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Microsoft & Eon Collaborate to Bring 400 Million Products Online by 2025

Microsoft & Eon Collaborate to Bring 400 Million Products Online by 2025

Tech giants Microsoft and Eon are starting a partnership with the goal of bringing 400 million products online by 2025. Through this ambitious collaboration, they are planning to introduce an industry-wide digital foundation for a circular and connected economy that spans retail, apparel, and fashion.

Circular business models, in particular, have been gaining popularity across industries, making this partnership a wise move. These business models focus on eliminating waste from the way we live by ensuring that they retain materials with productive use for as long as possible. The models can include peer-to-peer exchange, rental, resale, styling services, digital wardrobing, reuse, and recycling. While many industries have a focus on reusing and recycling materials, such as the steel industry which currently produces about 40% of steel around the world with recycled metal, the fashion and retail industries have latched onto the goal of reducing waste in major ways.

Microsoft & Eon Collaborate to Bring 400 Million Products Online by 2025

Microsoft and Eon hope to make that goal even easier to achieve with their collaboration. Microsoft Azure will power Eon’s CircularID™ Protocol and Eon’s Connected Products Platform. This teamwork will allow brands and retailers to launch new business models and revenue streams, create more dynamic relationships with their customers and maintain a sustainable relationship with the planet. The partnership also allows Eon to solve some of the toughest data and operational scale challenges in the industry. With Microsoft’s software, Eon’s Connected Products can operate side-by-side with existing systems, giving retailers and brands the ability to efficiently digitize their products at scale.

Microsoft & Eon Collaborate to Bring 400 Million Products Online by 2025

Digitizing products at scale has traditionally been the fashion industry’s biggest obstacle to adopting circular business models. According to Eon Founder and CEO Natasha Franck, they’ve been struggling with a digital infrastructure that is decades old. Not only does this infrastructure prevent retailers and brands from shifting to customer-centric and circular businesses, but it can put them at risk of Internet crime, which involves using the Internet to communicate fraudulent or false representations to consumers. The team at Eon has been working with Microsoft for the past few years to ensure that their shared vision of easy and accurate digital platforms is available across the industry and at scale.

Another vision that this partnership hopes to achieve with Connected Products is redefining what growth and opportunity mean for retailers and brands by disassociating them from resource consumption. For the majority of the fashion industry’s history, producing and selling new products was the sole means of generating revenue. This made sustainability nearly impossible to achieve. However, Connected Products can allow brands to generate continuous revenue from products as they manage, control, and monetize circular business models.

Microsoft & Eon Collaborate to Bring 400 Million Products Online by 2025

In the Connected Products system, every garment in the world will have a digital identity, or “digital twin.” This will essentially give each piece of clothing a unique digital fingerprint that connects the garment to the platform for its entire lifecycle. Eon is doing this with the CircularID™ Protocol, allowing different brands and retailers to access a digitized profile of the product’s entire history.

Through Microsoft and Eon’s partnership, the future of the fashion industry could change for the better. Not only can brands and retailers successfully implement a circular economy that helps the struggling environment, but they can maintain two-way communication with their customers and build deeper relationships with their consumers. Combined, these two achievements can transform what it means to have growth and get away from a culture of consumption.

Pandemic Panache: How COVID-19 is Changing the Fashion Industry

Pandemic Panache: How COVID-19 is Changing the Fashion Industry

Quarantine, but make it fashion.

Although that might have been a phrase uttered in ironic social media posts, the reality is that the fashion industry has experienced major disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, fashion is ever-evolving — and often as a result of social and global change — so it makes sense that some brands are able to roll with the punches and address emerging consumer demands. Let’s take a look at some of the ways the fashion industry has been impacted by the novel coronavirus.

Pandemic Panache: How COVID-19 is Changing the Fashion Industry

Fashion Industry Outlook

Around 50% of small businesses survive for five years or more — and independent designers and even small-but-well-known brands are having a tough time due to COVID-19. While brands owned by luxury conglomerates are weathering the storm just fine (and some have even seen revenue increases since the onset of the pandemic), even high-end independent brands like Tiffany and Co., Mulberry, and Salvatore Ferragamo have endured massive layoffs and multi-million dollar losses. Not surprisingly, most consumers aren’t in a position to drop a ton of cash on a brand name bag or an expensive necklace right now.

It’s also important to note that the global supply chain for brands has seen major upsets, especially when it comes to fast fashion. Brands aren’t able to deliver low-cost products quickly, as their suppliers have often been cut off due to the virus. As a result, many stores (like Zara) have shut location doors permanently and others (like H and M) have offered massive mid-season sales to make up for the loss in revenue. Even Anna Wintour of Vogue has hinted that the pandemic could spell the end of the road for fast fashion.

Fashionable Face Masks

Still, creativity continues to thrive — and necessity is the mother of invention, as is evidenced by the many designers who have switched gears from couture dresses to face coverings. From Eva Franco and Alice + Olivia to independent Etsy shops, brands have been making — and selling out — face masks for months. Even major corporations like Disney and sports organizations have gotten into the game. Now that the CDC agrees that mask-wearing is essential for all persons over the age of two, consumers are eager to get their hands on reusable fabric masks that can protect them in public spaces. Despite the fact that 93% of kids have seen a doctor within the last year, both children and adults want to do what they can to stop the spread of the coronavirus. That means there’s a major market for face coverings. And while no one is making a substantial income from these masks (as the unwritten rule is to cover only the cost of materials and minimal labor), it’s a way for brands to stay in the public eye, keep employees busy, and provide a much-needed product to the masses.

Work-From-Home Style

In-person fashion shows, like so many events, have gone digital. The combination of travel restrictions and social distancing requirements makes strutting down the catwalk or sitting in the front row next to impossible. And while some people are looking for a bit of escapism, many others just want to be comfortable.

Around 60% of millennials say that improved technology will make the need for face-to-face conversations obsolete — and we’ve seen that put to the test throughout the pandemic. Although it may have been surprising to some, the fact is that business meetings and social get-togethers can take place to great effect via video chat.

As a result, much of the workforce is being productive from their living rooms. While they might be inclined to wear a nice shirt or blouse on top, many of these employees are wearing sweatpants or loungewear on the bottom. And those who have been laid off and have nowhere to go are also opting for ultimate comfort. Sales of pajamas increased by 143% in April, while purchases of pants, bras, and jackets dropped by percentage points in the double digits. And although Crocs saw some major sales thanks to the pandemic and many athletic footwear companies have seen some successes, overall shoe sales were down in Q1 of 2020.

That said, these trends might reverse as states start to reopen. When China finally reopened, one Hermes store had its biggest sales day in history because consumers were so eager to get back to other shopping habits. Still, some are saying that transitioning from comfy clothes to restrictive workwear might not be easy, particularly because weight gain has proven common during the quarantine. Online secondhand clothing sales, especially those on platforms like Poshmark and Mercari, have been fruitful throughout the pandemic — but once retailers and thrift stores start to reopen, it’s possible that those sales might start to dip.

But what might happen over the next couple of months is still a bit of an unknown, especially as confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to rise in areas that have already reopened. We might well have to brace for a second wave, which could cause us to revert to our pandemic habits — but brands might be better prepared for that possibility now that they can more accurately predict consumer behavior.