As part of Vogue Singapore’s virtual launch, Vogue Singapore held its inaugural Vogue Conversations webinar to discuss the role of technology in the future of fashion. Introduced by Anna Wintour and hosted by editor-in-chief Norman Tan, the panel marks our commitment to the burgeoning power of technology, one of the key tenets here at Vogue Singapore.
The webinar was joined by an esteemed panel of industry experts: Angel Chen, designer at Angel Chen; Kerry Murphy, founder of The Fabricant; Maghan McDowell, innovation editor at Vogue Business; and Maria McClay, head of luxury fashion at Google. From the future of virtual garments to the possibilities of big data in fashion, each panellist offered illuminating insight into the multiple nuances of tech and fashion.
Read on for highlights below.
Physical to virtual
Kicking off the conversation, Tan raised questions surrounding the transition from physical to digital fashion. Having recently staged a live-stream digital fashion show at Shanghai Fashion Week, Chen observed the rapid pace at which virtual means were being adopted, noting the urgency and limitations posed by COVID-19.
As the founder of leading digital fashion house, The Fabricant, Murphy shared his experiences and challenges of translating the tactility of physical fashion to a virtual space. “We’re constantly trying to figure out how to translate emotion—something key to the fashion industry—from the real world to the digital world,” he said. “We take the same craftsmanship that physical fashion is all about—textures, seams, stitches, materials, draping and fit—and we bring it into the digital space.”
Sustainability in COVID-19
The conversation also steered to touch on the increasingly timely concern of sustainability in our current climate. “What’s been amazing to see is that there’s been twice the volume of searches for sustainable fashion in July 2020, versus the prior year,” McClay shared, referring to her findings on fashion-related searches on Google. “People definitely care—it’s showing very clearly that consumers care about sustainability.”
On the digital front, Murphy shared statistics of the ecological impact of physical and virtual fashion: “A T-shirt in the physical world creates about 7kg of CO2. But to make a digital T-shirt makes about 0.25kg of CO2—that’s about 3 percent of the physical world,” he said. “We do still have to take into consideration the energy sources that we use—it’s not completely zero emissions, but it’s a fraction of what physical industries use.”
Data and creativity
Focusing on the relationship between data and creativity, Tan spoke to the changing role of designers as cultural zeitgeists and fashion’s relationship with tech and creativity. Citing her observations within luxury, McDowell shared: “There’s a misconception that AI and data would kill creativity, or would somehow obviate designer inspiration. But that’s simply not true—what I’m seeing in my reporting is that using AI and data makes your creativity more powerful, it makes it more efficient.”
McClay agreed, noting the importance of creativity continuing to co-exist with technology: “I think creativity shouldn’t be dictated by data, but it should absolutely be an input. Advances in technology allow us to come together with those insights. Don’t lead with the data, lead with the customer insight. Lead with the question, and then data can be the tool.”
Speaking to her own experiences, Chen shared: “If designers are entirely reliant on technology and data, I think there’s a possibility for us to get lost. What I hope for my team is to be always open-minded to big data. Always being aware of not just the fashion industry but the global economy.”
“The real value of 3D is that it enables us to be way more creative and to create situations that we haven’t previously seen, which allows for this new aesthetic language, a new way of expressing our creativity that really speaks to younger audiences who are more digitally savvy now,” Murphy added, highlighting the possibilities of digital and virtual tools in the space of fashion.