The Future of Fashion + Technology
And why you should care even if you hate clothes
Although fashion and technology are often perceived as entirely distinct fields, the two have always intersected — generally to the betterment of both industries.
Take today’s ultimate staple: blue jeans. Originally manufactured for cowboys, miners and factory workers in the mid 1800s, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Rebel Without a Cause and its star James Dean sparked their popularity and widespread adoption — a perfect example of the influential scope that technology and fashion possess when they converge.
Now consider this:
As technology presses onward, each successive generation of computing becomes more personal, and wearable technology like the Apple Watch seems to be the next logical step.
That said, plenty of devices, past and present, are riddled with a nerdy stigma (cellphone belt clips, bluetooth earpieces anyone?). If technology is going to be attached to you, you don’t want to look like a cyborg.
Despite attempts at courting the fashion world, Google Glass’ futuristic appearance was widely panned as looking too ridiculous to be worn by anyone outside of a laboratory.
As a result of its slick design and promotional campaign, The Apple Watch has been a little more successful: a recent 15 second spot featuring Chloë Sevigny did an excellent job highlighting the watch’s customizable bands and faces, but the watch itself is not all that appealing as an accessory in a strict fashion sense. It still feels a little too much like a toy to be taken seriously.
So how do you take advantage of these innovations without looking like you walked out of a Star Trek convention? And what about the myriad ways that technology is improving the retail experience?
Here are 6 considerations that will help you take full advantage of the convenience, sartorial advice, and philanthropic benefits afforded by the marriage of Fashion and Technology.
Not the superpower, but close ;) In this iteration, invisibility refers to technology that you can’t see or feel.
OMsignal, for example, is a next generation thread that’s woven into garments and has the ability to track your heart, breathing rate, count your steps and calories burned.
Similarly, Project Jacquard turns everyday clothes and furniture into interactive surfaces with a specially-engineered yarn that claims to be indistinguishable from traditional fabrics.
This goes beyond the Apple Watch, which aside from its health monitoring capacities, is just a notification tool. By teaming up with fashion designers, tech companies can appeal to a wider audience.
Then there’s Ringly: a line of classic rings that connect to your phone via Bluetooth and subtly notify you when you’ve received a text or call. The discrete vibration and side light won’t interfere with social situations, and keep you from rudely checking your phone every five minutes to see if someone has called.
Chronos is a small metal disc that transforms any timepiece into a smartwatch. Just 33 mm across and 2.5 mm thick, it adheres to the back of your watch and brings a variety of smartwatch features with it. Perfect for someone who is looking for the smartwatch experience without the gaudy looks.
3-D and 4-D Printing
By now, you’ve heard about 3-D printing. Also known as additive manufacturing, this process refers to the creation of three-dimensional solid objects from digital files.
The ability to print specific quantities at home or a few blocks away removes mass production and shipping from the equation, potentially making it a more environmentally-friendly type of manufacturing.
Normal is a company at the forefront of 3d printing for consumers. An interesting brand selling great products that don’t necessarily cater to a tech market, their great taste suggests they’d be just as successful without 3d integration. A perfect example of what the future of direct to consumer manufacturing will look like.
Massachusetts garment and jewelry design studio Nervous System is currently pioneering what they’ve coined ‘4-D printing’ with designs that automatically change shape once removed from the printer. One can only imagine the implications that this technology might bring to other industries.
Building a sense of social responsibility has become a trend among many digital fashion start-ups. While larger brands often make an effort to give back, their attempts can come across as a marketing ploy if philanthropy is not at the core of their business model.
Eyewear retailer Warby Parker prioritizes social consciousness at all levels of business. By circumventing traditional channels, designing in-house, and engaging directly with customers, they’re able to offer high-quality glasses at affordable prices.
On a global scale, Warby Parker tallies up the number of glasses they’ve sold each month and makes a donation to their nonprofit partners. The nonprofit organization trains men and women in developing countries to give basic eye exams and sell glasses to their communities at affordable prices.
It’s been estimated that the average American throws away nearly 65 pounds of clothing each year — a frightening amount of waste. Apps like Depop and Poshmark allow users to buy and sell used garments and make the transaction of secondhand clothes fun and simple.
Like it or not, shopping is one of our central public activities, and a core social connector. In short, people like to get out into the world. Smart Mirrors may not be the technology that saves Brick & Mortar, but it will certainly enhance traditional shopping experiences and make them a great deal more efficient.
Memomi is a digital mirror that allows you to change the color of your clothing or add accessories without actually doing physically. View yourself in real time from all angles or whip through a variety of outfits in a matter of seconds.
November saw Ralph Lauren launch interactive mirrors in its flagship location in New York City. It allows you to alter your fitting room’s lighting, request a new size, browse through store items and interact with sale associates. You can also send a product’s information to your phone should you want to purchase it another day.
Let’s face it: more is not more. If you’ve ever moved or faced a situation that forced you to confront the amount of stuff you’ve accumulated, you’ll understand.
Mylo refuses to sell an endless line of trendy apparel for this very reason, and believes that it’s better to invest in a few timeless, well-designed pieces that will last a lifetime.
After you’ve told Mylo what you own, the app uses an algorithm to suggest the outfits you can put together for specific occasions.
Thanks for Reading
No matter who you are, what you do, or how much stock you put in your appearance, the benefits of Fashion and Technology’s intersection are obvious. Either get on board and embrace the future, or get left behind.
Are you excited for the future of fashion? Did I miss any interesting companies? Let me know what you think in the comments.
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An interactive essay I wrote exploring the past, present, and future of anthropomorphic design. Also available as a talk for conferences, events, etc.