The most vital role played in any industry today is that of Technology, Digitalisation and Corporate Social Responsibility. It is difficult to define technology; however, people can differentiate between human-made and natural things (Kaplan, 2009). Internet-based digital technologies including applications adopted by consumers, companies, and governments is a practice followed worldwide and influence all industries and consumers. The definite meaning of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been a disputable topic, as stated by McKinsey & Company (Keys et al., 2009). However, it mainly comprises of efforts that benefit both the society as well as different trades. Some of these responsibilities involve accountability, transparency and sustainable initiatives. This essay will study how the three global practices impact the fashion system and how each of them goes hand-in-hand with either one or both the other methods.
Technology has enhanced the overall consumer experience in multiple industries (Heinonen et al., no date). The introduction of e-commerce made retailers revise their strategies and evolve with the speedily changing technologies and consumer behaviours (Gutierrez, 2017). With great importance given to e-commerce, less focus is put on streamlining procedures and developing effective systems in the fashion industry. Technology is revolutionising operations from developing efficient supply chains to using data and artificial intelligence to make sound decisions or to using social media as a platform to influence buying choices. New technologies are reinventing how the brand interacts with customers that continuously shift desires (Gutierrez, 2017). For instance, smartphone's launch changed the way consumers browse and shop fashion on the go. Retailers had to find solutions to attract tech-savvy customers and create a virtual store, instant customer service and online payments (Marshall, 2017).
Digitalisation reshapes all the processes; the products' manufacturing, how its retailed and distributed in the market; it changes brands' management as well as their
competitors (Ackar et al., 2015). The increase in digital technologies empower consumers and want an experience that's beyond just buying and selling. They want to engage, influence, belong as well as stay informed and make selective choices. Consumers are conscious of their appearance in public, on social media and about how the brand they purchase is perceived. They use digital mediums before, during as well as after buying the products (Lay, 2017).
There is a vast range of digital technologies present today like the Internet, CAD systems, data analytics, 3D body scanner and digital printing to name a few (Nayak et al., 2015). Utilising such technologies will advance how people shop online or in retail. For example, U.S. Polo uses a digital measuring tape to let their customer fill in the measurements. It has increased the no. of products bought by 52% and reduced the products return rate by 64% (US Polo, 2013).
Consumers now create content on a daily basis, collecting data of videos, images, texts as well as likes on social platforms. This data helps brands understand consumer behaviour which helps forecast the upcoming trends in fashion more accurately. The companies that analyse data take decisions in a more efficient manner and reach out to a larger audience (Hanson, 2017). Fashion brands like Prada, Bulgari, Puma, Nordstrom, Diesel and United Colors of Benetton are using data to change how they produce clothes and accessories. Data analytics also helps in effective marketing, advertising, optimising supply chains as well as managing their inventory better. Innovation is key in fashion, however, data gives direction to the fashion system (PromptCloud, 2017).
Digital Printing has been actively used in the fashion industry since the 1990s (Tyler, 2005). The market is consistently growing and expected to increase from 1.17 billion euros in 2016 to 2.42 billion euros by 2021 (Smithers Pira, 2017). It can print instantly on demand and a wide variety of colours (Thompson and Sanders, 2016). Less water, dyes and chemicals are used, hence, it is also considered to be an eco-friendly tool (Gupta, 2001). Print cost and speed are two main challenges that come with digital printing (Carden, 2015; Ujie, 2006).
3D Printing is a new technology that prints three-dimensional objects from one digital file. It is also known as additive manufacturing as it takes place in one step, eliminating steps like manufacturing, laying, cutting, assembling and sewing (Valtas and Sun, 2016). Dutch
designer Iris Van Herpen uses 3D printer to produce collections for the runway (Iris Van Herpen, no date). However, most common material used is plastic which is not as comfortable to wear as traditional clothing. Hence, further developments in materials are yet to be made for daily use (Yap and Yeong, 2014).
Sustainability and transparency in supply chains are significant for corporate social responsibility in the fashion and luxury industry. Businesses have started to give more importance to ethics, environment, and equality between all shareholders. Consumers are more aware of environmental problems and curious to know how, where, when and who made their clothes. Sustainability aids issues like climate change, reduction in biodiversity and resources, meeting increasing demands, etc. The primary components of an item, its manufacturing process and contribution through business practices is what accredits a brand as "green" (Dickson et al., 2009). For instance, luxury conglomerate Kering provides materials to all its brand through Milan Innovation Lab which has over 1,500 samples of verified sustainable materials. They collaborated with Worn Again to recycle used fabrics for new garments. Balenciaga used 1000 metres from its existing stock to produce tote bags (Pavione et al., 2016). Technology and Digitalisation are essential for sustainability in numerous ways. They help build awareness about ethical values, as well as recycling and up-cycling products. These innovations favour transparency and traceability in manufacturing and distribution channels. Research and development of digital technologies like 3D sampling, 3D printing and data analysis correlate with the sustainability trend. They support eco-friendly procedures as well as ecosystems built around sustainability in fashion (Ackar et al., 2015).
These developments are integral to any organisation. However, from the above arguments, it can be concluded that maximising value and achieving complete evolution from these developments require a profound collaboration between technology, digitalisation as well as fashion corporations (Heinonen et al., no date).