitted in a way that cuts waste, and no one else has one quite like it. Over it goes your smart coat – chic but functional to the extent that it has heat capsules that fine-tune your temperature from an app on your phone. It doesn’t matter if it rains, the temperature drops, or you decide to jump onto a warm, crowded metro. Your clothes are working for you, maintaining your comfort, preserving your style.
Welcome to the future of fashion, where technology and innovation are revolutionising the way we wear it, the way we buy it and how it is made for us.
We've packed five years of change into two months
Online shopping had already seized a huge part of the retail market before recent lockdowns, and in a matter of weeks it has become much more habitual. Social media is offering us ‘social shopping’, selling us the outfits we see others wearing.
But while it’s true that shops can no longer be hectic places bursting with stock and long lines for the changing room, that doesn’t mean the end of in-person shopping at physical stores.
Expect entertainment, personalisation and exclusivity to be key to the retail experience of the future.
“In terms of how we shop, we've packed five years of change into two months," said Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at retail futures consultancy Insider Trends.
AlphaTauri's Mobile Innovation Lab
Consumers still want the sense of occasion and opportunity that a pop-up store creates. They want to know how their clothes are made, have them produced to their unique specifications, and understand the vision and values of the brand they are about to buy into.
And they want more interaction in the digital realm or through innovative store experiences.
“It makes so much sense to entertain people, build dialogue, and incorporate shopping into the experience,” said Trotter.
We are a brand powered by innovation, with a goal of transforming standards. That energy extends to the way we approach retail
The MIL is a custom-designed multipurpose tool on wheels that can be shaped according to the dynamics of the market – from the presentation of next season’s collection to the sale of a new drop.
“The exchange between the real world and the digital world is very important for us,” says Heiko Eberhardt, manager of the MIL.
Inside the lab, consumers can watch a 3D knitting machine produce a sweater to their unique measurements, create a personal avatar and experiment with styles, and take a virtual reality tour to learn about AlphaTauri’s innovative textiles.
Products are available to try on but purchasing is done online. “Staff can focus more on what the customer wants. They don’t have to check inventory or run a checkout,” Eberhardt explains.
“Everyone values experiences. As a consumer you have so many distractions, you are always looking for something new. The MIL generates a wow effect, a unique experience to tell your friends about.”
Brands know that if they can create a perfectly fitting garment, they can keep a customer coming back for more. Plus, they can cut down on returns and reduce their inventory. This has seen a rush to develop body scanners, digital avatars and virtual fitting rooms – even apps where consumers can customise garments down to the finest detail.
All knitwear at AlphaTauri is created using 3D knitting technology. 3D knits have several advantages – their seamless production offers a custom-fitted knit created in about one hour with almost no waste. The simplicity of construction makes it both comfortable and sustainable.
“There will be an expectation in the future that when you buy something it has the perfect fit. The five or so sizes that are being offered now will not be good enough,” says Murat Acevit, the Chief Product Officer of AlphaTauri.
Production-on-demand dovetails with another major fashion trend of the future, the drive to cut waste, both in surplus production and the sheer number of garments we throw away.
There will be an expectation in the future that when you buy something it has the perfect fit
The fashion of the future is also set to see high-performance, specialised textiles become more widely available and combined with classic, cosmopolitan styles. Thanks to innovation and technical advancement, Swiss firm Schoeller Textil AG can produce fabrics that are lightweight, breathable, easy to care for and able to hold their shape. They can also insulate and stretch, while feeling smooth and soft on our skin. Such new textiles can change how we feel and help us do more in our clothes, empowering us to interact with our surroundings in new ways. Think sleek jackets that can keep us snug throughout winter, yet are agile enough for us to exercise and socialise all in the same outfit.
“Fashion was looks, colour and structure. Now we've made a big move forward towards functionality,” says Schoeller CEO Siegfried Winkelbeiner.
"So far, there was always a compromise when it comes to fashion and innovative functionality. It either added some value but didn't look great, or looked great but was just clothing. By developing our own fabrics we are getting the balance right between fashion and function,“ explains AlphaTauri General Manager Ahmet Mercan.
Schoeller fabrics can undergo up to 37 production steps to ensure they have the desired properties.
Fashion was looks, colour and structure. Now we've made a big move forward towards functionality
“Some of the fabrics bring a certain functionality through their construction, by fibre, by yarn, but then we can enhance even more the performance of the fabric by adding technology like water repellency, moisture management, anti-microbial features,” says Schoeller COO, Hans Kohn.
One such example of textile innovations is Taurobran®, developed by AlphaTauri in cooperation with Schoeller Textiles AG. Taurobran® is a unique fashion textile technology that uses e-spinning technology to make garments that are both waterproof and exceptionally breathable – and it's already applied to the upcoming AlphaTauri collections. Essentially it enables a shirt or sweater to be versatile enough that'll it'll keep you dry on a London commute or cool in a Barcelona bar.
"We are a brand powered by innovation, with a goal of transforming standards. That energy extends to the way we approach retail. We are bridging online and offline, with our bricks and mortar retail, the Mobile Innovation Lab and e-commerce. It is a seamless brand experience," says Tanja Gündling, Head of Retail AlphaTauri.