Alibaba: Tmall wants to enter product development

China’s online giant Alibaba has teamed up with Shanghai Fashion Week to demonstrate what fashion shopping of the future can look like. New technologies are intended to close the gap between consumers, retailers and brands.

Virtual catwalks

The Shanghai Fashion Week took place in China’s most important fashion metropolis from 10 to 17 October. The event is an excellent opportunity for China’s leading online retailer Alibaba to show how in the future for retailers and consumers can benefit from these events.

Through the B2C online shop Tmall, the company invited the four Chinese fashion brands Me & City, IMMI, Banxiaoxue and Zhangshuai to trial new technology. Based on the brands’ design patterns, the Tmall software visualised the garments movements or predicted fits for different body types. Users were able to follow the virtual looks and live fashion week shows on the Taobao and Tmall apps.

Tmall wants to use this technology to give young designers, who cannot afford a “real” runway show, more online presence, commented Tmall’s Vice President of Fashion, Anita Lyu in an interview on the company’s own blog Alizila.

Heat maps measure visitor frequency

The Virtual Runway was just one of many new technology Tmall trialled at the Shanghai Fashion Week. A “showroom robot” allowed shoppers to take a closer look at products, talk to designers, and place orders in real time. Tmall technology also provided pedestrian heat maps throughout the showrooms that analysed which brands, items, clothing styles, colours and fabrics attracted the most attention.

Customising Runway Looks

The virtual show allowed users to tap on each garment and to view its details in 360 degree view. Users were able to change the measurements of the garments – from height and weight to chest, waist and hips – to see what the outfits would look like on their own virtual model. The software also indicated where garments would be too tight or not fitting properly.



Tmall wants to be part of the product development

According to Alibaba’s “New Manufacturing” strategy and Tmall, the 3D modelling solution will be made available to apparel brands in the near future. Once all the properties of a fabric are known – including colour, how the fabric reacts to different levels of compression, friction, and light – each garment would be virtually replicated in just five minutes to an hour. In other words: Tmall wants to give its fashion suppliers tools with which designers can directly create their virtual patterns on Tmall. “The tools will help retailers save time and money and reduce the cost of product development cycles by up to 80 percent, including patterning and prototyping, material sourcing and production,” the company said on the blog.

Currently this new service is still in the development phase. The insights gained through interactive technology could help brands to better engage consumers, get to know them better, better forecast market demand, and to build consumer-centric manufacturing.