To read this content please select one of the options below:

Fashion 4.0. Innovating fashion industry through digital transformation

Paola Bertola (Design Department, Polytechnic University of Milan, Milan, Italy)
Jose Teunissen (London College of Fashion, London, UK)

Research Journal of Textile and Apparel

ISSN: 1560-6074

Article publication date: 26 September 2018

Issue publication date: 22 November 2018




The on-going transition of societies and economies toward different organizational paradigms deeply informed by digital technologies is at the very center of current debates, involving scholars and impacting on a broad context of disciplines, ranging from humanities to science and technology. Therefore, the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution” has been described as a model where new modes of production and consumption will dramatically transform all major industrial systems; it has been targeted by many governmental plans as a goal for a sustainable future. While general frameworks describing 4.0 paradigm are codified and accessible, implementation strategies and their implications on specific local and sectorial systems are largely unexplored. Starting from this assumption, this paper aims to provide insights on the current state of the art and major trends of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, possibly identifying its impacts on the textile and apparel industry.


From a methodological standpoint, the study approaches the topic from the perspective of fashion domain experts which can contribute, with a positioning essay, to better understanding Industry 4.0 (I4.0) implementation within their specific domain. This experts’ perspective is enriched by several descriptive case studies (Yin, 1984) offering examples and insights on possible implementation of I4.0 solutions in fashion industry, also showing the potential of a design driven perspective.


Starting from a synthesis of I4.0 framework and principles, the paper aims at showing their impacts on business units, processes and components within the specific context of the fashion industry. Through emerging evidences detected by experts’ domain perspective and exemplified by several descriptive cases, it offers a comprehensive overview of the potential implications of the Forth Industrial Revolution on this specific business. The picture drafted clearly shows how digital transformation, properly driven, could reshape the fashion industry into a more sustainable and truly customer-driven business. But, it also underlines criticalities and slowness of adoption by traditional established brands and companies. As a result, being focused on on-going phenomena, highly unexplored, it shows possible trajectories, enabling an effective transformation of textile and apparel industry embracing the I4.0 paradigm.


The paper has a broad perspective and could offer insights to different audiences, which could effectively contribute to a positive transition, to scholars and academics, who might want to better address the implementation of I4.0 model into real economic and social context, focusing on medium – long-term implications and showing innovation pathways which are still unexplored, second to practitioners, who are usually immersed into strict silos of competences and business functions and can start to build new bridges and interconnection within the system, taking advantages of I4.0 potential, finally to policy-makers who can better shape development frameworks targeted to specific industries whose features require peculiar approaches and actions.



This paper is the result of common discussion and framework among the authors; nevertheless, Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 were edited by Paola Bertola, and Section 5 was edited by Jose Teunissen.


Bertola, P. and Teunissen, J. (2018), "Fashion 4.0. Innovating fashion industry through digital transformation", Research Journal of Textile and Apparel, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 352-369.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles