When we think about what fashion will be like in future, most of us will imagine silver space-suit type outfits. However, back in the eighties, we imagined we would all be driving hover cars, which never happened (not where I live anyway!) So how realistic are these design futures? Let’s look at the emerging innovations and the challenges they face to find out.
The future, the planet and all our lives will all be heavily impacted by climate change so it is inevitable that design processes will become sustainability driven due to dwindling resources. Financially, big high street names have suffered recently with massive drops in sales, as they have failed to evolve while our shopping preferences have rapidly changed. Bricks and mortar stores have become increasingly expensive to run with fewer customers to sustain them. This is compounded by online disruptors such as ASOS and BooHoo taking larger market shares by challenging traditional working practices.
“There are historic changes happening in the fashion cycle, and at the same time significant technological advancements that are changing the industry”[i]
A big growth area in fashion sustainability is textile innovation. As the environmental impact of animal products and synthetic materials are becoming acknowledged, significant research is being made into creating alternatives. Leather substitutes have now been developed from pineapples, mushrooms, apples and tree bark and Bolt Threads[ii] have even invented a spider silk without the spiders. Read a post I wrote before on strange and wonderful textile innovations here.
Another area where designers are developing better use of resources is by through rethinking our waste. The fashion industry is incredibly wasteful, being based on the idea of the new, but the practice of circular fashion puts that ‘waste’ back into use. There are now many innovators with exciting recycled fibres and yarns such as Econyl[iii] who reuse abandoned fishing nets and Levis + Evernu[iv] who have created new jeans from old t-shirts.
Supply chain transparency will hopefully become industry wide with the use of Blockchain. This is a technology that is used in digital currencies such as Bitcoin and has the potential to give brand and customer the ability to trace every stage of their products journey. There is great hope that this will force better ethical practice within the garment sector. Some designers such as Martine Jarlgaard[v] have already seen success with her ‘smart labels’
“Full transparency and traceability becomes a stamp of approval allowing consumers to make informed choices with no extra effort.”[vi]
The automation of sewing machines is a hotly debated topic in the industry right now. As with any talk of automation there is widespread fear of massive job losses which would hit some of the poorest people in the world. Such robotic systems would, however, revolutionise the industry providing reliability and efficiency, while eradicating unethical practices. Production could be increased and waste reduced as less stock would need to be held. Uptake of this technology will lead to far more personalisation and customisation of garments as seen already with Adidas and Uniqlo.
“Customers will be able to design or customise their own clothing and then have in produced in automated factories and delivered within days.”[vii]
Most designers work to the traditional spring/summer and autumn/winter fashion cycle. However, the digital age has given us an expectation of immediacy. So in the last few years, buyers have wanted to be able to purchase designer collections as soon as the catwalk show has debuted. Only a few brands have been able to deliver this, but it is undoubtedly the way the future is going to look. As the designer, Tom Ford, clearly stated:
“The current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to customers is an antiquated idea, and one that no longer makes sense,”[viii]
As wearable tech becomes more widespread the digital world will become part of our clothing itself. Imagine being able to do everything you do on your phone through your jacket for instance? The Levi's Commuter x Jacquard by Google Trucker Jacket already does some of this, so it’s not too far-fetched an idea. The digital space will become a bigger part of our shopping experience, as we have already witnessed with virtual changing rooms. Augmented reality has been utilised by many Zara stores[ix], giving the consumers more opportunity to interact with the brand in a new and exciting way. In store models come to life through the screen of a mobile phone while supporting easy click to buy options.
“Augmented reality is going to change the way that the fashion industry creates, showcases and retails its products”[x]
As we continue into the unknown future one thing is obvious; for fashion to stay where it should be, at the vanguard of change, designers need to collaborate and technology shared. Engineers, scientists, programmers and other technical experts will have to join forces with designers to tackle some of the big challenges of our times.
#fashionfutures #fashionblockchain #textileinnovation
Design it yourself fashion
How often have you seen an item of clothing you like and thought, I wish that was in red, or it had a different neckline or the pattern was slightly different? Or better still what if you could actually see it being made? Well now there are many opportunities available to be involved in design decisions just like those and see them realised.
Way back in 1999 Nike had a customisation platform that allowed customers to configure their trainers with a wide range of materials and colours. Personalisation was made luxurious by Anya Hindmarch, a prestigious handbag designer, who sells funky bag stickers to enable her customers to make their purchases more unique. Jimmy Choo similarly sells a collection of additions including buttons, crystal clip-ons and bracelets as well as offering full customisation of entire shoes. Heel height, shape, colour and material are now no longer just under their designer's control but anyone - with enough money to afford these expensive creations . Many other big name brands have followed suit with their own versions and different levels of mass customisation including Converse at a lower end of the market, and high end designer labels such as Gucci, Fendi, Ralph Lauren & Burberry.
A current manifestation of this trend and the one I particularly like is by Unmade who produce custom designed knitwear. Customers choose a design they like on their website which they can then alter and manipulate. There are different options in colours, scale of knit design, position of knit design and... this is the cool bit, you can even warp or remove some of the design altogether. The bit that appeals to me most is that you can go and see the garments being made in their Selfridge's pop-up store. In a similar vein, Storemade, is a project whereby limited runs of t-shirt & totes are printed each week reflecting current events and popular culture in their in-store studios housed in some Weekday stores in Sweden.
Being able to be involved in such a way with the clothing you buy and to see what is being made for you makes it a really special purchase which gives this concept so much room for growth and development. Some of the garment manufacturers in the UK now have open days when consumers can come along and see their clothes being made. I would love to incorporate this idea into the Boy Wonder brand in some way as not only would it be exciting but it also helps establish transparency too.
Check out my Pinterest board on how to customise your own clothes to make them truly unique.
#MassCustomisation #DesignItYourself #Unmade
While we have seen for some years now the use of recycled plastic bottles into fleeces there are some other amazing innovations happening that are pushing the boundaries of textiles. As textile manufacturing and garment product is such a dirty, polluting business many clever eco-minded people have been working on different ways to make the next generation of textiles. Many of these have been created from weird and wonderful things you would never imagine wearing.
Fancy wearing some tea or coffee? Well, an eco-milk fibre has been produced by a micro-biology student, Anke Domaske. Qmilch is made from the protein from sour milk which is similar to silk, yet far less expensive. Recycled coffee beans have been transformed into performance fabrics by high tech sports company Virus. A similar product is already being used by big names like North Face, Puma and Timberland. And fermented tea has been made into a vegetable leather called Kombucha by fashion designer Suzanne Lee. While they are not strictly edible (I know but the title sounded good!) these scientific developments could become very important as the need to become sustainable is more widely accepted.
There are many other designers looking at similar innovative ideas. Irene Marie-Selig was recently awarded the Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion for her Amadou mushroom skin, which is another cruelty free alternative to leather. Mushroom is now being looked at to create other products such as takeaway coffee cups and even surfboards!
Bamboo is another material that I believe we will start to see much more of in our clothes (ok, we don't eat it but pandas do!) It is anti-bacterial, highly absorbent and needs far less water than cotton during farming.
#TextileInnovation #SustainableFashion #EdibleClothes
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