Developing high value luxury fashion products is a lengthy creative process from design to shelf. It can take months of design time and extensive physical sampling throughout the global supply chain before the design is finalised and the product reaches the point of sale.

This means that new product design can demand huge labour and manufacturing resources as well as long lead times, limiting businesses’ agility.

We need to move towards ‘right first time’ design decision-making using data-driven design tools, based on AI and data analytics, to understand consumer wants and needs. We also need to develop late-stage customisation techniques in manufacturing so that personalised products can be produced cost-effectively.

Fashion is also associated with significant textile waste and environmental impacts at every stage in the product life cycle, from design and manufacturing processes to retail, consumer habits, and the end of a garment’s life.

New approaches and techniques can minimise waste. ‘Right first time’ design will maximise sell-through, reduce over-production and minimise the amount of waste produced. We can also move towards economically viable circular economies by operationalising new cost-effective recycling technologies.

Flagship Innovation Challenges and Core Research Themes

Future Fashion Factory focuses on three flagship innovation challenges, split into five core research themes addressing key challenges facing the UK’s luxury fashion design and textile manufacturing industry.

Industrial partners lead and define these collaborative R&D projects, focusing resources on fixing real problems in ways that can be practically implemented within a foreseeable timeframe to maximise commercial impact.

We also fund and support collaborative R&D project through six innovation funding calls for which Future Fashion Factory members can apply.

Innovation Challenge 1: Digitally Connected & Sustainable Processes

Delivering creative, cost-effective approaches for designing luxury customised products with shorter lead times, and circular economies that creatively harness innovative manufacturing technologies to reduce waste.

Core Research Themes:

  • Late-stage customisation: using digital and new textile technologies to design and produce designer-led, small volume, customised products while cutting lead times
  • Sustainability and circular economies: developing new manufacturing processes for reducing waste production, as well as recycling textile waste into new high-value products.

Innovation Challenge 2: Immersive Digital Communication and Data Analytics

Improving digital communication of aesthetics and exploiting deep learning, AI and data science throughout the design process, to deliver unrivalled speed and agility in decision-making for the development of luxury fashion products.

Core Research Themes:

  • Aesthetic communication: digital communication of the tactile properties, drape and other physical properties of fabric to online customers and consumers
  • Data-driven design: whether B2B or B2C, making better use of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics to understand, forecast and interpret consumer preferences around the world, feeding into a data-driven design process.

Innovation Challenge 3: Skills and Education

To make these developments sustainable and keep the UK fashion and textile industry growing, science, technology, education, arts and maths (STEAM)-based designers will help to shape these emerging technologies and speed up the creative product design process.

Read more about our core research theme in Education and Skills