The Next Black

Exploring the Future of Clothing

Another day, another photo stream of stunning celebrities with gorgeous gowns from Cannes flows through my newsfeed. Summer’s almost here and we’re all searching for next fashion must-have. But what if I tell you that in the near future you could be on the lookout for a machine, not a garment, which will be transforming the way we dress?

This is only one of the possibilities featured in AEG’s new documentary The Next Black. To tap into three future concepts of clothing — technology, biology and sustainability — AEG interviewed some of the world’s most progressive people shaping the industry.

Fashion & Technology

A lot has been written on wearable tech recently and there’s an ongoing discussion around who is going to get the merge of fashion and technology right. STUDIO XO are one of the pioneers in this field, transforming “science-fiction into science-fact”. STUDIO XO’s Nancy Tilbury refers to the garments as machines and says that the company aims to educate their wearers about the transformation of textiles and the fact that their projects are essentially design engineering that happen to be dressed as fashion. In the future, could the question “who’s your favourite designer?” be transformed to “who’s your favourite engineer”?

At the other end of wearable tech — sport — Adidas is developing a system that monitors athletes’ real-time performance via their clothing, integrating heart-rate sensors in their garments. The company is also looking to add non-invasive respiration, movement sensors and accelerometers in the fabric which is crucial for the athletes.

Fashion & Biology

Suzanne Lee from Biocouture explores another possibility for the future of clothing — bringing living and biological materials into fashion and sportswear. This way of producing fashion is closer to producing food than any kind of traditional textile process. Biocouture collaborates with other companies that also grow materials in their labs and help them take the materials from the lab to the market. The great thing about bio engineered clothing is that there isn’t really any waste because the living organism is producing the fibre and grows the material for us. Suzanne stresses on the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration for the future of fashion.

At the moment, fashion is only concerned with what’s happening in the next five minutes. In order for the industry to reinvent itself, there needs to be more time for thinking, doing and R&D.

Fashion & Sustainability

The model of fast fashion has changed the face of the industry so much that our consumption of textiles between 2000 — 2010 has increased with 47%. This relentless consumption of mass produced, low priced clothes results in much bigger cost for the environment. A hero of sustainability, Rick Ridgeway from Patagonia thinks that if the concept of fast fashion comes simply from companies trying to satisfy consumers’ needs, then the change needs to start from the end user. Patagonia is doing a lot in that area, encouraging people to repair, resell and recycle their clothes. They have gone as far as launching an anti-buying ad campaign on the most anticipated shopping day in the US — Black Friday.

Although it is difficult to produce climate-neutral clothes, companies have started to realise that this is not only a “good to do, nice to have” initiative. Changing their businesses in this direction doesn’t only drive profit but also helps educate customers and change behaviour. Take Nike, Kenzo or H&M for example. Taking care of our clothes redefines our relationship and makes us more connected to them. It’s a shift from something that we buy to something that we own.

A truly thought provoking documentary by AEG that makes us rethink what’s the next big step in this $1.7tn industry.

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