3 Product Trends From The Blurring Intersection of Fashion + Technology

3D printed midsoles of Adidas Futurecraft Sneakers (image via video embeded below)

The sewing machine may have been one of fashion’s foremost tech-inspired revolutions. Reducing production costs with its efficiency, it enabled the majority of people to own multiple outfits and engage in more stylistic expression. The advent of the internet and other emerging technologies are similarly contributing to a new cultural dynamic — not only influencing, but even integrating with one of our oldest creative mediums. Below are 3 observations of product trends around the blurring intersection of fashion and technology that companies can potentially learn from.

  1. Messaging Through Materials / Manufacturing

Japanese denim and the lore surrounding its quality created its own cult following. Knowledge of its history, construction and character had often been reserved for insiders who cared enough to know. However, with the internet enabling enthusiast communities, and social media encouraging brands to become publishers, a new platform for attention to detail has emerged. Today, materials and manufacturing can champion a compelling brand story to a much larger audience of interested consumers.

For instance, consumers concerned with sustainability might find materials made out of ocean garbage like Bionic Yarn (creative directed by Pharrell Williams) speaking to their unique values and interests beyond just aesthetics. Adidas Futurecraft is an example of how innovative manufacturing (3D printing) can also be a focus around which a bigger brand story is built. Background is increasingly finding a place in the foreground and in the minds of consumers.

2. Product “Hacking” As Brand-Building

A visionary article in Fast Co Design speculates that in the near future, “products will no longer be bought off the shelf. Rather, individuals will create personalized versions, developing their own ‘brands within brands’ in the process.” In the similar spirit of how a software engineer might build a creative application utilizing code from an existing API, maker-minded individuals and communities are already creating their own physical products and accessories.

Clothing companies are beginning to incorporate more open-sourced possibilities in the form of creative influencer partnerships, DIY enablement, and customizable offerings. Brands have always been built by companies in collaboration with their communities, but today’s technological enablement is allowing consumers to play a more hands-on role in the actual product-making process.

3. More Seamless Form & Function

Just as we customize our smartphones to fit our individual needs, versatile clothing is becoming increasingly popular in our on demand, on the go lifestyles. This is evident in the rise of athleisure and outdoor technical performance fabrics being adapted for multi-purpose needs.

Initiatives like Project Jacquard by Google hint at the next wave of how our clothing may become more interactive and dynamic in terms of its versatility. Examples ranging from haptic technology integration like Nadi X’s yoga pants that correct your posture to bioengineered possibilities like bacteria-coated sportswear that allow for night-glowing and actuation (for breathability), suggest a new potential — where what we wear may ultimately function more like a self-aware, 2nd skin.

While technology is enabling exciting new possibilities, there is still an uncanny valley to cross so to speak. As Benedict Evans eloquently concluded in Fashion, Maslow and Facebook’s control of social, “Facebook writes algorithms, and designers cut the cloth, but that doesn’t mean they control what people look at or what people wear.” The trends that gain traction and ultimately become a part of our culture will likely be the most authentic reflections of who we are, at least at that particular moment in time.

Thank you to @leanne_luce @stevenpurvis @maddiewest and @mallorywatkins for your feedback, conversations, and inspiration.

My intention is to do a deeper dive on these topics so stay tuned — If there are other ideas around this I would love to hear from you!