Fashion Technology Couture – We’ve passed the gimmick stage. Nobody denies that the technology ecosystem is obsessed with fashion. Tech giants such as Amazon, Apple and Google, are working hard to carve new paths into the fashion space. Apple is doing so with smartwatches, Amazon with e-commerce and voice-activated fashion assistants, while Google leads the research in innovative textiles and AI-powered fashion designers.
The fashion world shows interest in technology as well. Karl Lagerfeld, creative director at Chanel, has expressed his love for blending fashion with technology by experimenting with 3D printed garments and tech-infused runway shows.
Fashion Technology Couture – The Cognitive Dress
Same with Zac Posen and fashion house Marchesa which used IBM’s Watson supercomputer to conceive a ‘cognitive dress’. The dress lights up and changes colour based on social media activity, engagements, and overall emotional feedback.
The line between fashion and tech industries is blurring. Fashion tech couture is passing the gimmick point. Once used only by independent fashion tech designers, home fashion printing is poised to become the norm. 3D printing is becoming cheaper and faster, seeing increasing interest and adoption.
For example, Adidas has teamed up with Silicon Valley startup Carbon 3D to work together on a new manufacturing technique called digital light synthesis. Their innovative tech mixes light and oxygen with programmable liquid resins to print 3D objects in minutes. Adidas aims to use this technology to 3D-print sneakers on a grand scale.
Fashion Technology Couture – Adidas Futurecraft 4D
The premium footwear manufacturer has also featured sneakers made from recycled ocean waste with 3D printed prototypes, produced 3D printed limited editions. This January 2018, Adidas Futurecraft 4D shoe had its official commercial launch in New York City. An Adidas representative said that the company is planning to dispatch 100,000 pairs by the end of 2018.
While to most of you 3D printed shoes or clothes still sound like a gimmick, there is a real economic reason for Adidas, Nike and many other fashion giants to invest and support the technology. Think of the customisation potential as you’ll be able to walk into a store, hop on a treadmill, have your foot measured and get your custom made kickers in less than 10 minutes. The footwear created would confer maximum comfort by matching your footprint to perfection.
Think of the time saved and the recycled materials used in a manufacturing process. Think of the new manufacturing facilities which can be algorithmically controlled and run by robots at a rapid pace, and in high volumes. Automatisation will unleash the humanity from mundane tasks, empowering us to focus on life-changing endeavours, and on our loved ones.
Fashion Technology Couture – Nike HyperAdapt 1.0
“If it turns into a ‘do-it-yourself’ vehicle, 3D printing technology will become an industry-changing force. There’s a feeling that it might not be anytime happen soon, but it will happen. Once it does, expect dramatic changes in how we think about intellectual property and supply chains,” says Vanessa Friedman, fashion director and chief fashion critic at The New York Times.
Nike also is using advanced technology to design innovative sneakers. Their self-lacing shoes, HyperAdapt 1.0, features a self-lacing system dubbed E.A.R.L. (Electro Adaptive Reactive Lacing). The boots are a consumer version of a prop shoe as worn by Michael Fox (Marty McFly) in ‘Back to the Future‘ movie, part II. Designed with athletes in mind, HyperAdapt solves the shoelaces untying problem experienced during workouts.
It is another example of how technological infusion adds functional value to the end product. Similar to Adidas, Nike is one of the top investors in emerging technology and the ‘Ease Challenge’ project that recruits engineers to ‘reinvent footwear design’ is the perfect example.
Fashion Technology Couture – Google Fashion Innovation
Another example comes from the Advanced Technologies and Projects (ATAP). This Google division works tirelessly to redesign the textiles and materials that compose our garments. ATAP has been experimenting with innovative fabrics that can make fashion garments smarter. Their ‘Project Jacquard‘ showcases a new weaving technology that turns clothes into gesture-controlled surfaces.
Together with Levi’s, Google designed and launched a smart ‘Commuter’ denim jacket that has Bluetooth cuffs. The jacket connects to your smartphone and lets you brush your fingers on the sleeve to give direction, play music, put the volume up or down, and even check the time. However, there are times when technology and fashion seem to have trouble understanding each other.
“Companies must figure out ways to make their products less obvious about technology and more focused on aesthetic and consumers’ needs. While current electronics aren’t flexible enough, the future fashion garments will inconspicuously embed advanced tech. We can’t change the shape of the body, but we must learn to mould technology to fit us better,” said Kate Sicchio, assistant professor of integrated digital media at New York University.
Fashion Technology Couture – Functional Fashion
Sacchio also insists that that soon enough we’ll have clothes that collect health and fitness data without the need for auxiliary devices such as smartwatches, smartphones, or wearable bands, as “being on the body, connected fabrics can best read the body.”
More tech startups and innovative fashion companies are on the verge of significant breakthroughs for the fashion industry. Blockchain and AI also help us design a future of fashion where smart jackets measure heart rates, self-lacing shoes track steps, skin-like garments protect you from the surrounding environment. More than that, all future garments will let you know who made them, when, how and where to recycle them.
What seems like a gimmick now is shaping up the ground for the next generation of smart fashion. It is only a matter of time before we see products that are useful, meaningful, and accessible to everyone.