During New York Fashion Week (NYFW) , Rag & Bone returned to the runway after a three-year break and, true to form, brought a technology twist to its show. The brand partnered with Microsoft to bring a giant robotic arm to its runway show, which captured 360-degree angles of the models and performers, and presented it to the audience in real-time on screens within the amphitheatre.
Robotics is making an impact in fashion world behind the scenes. For example, many brands are currently using robotics to cut down fulfilment times in warehouses and speed up manufacturing, using robots to cut and sew materials at a faster-than-ever pace.
“Rag & Bone’s robotic arm was a real extension of what they’ve been doing with their larger marketing strategy — using flashy tech like Artificial Intelligence to create branded experiences. In fact, I might consider it a bit of a stunt, however stunts are at the core of what fashion week is, so it is smart here,” said Darin Archer, chief strategy officer of e-commerce software company Elastic Path. “The key moving forward is to figure out how brands can implement new technologies, not only for flashy experiences, but also to enhance the experience wherever customers engage with the brand.”
Emily Wengert, group vp of user experience at advertising agency Huge worked with magnificence model SK-II this past summer to bring robots into the brand’s pop-up store in Tokyo. The concept was that customers would walk into the shop and inform the robot about some of their skin issues, and the robot would then go through the space and select one of the best merchandise for that individual. In her experience, retailer associates have been very much still a part of the equation when robots have been involved, although it was a part of a temporary pop-up stunt, not a permanent location.
“We still had quite a lot of employees within the store, it just allowed us to create secure spaces for customers. So instead of telling a human all of your skin worries, which could be intimidating, we created a secure space for that. After people went through this process, it was fascinating. They began to desire contact with a salesperson every time,” said Wengert.
Implementing robotics in warehouses is one key area that fashion brands can take a page out of the Amazon and Walmart’ playbook. These manufacturers have been using robots to speed up delivery and take care of large amounts of returns for some time now, and fashion brands shouldn’t hesitate to follow suit, said Karen Leavitt, chief marketing officer at Locus Robotics, which provides retailers with robots as a service (or RAS).