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The Fashion Tech Stack Series Part 4: Software Systems

Updated: Apr 14

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A tech stack comprises of several software applications, frameworks, and programming languages that work together to build a complete solution. This mix will depend entirely on the type of applications you wish to have, and in what environments it needs to work in order to deliver the proposed outcome.

Broadly speaking, a tech stack can be optimized for

- Mobile devices: iPhone, iPad, Android

- Web-based devices: Laptop, Desktops or even terminals (e.g. an ATM or a ticketing machine is a desktop connected to an activity device such as a cash dispenser or a ticket printer)

- Combination of both

A tech stack will typically have two parts – a back end that manages the operations and the data; and a front-end that the user interacts with to perform specific functions. In the case of a fashion retail business for example, your database of inventory, warehouse management system, transaction tracking system, etc. is your backend, while the e-commerce store (web-based) or mobile app (iOS or Android) is your front-end.

The portion that connects these two together is the middleware which converts requests from the front-end into activity at the back-end and transfers updates from the back-end system to the user interacting with the front-end. Handling data across all these applications can be cumbersome and the middleware is what makes it work. Consider middleware as the highway that connects user requests on the front-end to destinations on the back-end.

The components of the back-end systems in a web application are typically:

- Programming languages (Python, PHP, JavaScript)

- Frameworks (Ruby on Rails, Flask, Django, Swift, or Objective-C)

- Databases (MongoDB and MySQL)

- Server providers (Apache, Nginx, etc.)

The components of the front-end or client-side of web software include HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These are used to build your e-commerce site or even the POS system in your stores.

In the case of mobile applications, the tech stack changes depending on the platform you are targeting, such as iOS, Android or both.

In the case of iOS, Objective C and Swift are the main programming languages, and these could be used along with integrated development environments such as Xcode, which allow the software to work well together.

In the case of Android, Java and Kotlin are used in the Android Studio integrated development environment.

Key factors when considering a development environment include scalability, performance and cost.

Scalability means being able to run more applications on the platform (vertical scalability) or allowing more devices to run (horizontal scalability). The difference is imagining if 10,000 people need to fit into a high-rise or a gated community. The space and utilities required would change accordingly, right?

Performance is how fast the applications need to run, how many of them can it handle at a time and how fast the system can react and at what rate. Large retailers or platforms require highly capable systems, while smaller retailers and brands can start with a limited capability, scaling up as the need and traffic to their business grows.

All the above factors will finally contribute to the cost of the system to be built. Depending on the complexity and involvement, companies can choose to outsource or build in-house teams to handle the development and operations of the business. Both models or a combination have their uses and vary across brands depending on their requirements and business strategy.

This is a quick snapshot and overview of how tech stacks are planned and operated. Stay with us for the next part for a typical case study on how applications are deployed and their interaction.

Haven’t read the earlier part of this series? Catch the first three parts of our tech stack series here:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Fuel4Fashion is a design, branding and technology consultancy for the fashion and apparel industry. We provide consulting and advisory services across design, business and IT processes to early stage and mid-sized apparel manufacturers and brands looking to grow their business with the help of smart sustainable management practices. Visit our website here and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for regular updates.

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