The textiles and apparel industry is one of the most dynamic; it is also reckoned to be one of the slowest in adapting itself to emerging technologies, especially ones with a digital angle. Subir Ghosh looks at some aspects of digitalisation that is bound to disrupt the fashion way of things.

About a year and a half back, the showcasing of an innovation at the Shanghai Fashion Week took the world by storm. The surprise and awe with which the technology was received both there at the event as well as later in the fashion media was evident in one aspect: that the fashion world had not seen it coming. The tech world, on the other hand, had only been waiting for it to finally happen.

Independent label Babyghost was showcasing its 2017 Spring and Summer collection at Shanghai in April 2016, by partnering with Shanghai-based Blockchainas- a-Service (BaaS) company, BitSE, and its VeChain project. Yet it was not the glitzy display that had everyone taken in, but the mere understanding that the world of fashion was changing too fast to keep track of. Some things would change before you know it, and some innovations can knock the wind out of your sails. But that is exactly what happens when the digital world begins to drive fashion-real fast, with the new catchphrase to know being FashTech.

The possibilities of how blockchain is going to-no, not 'may' anymore-change the textiles and apparel industry has since dominated discussions at fashion events. But it is not the only technological development that is being talked about; there's omnichannel, data intelligence, social analytics, product lifecycle management, logistics, printing, and more. Those can all be summed up in one word: digitalisation, or digitisation as some would say.

Increasingly, it is digital technology that is driving the fashion industry, and FashTech is what it is.

Block it at your own peril

The heavily-attended Babyghost-VeChain show at Shanghai told stories: those of the 20 models with the 20 new looks. The audience could scan the chip that was embedded in each clothing and immediately receive an interactive memory of who had originally modelled the garment. The name of the technology was not new; it was blockchain, the same futuristic technology behind the Bitcoin and Ethereum innovations that has kept the financial world on its toes.

Bitcoin Magazine, which tracks developments in its own sector, cut through the jargon, and explained: "The result of this union (between the two setups in question) is called FashTech, where a clothing collection can be verified on the blockchain through near field communications (NFC)-which allows devices to communicate with one another when brought into close proximity-or by scanning the QR code on the label. A person's phone communicates with the small VeChain chip embedded inside the clothing or accessory, which then tells its 'story' to the consumer."