Fashion Innovators: In Conversation with Jade McSorely

WORDS BY Jade McSorley
22 Apr 2024
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Jade McSorley, Co-Founder of LOANHOOD and Digital Fashion Researcher
To celebrate Earth Day, we're launching our new blog series, 'Fashion Innovators.' In this series, we'll connect with leading change makers in Fashion Technology to explore how tech and fashion are shaping a more sustainable, circular industry. We are so excited to be kicking off the series in conversation with Jade McSorley, co-founder of the rental platform LOANHOOD and PhD researcher focused on digital fashion, AI, and consumer behaviours.

In an increasingly digital world, we as consumers are seeking more means of connection. How do you think the physical and digital worlds of commerce will interact in the context of fashion?

Jade: I definitely see the future of digital and physical as a blended world, especially within the fashion space. When you think of digital, a lot of fashion consumers automatically think of gaming, which feels separate from their lives. A fashion consumer doesn't necessarily seek out a digital world; they're very much about the tangibility and tactile nature of material. That's important to them. So it's not like they're necessarily seeking out digital and technological developments but they will be embedded within their consumer journey, maybe without them even knowing.

This is a big reason why there's a little friction at the moment with digital fashion. There's a lack of utility for a fashion consumer. I think what we will see more and more is digital innovation facilitating consumer decisions and leading to more consideration over purchases, creating a kind of marriage between physicality and the digital world to support and guide the consumer. Digital product passports as well as virtual try-ons are great examples of this. While virtual try-ons still have a long way to go, they could be a massive game-changer. If it can be embedded into the e-commerce experience, it could prevent people from buying multiple sizes or types to try at home and then sending them all back. If you can try things digitally before that stage, it can reduce returns.

Let's move on to the future of digital fashion. Is there still a future for it, and how sustainable is it?

Jade: There's definitely an appetite for digital fashion. Once people try it, they are genuinely interested and curious about its potential. However, there's often a lack of utility for the everyday consumer. Digital fashion still exists mostly within the gaming sphere, but it will take time for it to be integrated into the everyday fashion consumer's life.

People want digital fashion to reflect their reality and have high expectations for quality, as we are so used to it in the physical world. But the quality in digital fashion is different—it’s not about material quality, but technical quality. Digital fashion has made amazing strides in areas such as cloth simulation, but it’s still evolving.

Can you discuss some of the ethical implications of AI and digital fashion?

Jade: AI and digital fashion need to be used responsibly. AI won’t replace humans as it requires human oversight to ensure it's functioning correctly. As AI integrates with fashion, we need to consider the ethical and social implications.

We should strive for responsible innovation, where technology is developed with purpose and in a way that benefits people and the planet. Thoughtful regulation and digital ethics are also necessary as emerging technologies disrupt industries.

Who are your favourite sustainable designers right now, especially those on LOANHOOD?

Jade: It's hard to pick favourites because I love everyone in our community. I do have some go-to designers whose pieces I feel very comfortable in and have even rented and then purchased because I want to support them and love the pieces.

One designer I really like is Benjamin Fox, who is based in Norfolk and makes beautiful, comfortable dresses using deadstock fabric. Outside the industry, there's a brand in the US called Bettter that reworks men's suits using AI to facilitate the process. They offer reworked suits of exceptional quality, and their creative direction is amazing. It’s definitely on my wish list.

What advice would you give to those who want to make a difference in fashion this Earth Day, and everyday? 

Jade: It has to come from your heart. It sounds cheesy, but it’s important. You need to be genuinely passionate about making a change, living and breathing it every day. Knowing what you're saying and backing it up with research is crucial. Don’t just give opinions for the sake of it. There are plenty of opinions out there, but if you’re speaking about transparency, you should be confident in your knowledge and research to back up your stance.

Change can happen on different scales, so start with your community—your family, friends, or where you live. Make changes that impact those around you, and let the change echo outwards.