Article

Matthew Dunn
Matthew Dunn 22 November 2016

How Digital Skills Help Fashion Marketers Stay Ahead of the Trend

Matthew Dunn, Managing Director of Targeting at Experian UK, explains how fashion industry needs to zip up its act when it comes to digital skills.

Fashion has evolved at such a rate in business that digital skills are now a necessity, rather than a ‘nice to have’.

 
From the outset, this industry remains the stalwart of ‘old-fashioned’ (excuse the pun) skills and technology, where for centuries designers and tailors worked with little more than fabric, thread, pen and paper. 
However, it seems strange that fashion would shun the benefits that digital technology has brought to so many other industries. After all, couturiers aren’t that different from other manufacturers: they design things; they make them; and they sell them. We must question why the fashion industry hasn’t adopted technologies such as computer-aided design (CAD) and digital marketing, when other industries have done so with much success.

The fact is that digital’s impact on fashion goes far, far further than wearable technology, and those entering the industry on both the design and retail side will need to master a range of digital skills in order to turn their passion for fashion into a successful career.

Developing Digital Hubs

The increasing need to master digital skills is a key factor in why Experian has been working with the Fashion Retail Academy (FRA). Creating a brand new digital hub in the Academy’s home in Fitzrovia, it will be essential in helping designers of the future flourish. The FRA is a London-based college which delivers unique and contemporary educational experience with a range of vocational and work-oriented courses, and it clearly understands how technology is changing the industry.

It is still essential for designers to market and sell their creations, despite designers largely preferring to stick to traditional creative methods, with many no doubt feeling that technology interferes with the intimate, tactile relationship we have with fabrics and clothing. That’s why the FRA will be providing courses in a full range of digital skills that encompasses everything from programmatic advertising to ’visual merchandising’ – and a whole lot more besides.

If fashion is not immune from the relentless march of technology, it really shows that no industry can hope to remain untouched by new developments in digital. But this leaves us in a quandary, because the UK – along with pretty much every other economy – faces a severe shortfall in digital skills. 

How do we progress? 

Over the past year, it was reported by the influential House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that a considerable 12.6 million adults lack basic digital skills. Not only this, but the research pointed to a severe shortfall in the number of computer science teachers in schools. 

For young people engaged with entering their chosen careers, UK PLC has a responsibility to equip them with the skills for this, but this in turn poses a strategic challenge. As we have seen with the FRA, industry bodies have a really important role to play in helping people to develop their digital abilities, as do technology companies who, naturally, are at the cutting edge of digital developments.

It's easy to conclude that in a few years, digital skills will be a necessity for pretty much any job, from hi-tech manufacturing to the shop floor. The question we need to answer is how to equip the next generation of workers with these skills. However, if reliance on millennia-old technologies such as scissors and sewing take precedence in an industry of fashion, can fully get on board with the latest digital technologies, the rest of the world will surely follow in its Jimmy-Choo clad footsteps. 

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