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AI Enthusiasm in Fashion – Our Top Three Takeaways From the eP Summit in Florence

By Angela Iorio • 17 Apr 2024

The recent eP Summit conference, the Pitti Immagine event focused on the latest digital and technological innovations tailored for the fashion industry, featured approximately 800 specialized operators and an extensive program of roundtables and presentations. Speakers shared their experiences and offered insights into the future landscape of the fashion industry, emphasizing how innovative technologies are reshaping the sector.

This year’s edition, held in Florence on April 9-10, placed a significant spotlight on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its applications within the fashion and retail domain. The enthusiasm surrounding AI within the fashion industry was palpable, with numerous industry players acknowledging how technological advancements are taking center stage, driving transformative changes across organizational and logistical fronts.

Here are our top three takeaways from the conference:

1. AI Revolutionizing Fashion and Luxury

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping the competitive landscape of the fashion and luxury industries, with predictive AI increasingly influencing their dynamics. It is also unlocking creative possibilities for businesses, with generative AI at the forefront. At the eP Summit conference, luxury industry leaders noted a significant shift towards embracing AI completely, marking a departure from previous hesitations. This embrace is happening across various facets of the industry, from organizational structures and logistics to sales strategies, design innovations and communication channels.

The impact of AI and GenAI extends beyond traditional boundaries, with major tech groups like Google and Apple realigning their offerings to harness its potential. AI is catalyzing advancements in design, with projects like capsule collections undergoing testing, and enhancing the production of e-commerce catalogs, with remarkable results. It is also versatile, allowing the creation of 3D virtual mannequins from 2D images, facilitating personalized experiences tailored to diverse markets.

In addition to cost savings, AI enriches the shopping experience by streamlining content creation and campaign development while mitigating concerns about image rights. Many brands are integrating AI into their customer relationship management (CRM) systems and enhancing customer experiences through multilingual content, optimized order management and continuous data refinement. As AI adoption picks up speed, more brands are seeking support from tech companies to navigate this transformative landscape.

Paolo Picazio, Country Manager Italy at Shopify, emphasized that Gen AI is more than just a passing trend; it’s a significant paradigm shift. According to the “ ,” a substantial portion of respondents are already experimenting with Gen AI, with plans to invest more in the future. In the fashion retail sector, the implementation of conversational AI tools and Gen AI for personalized recommendations is widespread, reflecting a strategic focus on enhancing customer interactions and driving sales.

While the excitement around AI is palpable, organizations are increasingly seeking proven use cases. Marcello Pace, CEO of Scarpe & Scarpe, highlighted one such case, showcasing the transformative impact of AI and data in addressing inventory and margin challenges.   case study, cited by the Harvard Business School, exemplifies how AI-driven strategies developed with ToolsGroup have optimized inventory management, reduced overstock and bolstered profitability through data-driven pricing and promotional initiatives.

2. Unified Commerce: Redefining Retail for the Modern Era

The retail landscape is undergoing a profound transformation, propelled by the evolution of unified commerce. Traditionally, luxury brands have not connected well with younger generations, but the emergence of new technologies has bridged this gap, enabling closer engagement with contemporary consumers. With the advent of e-commerce, the line between sales channels has blurred, emphasizing the interconnectedness of online and offline realms.

Paolo Picazio (Shopify) explained this evolution, tracing it from historical single-channel retail to the multichannel and omnichannel approaches of recent decades. Now, the concept of unified commerce emerges as the precursor of retail’s future. This holistic approach offers a host of benefits:

  • Increased Customer Satisfaction: Unified commerce enables brands to deliver tailor-made experiences, fostering customer loyalty and satisfaction.
  • Greater Operational Efficiency: By consolidating data management processes, unified commerce streamlines operations, enhancing efficiency across the board.
  • Better Inventory Management: With a unified view of inventory across all channels, retailers can ensure effective stock control and minimize waste.
  • Improved Sales and Revenues: Leveraging unified commerce, brands can refine cross-selling and up-selling strategies, delivering targeted promotions and personalized offers.

Unified Commerce: Redefining Retail for the Modern Era

Pascal Giada Palmieri, e-commerce manager of Pollini S.p.A. – Aeffe Group, attests to the transformative impact of unified commerce on business growth. The brand’s digital channel witnessed a remarkable 49% surge following the internalization and complete restructuring of its online sales platform. By aligning services with the preferences of the digital-savvy demographic, such as introducing new payment systems and mobile-driven websites, Pollini S.p.A. – Aeffe Group successfully resonated with its target audience, driving engagement and sales.

Unified commerce represents the future of retail, offering a seamless, customer-centric experience that transcends traditional boundaries. The key prerequisite for this transformation is the availability of real-time data to make informed and strategic decisions. As brands adapt to this change in thinking, they stand poised to unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation in an ever-evolving marketplace.

3. Sustainability and Traceability in Fashion 4.0: Advancing Innovation in Smart Factories

The closing round table discussion at the eP Summit, titled “Threads of Innovation: Fashion Industry 4.0 in Smart Factories,” shed light on crucial topics surrounding sustainability and traceability within the fashion industry. With a particular focus on process innovation, the dialogue underscored the imperative of integrating sustainable practices into the fabric of fashion manufacturing.

Igino Colella, President of the CSCMP Italy Roundtable, delved into the intricacies of process data collection in complex environments like fashion. He emphasized the critical role of supply chain management, highlighting the challenges associated with measuring process data. Amidst shrinking supply chain cycles and escalating complexity, ensuring traceability emerges as a costly yet necessary endeavor. Moreover, establishing an efficient supply chain process, aimed at delivering the right product in the right quantity to the right place at the right time, is imperative not only for waste reduction but also for minimizing logistics costs.

Sustainability and Traceability in Fashion 4.0: Advancing Innovation in Smart Factories

Sergio Dulio, President of the UITIC International Union of Shoe Industry Technicians, provided insights into the concept of organizing smart factories within this context. He articulated five key principles:

  • Connection: Fostering connectivity between machines, components and the broader supply chain and organizational functions.
  • Automation: Leveraging automatic machines and robotic solutions to enhance operational efficiency, with a focus on augmenting existing jobs rather than displacing them.
  • Intelligent Systems: Harnessing AI for robot programming and embracing 3D technology to optimize manufacturing processes.
  • Data-Driven Operations: Prioritizing the continuous flow of real-time data to preemptively address issues and prevent disruptions, leveraging the potential of IoT.
  • Openness: Cultivating an environment of versatility and flexibility to adapt to evolving industry dynamics and technological advancements.

Throughout the two-day event, a common thread became evident: a dedicated drive towards innovation, efficiency, sustainability, and adaptability to optimize supply chain operations. Fashion manufacturers, by embracing the latest advancements and integrating sustainable practices, are equipped to navigate the complexities of Industry 4.0. This proactive mindset not only enhances resilience but also propels the industry towards a future defined by accountability and environmental responsibility.


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