China: Tmall demonstrates fashion shopping of the future

Together with Shanghai Fashion Week, China's online giant Alibaba demonstrated what fashion shopping of the future could look like as new technologies aim to make the connection between consumers, retailers and brands even closer.

Virtual catwalks

China's most important fashion metropolis hosted Shanghai Fashion Week from 10th to 17th October. A good opportunity for China's leading online retailer Alibaba to show how such events can be used even better for the trade and consumers.

Through the B2C online platform Tmall, the company invited four Chinese fashion brands - Me & City, IMMI, Banxiaoxue and Zhangshuai - to experience the new technology. Based on the brand’s design samples, Tmall’s software visualised how a piece of clothing would drape in motion and how it would fit different body types. Throughout the event, users were able to see the virtual looks as well as the live-streamed Fashion Week shows via the Mobile Taobao and Tmall apps.

This way, Tmall wants to give young designers who cannot afford a "real" runway show more presence as well according to Tmall Fashion’s vice president Anita Lyu in an interview on the company's blog Alizila.

Heat maps measure each brand’s visitor flow

The Virtual Runway was just one of many new technologies. Part of the package was also a "showroom robot", with which buyers could view products remotely, talk to designers and place orders in real time. Tmall’s technology also delivered heat maps of foot-traffic across dozens of showrooms, analysing what brands, items, clothing styles, colours and fabrics attracted the most attention.

Customising runway looks

When watching a virtual show, users could tap on any garment to see its detailed texture in 360 degrees. In addition, they could change body measurements - from height and weight to chest, waist and hip sizes - and see what the outfits looked like on a virtual model. And they could open a "stretch map" to show where the garment would probably be too tight.

Tmall wants to be part of product development

According to Alibaba’s "new manufacturing" strategy and according to Tmall’s own information, the company plans to release its 3D modeling solutions for apparel brands. If all the properties of a fabric are known - including its colour and how it reacts to different levels of compression, friction and lighting - each garment could be reproduced virtually in anywhere from just five minutes to an hour. That means Tmall wants to provide its fashion suppliers with tools that designers can use to directly create their virtual patterns on Tmall.

"The tools will help suppliers save time and money and to reduce the costs incurred by the product development cycle by up to 80 percent, including pattern creation and prototyping, material procurement and production," said the company on its blog.

As long as the new service is still in the development phase, the insights gained through the interactive technology could help brands engage consumers, get to know them better to forecast market demand more accurately and inform consumer-driven manufacturing in the future.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited DE; translated and edited by Simone Preuss

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