The fashion industry is in the middle of a technological revolution
By Tara Kilcawley
• Fashion, as with any other industry, is driven by changes in technology.
• Advances in technology affect every part of the fashion industry.
• Technology is responsible for advances in fibers, textile creation, design methods, and merchandising strategies.
Every aspect of the fashion industry is currently undergoing a technological revolution. From manufacturing to marketing, technology offers a fresh, new take on fashion and allows designers’ creations to shine in a new light. Among the many technological advancements that make this a true fashion revolution, the most prominent innovations are in the fields of conductive fibers, wearables, CAD software, 3D printing, and virtual reality.
Conductive fibers can be broken into intrinsically conductive fibers and non-conductive substrates that are then coated or embedded with an electrically conductive material. Conductive fibers can be woven, knit, sewn, or braided, which means that manufacturers can use conductive fabrics for their low weight, flexibility, and versatility.
Some examples of products that use these conductive fibers are conductive threads or yarns, metal mesh, aerospace textiles, protective vests, or fabric sheets that can be used for thermal heating.
Wearable technology is also becoming increasingly popular in the world of fashion. From workout clothes that can track one’s vitals to accessories such as the Apple Watch that double as smart devices, wearables are steadily gaining influence. These devices are able to compile information based on the user’s location, body temperature and movements, which can then make personal, user-specific recommendations based on this information.
Designers are always looking for ways to do things faster and more efficiently, and using computer-aided design software is one of the easiest ways to cut down on time in the design process. Computer-aided design (also known as CAD) is the use of computer technology for design and design documentation. CAD software offers a faster alternative to traditional manual drafting and allows designs to be seen in 3D. CAD software also lets the designer see different colors, designs, and patterns on infinitely many models. The designer is able to develop, test, and change product ideas in great detail with less work and less error.
3D printing, while still on a relatively small scale, has already shown that it has a place in the fashion industry. As of right now, 3D printing is almost exclusive to haute couture (expensive, fashionable clothing). Additionally, 3D printing offers an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional textiles, since there is no waste involved.
Up until recently, the use of virtual reality (VR) in day-to-day life was merely a science fiction writer’s daydream. However, VR has now become a part of mainstream technology. Many fashion brands are already experimenting with this new technology as a way to enhance their products. Tommy Hilfiger used VR headsets in its stores to give consumers a 360-degree fashion show experience. Both Gap and Rebecca Minkoff created VR fitting rooms in their stores to give customers the ability to try on a range of styles quickly and easily. Many makeup brands, such as Sephora, Charlotte Tilbury, and Rimmel, have used VR to allow customers to test makeup products as a filter on their phones. Although it is still in its infancy, there is no doubt that VR will have a prominent place in the future of fashion.
As technology continues to progress, it is worth asking ourselves which concepts entwined in science fiction may become tomorrow’s leading drivers in the industry.