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March 14, 2016

New Technology in The Fashion Industry

By: Lynsey Bowen

Dashes Graphic

Technology in the fashion industry is moving at the same rapid pace as any other industry. You can even study Fashion Technology for your degree at Heriot Watt University so there must be career opportunities in this sub-sector of the industry.

This post looks at how technology is encroaching on the fashion industry and the possibilities it brings with it.

Smart fabrics

Moving into the detail of wearable technologies, which are coming onto the market now, brings us to smart fabrics; this is really the fusion point of wearable technology and fashion.

Smart fabrics are sensitive and reactive to environmental conditions and perform specific functions based on those changes.

There are a number of common smart fabric functionalities which we are seeing pop up across the fashion industry and these include: temperature sensitive, anti-stress regulators, wrinkle resistant fabrics, anti-bacterial and skin moisture regulation.

With just a little imagination, I’m sure you can begin to see the many possibilities these clever fabrics could be put to which would really increase the added value of a fashion brands range.

Another common type of smart fabric is that which contains a micro-chip or circuit which can store energy or interact with the wearer in some way. An excellent example of this is are the hats and gloves which generate power through movement and turn this power into heat to keep the wearer warm (still in prototype).

Image the branding possibilities of such an item for explorers, mountaineers, extreme sports enthusiasts, skiers and so on…

3D printing

3D printing is the other technological topic du jour in the fashion world at the moment with the Far East and America leading the way in 3D printed wearable’s.

An American team called Electroloom have created an electrospinning process, dubbed Field Guided Fabrication which makes it possible for anyone with a small bit of CAD ability to design and create seamless fabric items on demand. The process is still in an experimental phase but it is well on the way to becoming a commercial reality.

So far they have made sheets, tank-tops, skirts and beanies in Polyester/cotton blend and have been experimenting with a Silk blend and an Acrylic blend.

3D Printing Fashion Technology

Source: electroloom.com

Presently the easiest raw material to use to create your 3D garment is plastic but the future promises a full range of fabric types including cotton, wool and silk very soon.  3D printed fabrics dovetail beautifully with the wearable technology trend mentioned above as 3D printed fabrics will allow wearable technologies to become part of clothing and fashion and not just an added accessory.

Wearable technology

The Smart Fabrics and Wearable Technology conference recently showcased a number of innovative new products. The majority of wearable technology utilises the Smartwatch format with apps including golf swing improvement and other fitness-related measurement tools.

However, fashion and technology are now becoming a part of one another’s worlds with the introduction of Smart shoes and interactive hair extensions.

Technology in the Fashion Industry - Shoes

Source: wearable-technologies.com

The common theme with the development of new wearable technology is that comfort is everything in wearables and successful technology fashion items and brands will only be successful if the balance between functionality and comfort is perfect.

Wearable technology is becoming big business with the Wearable Technology Show returning to London April 2016. The 2015 exhibition showcased new products from Samsung, LG and Intel alongside new start-ups from around the world.

Branding this technology in the fashion industry

So what have we learned about technology in the fashion industry other than the two worlds are on a collision course which could see the fashion world change forever?

Well, technology is clearly providing fashion brands with the ability to carve out new and innovative niches for their products giving their brands the opportunity to add value and develop new USPs.

But I would argue that the same branding fundamentals should still apply to fashion houses and brands as they embrace the new technological world; understand your customers, their wants and their needs, and create a brand they can identify with. Give your brand a personality and use all of the branding elements available to you in order to convey your brand attributes.

Labelling will still play a key role in the branding of garments as the fashion world embraces a new and exciting error. And imagine if labelling became part of the fashion technology story – could we see interactive labels in the future? I don’t see why not.

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