The business of rockets and scarves
Human beings love adventure and the explorers themselves, hence the charm of stories like Charles Lindbergh or Amelia Earhart. In an increasingly safe and standardized world, the allure of adventure continues to call us; two industries seek to quench that thirst, the spaceflight industry and the fashion industry.
The first answers the question of where we could go, while the second answers the question of who we could become; both involve a lot of technology to become a reality, from the first sketch of the design until seeing it realized.
It’s easy to think that the space travel industry is full of numbers and formulas, while the fashion industry is full of just colours and textures. But lately, the fashion industry has changed; what was once an ethereal world has become a reality filled with data science as sophisticated as any other tech industry.
Today Stitch Fix (NASDAQ: SFIX) makes personalized recommendations to its customers about clothing items they might like; artificial intelligence discovers what customers like and creates new mixes of those styles, all based on collected data and intelligent algorithms that are tasked with interpreting and understanding customer tastes.
Recently, online retail and fast fashion startup Shein was valued at $100 billion. Shein is the third most valuable startup in the world, being at least 60 times more valuable than Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE).
Shein demonstrates that younger consumers are not so different from previous generations because if the situation warrants it, they are open to compromising quality for the price. Shein also knows which products sell well and which sell poorly and is able to avoid producing unprofitable products by increasing efficiency.
In the space travel industry, efficiency reigns supreme; a space suit must protect the astronaut from the conditions of the universe. On the other hand, an article of clothing on earth is meant to look good while protecting from the elements.
Even so, that line is gradually becoming blurred. In outer space, spacesuits protect astronauts from UV rays; meanwhile, on earth, there are already special materials that can protect a person from UV rays on a daily basis.
There are now smart socks that provide vital information such as step count, speed, calories burned, altitude, and distance run. Products such as these open the doors to the world of smart fashion to ordinary people, a world that not long ago was only accessible to a select group of individuals belonging to the space or military sector.
For its part, the space travel industry entered the world of fashion; companies do not want to have spacesuits that recall an era of space exploration 50 years ago but suits that inspire the style of the industry in the coming decades, in a world where everyone already knows what a spacesuit is and what it looks like, changing that notion is precisely to challenge the status quo.
Ultimately, all industries evolve and learn from each other; perhaps that is the genius of many entrepreneurs, to learn new methods, to change the way everything is done, and shape the future in intriguing and wonderful ways.