H&M Lab’s Start-up Base in Berlin open the Future of Digital Personalization in Fashion

photo credit to Annie Wang
H&M Lab’s Start-up Base in Berlin

On the evening of June 6th, a store rented by H&M in Mitte, Berlin, which is known as “Starting House”, will serve as the incubation base for H&M Lab in the future to foster start-up ideas. In the evening, the author was invited to attend a forum titled “The Future of Personalization” by ZyseMe, the first brand to collaborate with this base. Speakers in this seminar include head of H&M Lab Oliver Lange, CEO of ZyseMe1 Bobby Östberg, representative of digital printing company, Spoonflower2 Maria Neidhold, while the seminar was hosted by CEO of German sustainable open source sharing platform, Sourcebook, Marte Hentschel.

photo credited to Annie Wang
H&M, ZyseMe, Spoonflower (left to right)

“Personalization” in future fashion is all-encompassing, ranging from basic layouts designed from the beginning, graphic design for fabrics to business model transformation, solutions to processing of inventory and large numbers of online returns, followed by manufacturing technologies, anti-globalization, and eventually privacy issues. In the end, the direction and

conclusion of the forum did not meet expectations as it merely explored the meaning of personalization to fashion, and focused on why the fashion industry will move toward personalization and how long it will take to move toward personalization. Three of the most hotly discussed topics during the forum on that day are listed as follows:

Personalization and customization depend on AI, which is expected to reduce returns of online apparel purchase due to poor fit, thereby reducing carbon emissions from logistics

Using AI to produce fitting clothing only is ZyseMe’s ideal, and one of its sustainability declarations. At present, problems to be observed and solved continue to arise one after another. However, ZyseMe decided still to roll out the use of this technology, otherwise the problems cannot be identified. H&M’s representative echoed the same sentiment, saying that understanding customers’ sizes in advance may solve the current overproduction problem. After all, it is estimated that 20 to 30 billion wearable garments turn into stock every year. Well-controlled quantity of garments produced can also reduce special offers for apparel, thus causing losses to apparel brands. However, the next question is: What if custom clothes or fabrics are returned? As regards this question, ten year-old Spoonflower explained that it is currently still accepting returns, but has found sustainable solutions to handle these fabrics, such as collaborating with an automobile company which adopts upcycling or converting them into energy once again.

photo credit to Annie Wang
the workplace of the innovative brands cooperated with ZyseMe

Transformation of a designer’s role

This part brought together the discussion of various possibilities, including the following questions. Will future designers no longer need to reference trends of the mass market? Does personalization merely cover only size customization or also include outline of design? Will designers only need to design dozens of “basic outlines” a year and also decide on their own other matters, including fabric patterns, based on customer preferences?

photo credited to Annie Wang