Wearable Technologies and the Future of Fashion
We are witnessing a period where the dominance of a single color or pattern in a season, or the question, what is in fashion this year, has become obsolete.
Life and technology are now intertwined and mutually nourishing more than ever.
What we expect from our jeans is that we not only look good in them anymore, but that they also keep us warm in the winter, and cool in the summer, increase our blood circulation while tracking our steps, monitor our health indicators, adapt their color to the environment, and even do not idle while we are walking and give us a massage… Our expectation for performance has never been this high. The good news is that these are all feasible expectations.
Let’s first refresh our memories on the more recent past:
It was in the 1960s that we first started to talk about the future and fashion in the same context. The turning points were the first foot set on the moon, and then the start of the millennium in 2000. As the millennium drew closer, while there were fake news on how computers and programs written in different codes would crash, the real influence started to be observed strongly in video clips, fashion and the music industry.
Since fashion production is a process starting from fiber, and continuing with yarn, dye, fabric, sewing and wearing, it requires long-term planning. Therefore, trends, trade shows and the industry have to be ready for the seasons well ahead of time. The welcoming of the millennium occurred just as expected in fashion: metallic surfaces on fabrics, polished fabrics with space effects, clothes with rigid and sharp forms, large collars, robotic bionic cuts, leathers, hard but subtle shoulder pads… Along with sort of an updated version of Star Trek, the new millennium promised a future, hope and novelties in yet uncharted extraterrestrial land.
In 2001, one event completely changed this feeling of hope: the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers. Attacks that were somewhat familiar to us, those living in a region of the world closest to the Middle East, but unprecedented for those in New York and in the Western world. The feeling of safety was shaken in the West. Once the feeling of safety is shaken in a person, everything new instills fear — the new always takes courage. In the absence of safety, there is no courage, when there is no courage, there is nothing new, and when there is nothing new, a new movement, or trend or the space-millennium fashion is suddenly off the agenda. That is exactly why the vintage trend appeared. Instead of the uncharted waters of the future, fashion turned to the past, and clothes from the past, those of our parents and grandparents came to the fore, and the need for guaranteed happiness and a reliable past gave people the strength to hold on to life. The same feeling prevailed in music — after all the music with laser effects, suddenly Norah Jones’s hit Unplugged swept all the Grammy Awards that year.
Safety concerns have not diminished since then, but technology and the textile industry have adapted to the change. The need to access information and communicate anytime radically changed all clothing, entertainment, consumption means. We have grown used to everything in our lives being smart and connected, their turning on and off on their own, giving us direction and precision, being liked and being seen, and enabling us to access and be accessible no matter what. Today, our expectations of fashion are no less than that. We expect our wardrobe to know our consumption habits, roughly estimate the product lifetime of our most recently purchased black pants and t-shirt and remind us of it, and even order new ones by themselves. We plan for our car, parked in the garage, to go and pick up the order by itself.
Today, our clothes and everything we consume have to meet extremely high performance expectations. As one side is producing single-use products to meet the fastest consumption need, the other is seeking for fabrics and designs that will not wear out for a lifetime. Designers try to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to combine all disciplines. Music, arts, biology, chemistry, electronics, all merge in a single point of view. We are in the search for special clothes that will not wear out and will adapt to all kinds of climate conditions for bodies that resist mortality, or a parallel universe and parallel lives made possible with specially equipped clothes that will make us sense everything in a virtual reality.
The design industry has long joined forces. Since 2015, when my designer friends and I together designed for Vodafone Turkey the jacket that changes its form according to weather conditions, our priority has been a multidisciplinary approach. While we were designing the jacket, we worked in a team including an electronic engineer, a genetic scientist, a sculptor, an electronic software expert and a fashion designer at a textile workshop where electronic circuits could be integrated.
The jacket adapts to the weather in a defined space. It becomes shorter, its hood collapses, and it transfers the energy it collects through solar panels to the cooling units on the wrists to cool the body in the summer, and in the winter, it becomes longer, the hood and front panels expand to cover the body, and this time the solar panels give out heat from the nape to warm the body. In case of an emergency, the GPRS technology on it serves to send location information to 3 addresses predefined by the user.
Design has now gone beyond designing clothes only, and has turned to create space and presentation areas. There is an expectation for mind-blowing speed and pleasure in communication and esthetic presentation techniques. Clothes we create with 3D printers have reached an esthetic value integrity at our shows that we were not able to achieve with conventional techniques.
Following that, at our most recent show that was watched completely with VR glasses, viewers came to the venue and watched the show through virtual reality glasses they were given, and experienced a 3600 and 3D show against a backdrop ranging from the space to the Basilica Cistern.
At our show where we presented clothes that had been designed and produced with the 3D printer technology, 1500 different patterns were projected onto these clothes and shared with our guests.
Can fashion and design suffice with anything less after all these developments? Of course not.
For instance, we have swimsuits now that clean the sea while we are swimming, and maybe the next step will be cleaning the air while walking.
Can cities become cleaner this way? Why not? Today, we have to consider everything in a multidimensional and multidisciplinary fashion.
Perhaps designers will soon design variable data and sell them online, and the 3D printing store on the corner will print it specifically for us according to the shape of our body.
All of these are possible right now.
With their biggest fear of living and ageing, human beings are competing against life with all their creativity.
While all technologies are advancing, perhaps our most significant responsibility is the fact that we are creating a future with the human being at its heart.
A country like Turkey, where most of the labor force is employed in the textile industry, has to adapt to all this rapidly. Sustainability will perhaps mean producing clothes for Tesla’s mission to Mars in the near future or training textile workers that can connect electronic circuits — because the future is shaped as we speak and is already past.
Written by Arzu Kaprol,