Fashion Meets Tech: 8 Fashion Technology Innovations in 2017
Fashion technology was always an inevitable marriage. In the last several decades, technology has not only advanced in leaps and bounds, it has rapidly permeated almost every area of our lives. We now have driverless cars, holograms and mini computers on our wrists (smartwatches). It was only a matter of time before clothing was the next target.
It is just amazing to see how tech and fashion have come together to create splendid masterpieces that appeal to the market. With fashion technology, tech pieces are no longer just practical; they have become part of fashion wear, meant to be shown off while also providing numerous practical benefits.
Join us as we dissect this rapidly heating up union. We discuss the roots of fashion tech, some great examples in the market and what the future holds.
Fashion Technology – Why Now?
The realization of fashion technology has been enabled by several factors;
- Technology has been getting smaller. From smaller processors to slimmer Smartphones, tech devices seem bent on disappearing into thin air. With much smaller gadgets, fashion companies can finally integrate technology with fashion without creating any awkward styles.
- Tech companies want to expand their markets. Popular technologies so often suffer from market saturation. One way to expand the market is to offer the technology in a new way. Tech companies have seen such an opportunity in fashion. Instead of boring black or white boxes, tech now comes wrapped in a stylish piece of clothing.
- Fashion makers are looking for something new. Fashion is a rapidly changing industry. One style will keep the market excited for only so long, and then you have to change over. Integrating tech into fashion promises to be one of the most exciting developments in fashion. Instead of just bragging about style, fashion makers can now tout the tech in their pieces.
From here on, things can only get better for fashion technology. Technology will keep getting smaller and better. Fashion makers will seek out even more revolutionary technologies to make their products more appealing. Tech companies will continue to find ways to spread their products beyond their traditional markets.
Amazing Pieces of Fashion Tech
In no particular order of excellence and innovation, here are some examples of where the marriage between fashion and technology has brought us.
1. 3D Fashion / 3D Printing
3D printing is not just for figurines, guns and body parts; apparently, you can also print your evening dress. In July, the Platform Fashion show held in Germany showcased a range of 3D printed clothing by designers from Europe, the United States and Asia.
The designs were breathtakingly beautiful, taking on both a structural look (what you would expect from something 3D printed) and a soft fabric look (what you would expect in normal clothing). The combination is certainly a fresh breath of air. 3D printing in fashion is not that much of a surprise. People have printed body organs and even houses.
Nevertheless, it is a really fascinating way to incorporate fashion technology on the catwalk. Not too far off in the future, we might all be able to print a nice office suit or t-shirt at home.
This is another big area that fashion makers are moving into. These days, smart watches feel more like a fashion accessory rather than a tech gadget. This is because the tech companies behind these devices – Fitbit, Samsung, Apple and so on – are focusing more than ever on style in addition to function.
Most forays into wearables by fashion designers involve partnerships with tech companies. Apple partnered with the luxury fashion brand, Hermes, to create a series of pricey versions of Apple Watch. Google, Intel and Tag Heuer collaborated on a luxury watch, currently going for $1,500. Fitbit partnered with Public School to create a unique minimalist wrist piece.
We cannot fail to mention the Montblanc e-Strap, which puts all the fashion technology in the strap rather then messing around with the classic mechanical timepiece. The strap contains a mini-screen with Smartwatch-like features including smart notifications from your phone.
While smart watches are the focus of wearable fashion tech at the moment, expect much more variety in the future. Wearables will be integrated into accessories like earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Your next bracelet might actually be a heart rate monitor. We even have some non-smartwatch fashion tech wearables in the market already. A good example is Swarovski Shine, a stunning jewelry piece containing an activity tracker.
3. The Harry Potter invisibility cloak
Don’t we all wish we could have Harry Potters cloak of invisibility, especially during those embarrassing I-just-want-to-disappear moments? Well, that is still stuff of fiction, unfortunately. But the CHBL Jammer Coat comes as close as we ever will, at least for now.
While you will not be able to scare people with ghostly antics, the coat makes you invisible to all radio waves. The jacket’s interior is filled with metallic fiber to block any tracking using radio waves. It also blocks phone and internet signals. Once you place your phone inside the jacket, you essentially disappear from technology.
On the upside, you cannot be tracked nor can your credit card information be captured remotely. An obvious downside is that nobody can reach you via phone. Also, the coat looks quite heavy and could be uncomfortable after a long wear. But hey, if you want to disappear you should be ready to make a few sacrifices, right?
4. Wearable MP3 Player, Wi-Fi, GPS and much more
BB. Suit is the complete opposite of the Jammer Coat. Instead of trying to hide you, it makes you visible to various technologies including GPS, NFC, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. If this is not the most perfect definition of wearable technology, we don’t know what is. With the suit on, people can track you on Google Maps and you can load music onto your suit.
The second version of the suit came with even more amazing capabilities. It actively cleans the air around the wearer.
The suit itself is a case of intricacy and complexity multiplied several times over. The makers had to cram copper wires, batteries, processors, sensors and other bits of tech into the suit while still keeping it wearable. Thick layers of cotton on the outside and inside keep it comfortable. Even more amazingly, the fabric used to make the suit is 3D printed.
Looking at the pictures the BB suit is actually quite stylish, with no hint at all of all the technology hiding underneath.
5. Smart fabrics
Just like the BB. Suit and the Jammer Cloak, smart fabrics are another example of actually wearable technology. Some experts tend to refer to Smartwatches and fitness trackers, not as wearable tech, but rather “carry-able” tech.
Smart fabrics, also referred to as E-textiles or smart garments, have been developed with various pieces of technology embedded in them. The Jammer Cloak and BB. Suit are already great examples of smart fabrics. There is a whole industry of them, with current focus being on technological research, funding and introduction to the fabrics market.
Some smart fabrics are designed purely for aesthetic reasons with features such as fancy lighting and the ability to change color. Others are designed to enhance performance in areas like athletics and military. They come with features such as body temperature control, protections against harmful radiation, control of muscle performance and reduction of wind resistance. Even in the medical field, there are fabrics that have anti-aging properties, others that can moisturize while others can release drugs into the body.
The smart fabrics industry is very new but with big promises for the near future.
6. Wearable solar panels
Solar panels can be placed on houses, on cars and even on roads. But on clothes? Apparently so according to Dutch designer, Pauline van Dongen. The designer has a range of clothing on which he has integrated solar panels. When not needed, the panels are well hidden and the dress looks just normal, with just a little bit more style than usual.
When the sun comes up, the clothes unfurl to reveal solar panels while still managing to maintain style. The coat has 48 solar cells while the dress has 72 solar cells. After an hour in the sun, the clothes harness enough solar energy to charge your Smartphone.
This is amazing on so many levels. For one, the technology involved in integrating solar panels and clothing is just amazing. Secondly, the makers take the fight for a better and cleaner environment further and make it very personal.
7. Acid rain indicator
Acid rain occurs when there are high levels of atmospheric pollution. It is common in various cities of Europe, the United States and Asia. It can cause harm to plants, water-based life, infrastructure and even worse, humans.
While it does not stop acid rain, the Rain palette dress provides valuable information on its occurrence. The dress is a simple design with PH-sensitive dye applied on it. When rain falls, the dress changes color depending on how acidic the rainwater is. This informs the wearer of the dangers she is in. It also comes with a Smartphone app that can be used to upload color changes to a cloud database, thus helping update other people on rain conditions across the world.
8. Sports and fitness clothing
There are a variety of innovative clothing that focus on helping people improve their fitness training. The Polo Tech Shirt from Ralph Lauren is equipped with various sensors that measure how many calories you have burned, rate your workout intensity, improve muscle recovery and enhance blood circulation.
Heddoko is an athletic wear that acts as your fitness coach. It analyzes your workout and provides feedback in real time through an app. It tells you when you are applying too much pressure on certain areas and tracks your efforts to achieve your fitness goals.
Hexoskin, set to be launched in 2016, tracks your heart rate, breathing rate workout intensity and sleep quality. The shirt comes with Bluetooth connectivity and is compatible with both iOS and Android phones. Another fitness tracking shirt is D-Shirt by Cityzen Sciences. It tracks your heart rate, breathing and body temperature among other metrics.
A Few Others
While most of the mentioned innovations have the potential to appeal to a wide market, a few others belong to a very narrow niche. Not to seem biased in our dissection of fashion technology here are some eyebrow-raising innovations:
- Intimacy 2.0 is a dress that gets more and more transparent as your heartbeat increases.
- The Holy dress punishes you when you lie by lighting up more intensely and releasing a harmless, but uncomfortable jolt of electricity.
- The Paparazzi Lover is a dress embedded with 62 LED lights. They respond to camera flashes by lighting up the dress.
- The Smoke Dress releases smoke to discourage anyone who invades your personal space.
The Future Lies in Partnerships
To ensure a future where fashion technology becomes as common and as useful as our Smartphones, there needs to be increased partnerships between the fashion and technology industries. Fashion makers may not have the technology to create stunning pieces of fashion tech and technology companies may be a bit inept at creating great styles. But when they come together, the results are nothing short of amazing.
Most of the partnerships we see today focus on creating luxury products, with a good example being Apple and Hermes. Hopefully, this will change as tech companies look to expand their innovations beyond silicon valley and other technology hubs.
Future partnerships will not only focus on style, but also on practical benefits. There will be plenty of sportswear, performance-enhancing clothes, wireless communication fabrics and so on.
With the advent of so many wearable technologies, it is not impossible to think of a future when your Smartphone will be useless. You will be able to stay aware of your fitness using your clothes, become a walking Wi-Fi hotspot and communicate on your smartwatch.
What we have seen so far is just the beginning. In so many ways, 2017 feels like the starting point for fashion technology. In a decade, we will not be talking about fashion technology as an innovation or experiment; it will be an integral part of our daily lives.
Which of the above innovations do you find most exciting? Which new fashion technology do you hope to see in the future? Leave your comments below.