When fashion meets tech, the future is sizzling

By Matthew Priest, Editor in Chief, Esquire Middle East

Okay, so we know that tech people aren’t always on top of the fashion cycle. Sure, we give a shout out to Mark Zuckerberg’s grey Brunello Cucinelli T-shirt collection and the occasional Larry Ellison sharp suit. Chuck in Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s smart-casual wardrobe in there for good measure. But that’s kind of where it ends. Sorry, Elon.

But where it gets far more interesting is when the two industries collide – and that means beyond what tech stars are wearing. Technological advancements allows the entire fashion industry to rapidly adapt to change and, as a result, ultimately reshape the shopping experience as we know it.
Some of this is already happening. The likes of Tommy Hilfiger and American Eagle have already started experimenting with robots in store.

Back in 2015, Hilfiger’s Fall/Winter ’15 catwalk show was made available as a virtual reality experience using a Samsung GearVR headset, giving potential customers a Front Row experience. On top of that the US company also launched TMY.GRL – an AI interactive messenger ‘bot that allows fans the chance to chat about their favourite styles online.

While these are bold, tech-savvy initiatives, the most common use of technology by fashion brands is obtaining personal data from shoppers. While this does sound Big Brother-y, the goal is actually to try make shopping a more personal and welcoming experience. Imagine you visit a hotel you’ve been to before, only this time the staff know your name, they know what pillow you use, your favourite bathrobe and even how you have your coffee – which is made fresh as you arrive. Collecting and using data more efficiently means that more and more stores will know everything about you – include your sizes – the moment you walk in.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has taken this a step further – last year it introduced Virtual Reality Shopping to its customers on “Singles Day”. This allowed users around the world (who purchased a AED1 cardboard VR headset) to browse through everything from shoes to lingerie, and make purchases by nodding their head.

Let’s be honest, tech stars will never be fashion stars. But current and future developments mean the fashion industry could soon be leading the way when it comes to tech innovation.