On November 25, Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings and Itochu Fashion System led “ifs FUTURE LABORATORY” held a workshop on the future of fashion. The two companies are currently working on a project titled “Mirai Fashion Labo,” which looks into how technology will impact the future fashion industry.

The recently held workshop was the second one, inviting Taizo Son of Mistletoe, designer Kaori Kanamori of Theatre Products and fashion consultant Nagisa Ichikawa as guest speakers. The theme of the discussion was, “Can digital technology make the fashion world happy?”

As the chairperson of the event, IT journalist/consultant Nobuyuki Hayashi, also a member of ifs FUTURE LABORATORY, kicked off the discussion by saying that, “We see many Japanese brands, such as Comme des Garcons and Issey Miyake, introducing 3D scanners to play the role of fitting as well as for creating a one of a kind design. Issey Miyake’s 2017 spring/summer collection introduced bags made with electronic paper designed in collaboration with Sony.”

To this, Ichikawa added that, “With the bags made of electronic paper, Issey Miyake displayed a new aspect of how technology will be introduced in fashion.” To this, Son responded that, “Fashion companies are looking to update their images by working with technology companies that create cutting edge techniques. They’re not just investing, but actively participating in the development of the technology. As examples, Orphe sneakers with LED soles and the portable transportation device WALKCAR, small enough to fit in your bag. Orphe sneakers started off by receiving investments from others, but it’s also actively looking for business partnerships in order to create new types of products. I think that WALKCAR would be able to update its product image if it incorporated more aesthetics into its design. I’ve also heard a story about a company developing sports watches, but since the watches were very fashionable in design, they were also introduced in a fashion magazine.”

He continued that, “It took four years to develop the Orphe sneakers through trial and error, and I think it’d be more practical to have venture capitalists, similar to those investing in the IT industry.”

Kanamori explained that, “In the past, technology was used as a part of exhibits and events at commercial spaces, but not in the clothes themselves. I think it’s time that we challenge the fashion industry rule of creating a new collection every 6 months.”

During the latter half of the discussion, Son offered that, “It’s not wise to start a business in Japan and then try to become global after establishing yourself domestically. You should start the business with the concept of selling in both Japan and overseas. It’s important to create things that will be understood across a global market. If groups of people across several countries like the product, then the business can become international. There are many people overseas that understand the beauty of Japanese culture. One good way to communicate to the rest of the world would be through videos and through crowdfunding projects.”

“Introducing deep learning and technology will present new opportunities for the fashion world. Challenging the status quo and making the most of the latest technology can produce results beyond our imagination. I think that more partnerships between fashion companies and technology companies would create innovative products and events,” he concluded.