In the world of fast fashion, the excessive consumption and disposal of clothing has reached an alarming level. As someone who has been on the frontlines of the industry, I've seen first hand the impact of fashion waste on our environment, communities.
My passion for change and the drive to reduce fashion waste led me to explore innovative solutions that can make a real difference. One such solution is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), particularly in addressing the issue of product returns in fashion and clothing.
With the fashion industry being the second-largest polluter in the world, the role of AI and automation in enabling responsible, sustainable practices cannot be overstated. We should prioritise as an industry to embrace AI and this technological revolution, as it has the potential to transform the way we approach fashion and consumption.
The problem of returns in the fashion industry is massive. In UK, approximately 1 in 5 orders comes back as ‘returns’. In lingerie, it can be as high as 2 in 5 orders coming back to the warehouse.
In fact, it is estimated that returns account for nearly 5 billion pounds of waste annually. This not only generates a significant carbon footprint but also leads to a large amount of landfill waste. However, we now can start testing how AI can help us tackle this issue head-on.
AI-powered tools are capable of providing accurate, personalised sizing recommendations to online shoppers. Ikea Place app helps you to take a photo of the armchair in the store and you can overlay it on your own room (or rather Digital Twin of your actual room) – thus reducing uncertainty and potential return.
We are hoping to move in similar direction in fashion by helping the customer to create their Digital Twin. Just by taking a selfie (an action that many young people do daily, often a few times per day), we can create a Digital Twin of your body and use that to start reducing the rate of returns due to ill-fitting garments.
With this technology, we can not only minimise the environmental impact of returns but also enhance the customer experience. Returns are still a big hassle, they often go wrong, ending up with customers having to wait long time for their refunds. In time of tight finances, that is not something people are prepared to accept.
Moreover, AI-driven data analysis can help fashion brands better understand customer preferences and market trends. This enables them to produce more fine-tuned items that are more likely to be worn and cherished, rather than discarded after a single use. Slow fashion is good-fit fashion. By incorporating AI into the design and production processes, we could support a more sustainable fashion industry that values quality over quantity.
I've personally witnessed the positive impact of AI and automation on corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Companies that have adopted these technologies are making significant strides in reducing waste, promoting ethical practices, and contributing to a greener planet. TheFoldLondon.com, PolarnoPyret.co.uk, Bluebella.com, MyMonX.co are only some of the brands that are transforming their clothing and wearables businesses into more sustainable organisations and greener supply chain.
The next step is the adoption of AI in fitting. It is not just a matter of staying competitive in the market; it's about shouldering our responsibility to protect our environment and ensure a better future for all.
The fashion industry has the power to lead by example, we can and should act now before it's too late.
Our ambition should be to harness the power of AI and automation to reduce fashion waste, protect our planet, and create a more sustainable future. There is no doubt that government regulations have not been successful in changing the way our clothes are made. It is down to the industry as we all have to be our own ‘Chief Sustainability Officer’. We have a responsibility to the environment, the people who create our clothes, and to the customers. Let's make a change that we can be proud of.
Email me to Eva@TheRetailPractice.com with your feedback and ideas for improving Fit and minimise Returns.
(Image co-created by Eva Pascoe with AI tool)