Futuristic fashion: 7 trends that show how clothing is going high-tech
Technology is at the forefront of many discussions revolving around fashion these days. Farfetch, a global online retailer, also known as an e-tailer, recently hosted an event at the Design Museum in London that focused on technology and the future of fashion. Just last week, Lisa Aiken, retail fashion director of international e-commerce site Net-a-Porter, headed a panel discussion at Dubai Design District about how brands can gain recognition in the digital age. And earlier in the month, Sophie Hackford, director of Wired Consulting, used the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference in Muscat as a platform to emphasise that in our technology-ridden world, the fashion industry must keep up in order for brands to survive in the long term.
The fashion industry has seen some pretty outlandish innovations when it comes to merging technology with fashion – from 3-D printed artificial skin for beauty-product testing, to a wearable shoulder harness equipped with cameras that sends a rippling motion down your back if it catches a potential romantic suitor staring at you. But as a consumer, there are many areas where fashion-meets-technology initiatives will start affecting you – some in the short term, others in the long run.
“Same-day delivery, which was pioneered by NAP [Net-a-Porter], is something everybody expects,” said Maria McClay, industry head of fashion at Google, at the Farfetch conference in London. But e-commerce portals are taking it even further, beginning to promise delivery within one to two hours of an order being placed through their websites and apps.
Earlier this month, Farfetch launched a 90-minute store-to-door delivery service with Gucci. Through the Farfetch app, customers living in 10 cities can buy Gucci products, and the label’s local stores will process their orders. Cities in which the service is available are Dubai, New York, London, Paris, Los Angeles, Miami, Madrid, Milan, Tokyo and São Paulo.
In December, UAE-based Al Tayer Group launched an e-commerce portal with a similar concept. Ounass stocks luxury ready-to-wear, handbags and shoes from brands such as Valentino, Moschino and Dolce & Gabbana, promising to deliver Dubai customers’ orders within two hours. Orders from the other emirates and GCC countries, meanwhile, are assured same-day delivery.
The new fashion week
Traditionally, seasonal fashion shows that take place in London, Milan, Paris and New York are strictly invitation-only, elite affairs, reserved for fashion editors and the like. But now luxury labels such as Burberry and Hermès, for instance, have begun live-streaming their shows through the web and social-media apps such as Snapchat and Instagram. Alongside this trend comes the increasingly popular see-now-buy-now strategy that brands are adopting, thanks to which clothing from the catwalk is available for purchase immediately after the show, instead of a whole season later.
Plus, while fashion weeks were traditionally the mode through which fashion buyers would scout designer talent, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, according to Net-a-Porter’s Aiken. “Social media has changed this,” she said. Brands are now able to send her messages through Instagram and vice versa, rather than her having to spend five weeks visiting various showrooms after the major fashion weeks. “I remember when YouTube came along and changed how you discover new music. I think Instagram did the same thing with fashion,” she said. The fashion director even prefers to use Instagram Direct Messaging as a means of making contact as opposed to institutionalised digital networks such as LinkedIn.
Last week, Google introduced a new feature specifically for fashion consumers. In a move that makes Google a competitor to Pinterest, Style Ideas was launched by the Google app to give users outfit ideas every time a product is searched. So, if you’re looking to purchase a particular accessory or item of clothing, you search for it, click a photo and then see how fashion bloggers and “influencers” have worn that product.
Made to measure
Industry experts have hinted that future shopping experiences may come with smart mirrors or virtual fitting rooms, where 3-D body scanning is a key feature. There has been some opposition to the technology, including from AllSaints chief executive William Kim, who said: “I actually think it’s quite obtrusive,” when the subject came up at the Farfetch OS conference.
Last month, Adidas launched a pop-up in Berlin called Knit for You, where sports enthusiasts could get custom-made merino wool sweaters. Customers were scanned in a dark room and had to wave their hands around while sensors recorded data. The garment was then knitted on the spot, on a machine, before being finished by hand.
In a similar way, beauty-industry experts predict that face-mapping will be a leading technique in the future, allowing consumers to test different beauty products using their smartphones. This has been pioneered by L’Oréal, which has launched the first virtual make-up-testing app, called Makeup Genius.
Clothes, many industry experts believe, will be completely transformed by future technologies. “Fashion itself will do more than just be a layer to look good. It’ll have to have function,” said musician and entrepreneur will.i.am at the Farfetch conference. He explained that in cold weather, fashion serves its purpose by keeping us warm, but asked how can it help us in the heat? “If it’s super hot, fashion does nothing for you,” he said.
Miroslava Duma, Russian digital entrepreneur and founder of Buro 24/7, said garments of the future need to have problem-solving features, besides warming us up and catering to our vanity. She believes that the fashion should have the ability to measure the wearer’s heartbeat and amount of sugar in their blood. “The future of the industry is in material science and biotechnologies, smart textiles and wearable tech,” she said.
Google has partnered with classic American denim brand Levi’s to produce a new version of the Trucker jacket. This one though, will be a “smart” jacket that will be connected to your smartphone through Bluetooth. Electronics are embedded into the textile, making it an “interactive denim”. Just imagine answering a phone call by tapping a spot on your cuff or turning down the volume of music by stroking your arm.
DuoSkin, developed in partnership with MIT Media Lab and Microsoft Research, has used gold and silver leaf to produce a temporary metallic tattoo that can be used as a wireless interface to control a smartphone and other electronic devices, and display and store information.
At the Farfetch conference, Duma touched on the industry’s potential to create organic, sustainable clothing from by-products. She discussed the example of an Italian scientist who, after two years of experimenting, came up with the technology to produce a textile crafted from orange peels. The scientist contacted juice-producing companies and factories in Italy and since they viewed the orange peels as garbage, she got them for free. “It’s a win-win situation and a zero-waste concept,” said Duma.
Fine jewellery, too, could be affected in the future. According to Duma, by 2030 it’s expected that all of Earth’s natural diamonds will have been discovered. Laboratories in San Francisco, she said, are working on growing technically identical diamonds, and that major diamond distributors and jewellers such as De Beers are considering these hybrid man-made/lab-grown diamonds for the future.
“I think how we get the things that we put on our bodies will be totally different than what we do now,” said will.i.am. “We’ll have something in our house and we’ll just have to make sure the fabric thread is in it, and it’ll make our garments.” And his prediction may not be that far off. If you take a step back and look at how fast technology has changed our daily lives, it’ll put everything into perspective. “Ten years ago, in 2007, you didn’t see people zombied into a piece of glass, like a moth to light. Tomorrow, fashion will be just as addictive as your phone is.”
4 products to prep you for what’s to come
The future of fashion will present some far-out innovations. Here are more some attainable fashion-meets-technology products:
Evo Mood Colours by Bio Sculpture
This new form of Evo Gel nail polish is long-lasting, has a breathable base and changes colour as your hands heat up or cool down.
• Available at The Nail Spa salons in the UAE from Dh150
L’Oréal’s smart hairbrush
Scheduled to release later this year, this will be the world’s first “smart brush”, with the ability to give customised feedback. It can sense whether the hair is wet or dry, can detect breakage and can give personalised advice about the user’s state of hair.
• Available through L’Oréal for about Dh750; launch date to be decided
They may look like sleek bangles, but the bracelets by WiseWear can receive smartphone notifications, track activity and send distress calls to the wearer’s emergency contact. Plus, the brand has recruited American fashion icon Iris Apfel to be the face of the line.
• Available at www.wisewearco.myshopify.com; from Dh1,085
Kate Spade scallop activity tracker
This smartwatch from American fashion label Kate Spade New York enables the wearer to take a selfie with a simple tap. Not only does it have undeniable fashion appeal but it also tracks steps and sleep, sets personal goals and performs count downs – all linked to the Kate Spade New York app.
• Available at www.katespade.com from Dh360