Fashion and Technology- The New Power Couple

Muchaneta Kapfunde | @FashNerdEditor

Fashion Technology Is No Passing Phase

We need to repeat these words daily, like a mantra. It is time to educate and aspire to inspire those who continue to have a debunker attitude when it comes to FashionTech’s staying power. Fashion is not a frivolous pastime and technology is not only for geeks.

FASHION AND TECHNOLOGY SITTING IN A TREE…

Fashion and technology have been dating for longer than we have actually dared to acknowledge. It is only since they took their relationship to another level that we suddenly stood up and took notice. Fashion and Technology are finally going steady. Their partnership is one that promises to wield many benefits that include creating a better and more convenient fashion future for everyday consumers.

Google Glass Founder Sergey Brin and Fashion Designer Diane von Furstenberg
Google Glass Founder Sergey Brin and Fashion Designer Diane von Furstenberg

Fashion is the stubborn of the two. Refusing to sometimes acknowledge its dependence on its relationship with Technology. Technology appreciates that Fashion does have the ears of the masses and that all Fashion has to do is whisper sweet nothings and many consumers will take note- case and point velour tracksuits and Uggs. Technology lacks this kind of consumer pull. Consumers unfamiliar with Technology are usually suspicious of anything new that it brings to market. Technology accepts that consumers can be reluctant to adapt to new technology but this does not deter it. Technology instead looks to create something better and more convenient for the not to distant future. Technology does this by living and breathing the possibilities of what it can be, rather than what it cannot be. It is unafraid to fail, get up and try again. Technology learns from its mistakes, and its strength is its drive to always get better with every attempt. It knows it needs to be seen as stylishly fashionable and this is when Fashion, with its ability to entice consumers, steps in.

Taking a closer look at their partnership, it is easy to realise that FashionTech needs to go beyond Anna Wintour adorning an AppleWatch or Will.i.am partnering up with Gucci. It should be about embracing the idea of designing clothes that not only look good, but that will also come with life changing benefits such as viral detection and UV protection. Can you imagine owning such jacket? It will not only look stylish but it will also look after your health. Now that is a garment worthy of the label ‘key season essential’.

THE BLURRED LINE BETWEEN WHAT IS & IS NOT FASHION TECH.

When the word FashionTech is spoken, it is usually interpreted in many different ways. For some, FashionTech is a retail tech app that makes shopping easy, for others it is an interactive shopping website that gives them the personal shopper experience and for the rest it is apparel and accessories that are integrated with tech. The truth is, it is all three, and so much more. All of these interpretations fall under the Fashion Technology umbrella.

Electroloom 3D printer will be ready by spring 2016.
Electroloom 3D printer will be ready by spring 2016

So what constitutes Fashion Technology? Well I understand it to be a process where technology is used to design and create convenient garments/accessories that are an upgrade to what we are currently wearing/using. Technology is busy making it possible for fashion advancements such as the 3D printer, a much praised device that is capable of creating three-dimensional solid objects and gives you the ability to print items such as a pair of shoes, a handbag or a dress. Case and point, in San Francisco, a start up called Electroloom created a 3D printer that, according to the founders, will be ready by spring 2016.

When you witness such achievements you realise that Technology gives Fashion the opportunity to think outside the box. It allows designers and creatives to use it in a way that helps bring their ideas to life. A great example of this is smart fabrics. The progression of smart fabrics is one that cannot be ignored.  Smart fabrics are currently being incorporated with sensors that can emit aromas or interact with the environment in different ways. It is this kind of technology that makes it easy to imagine our clothes being able to alter colour or texture based on our surrounding conditions.  A good example of this is designer Lauren Bowker. The founder of The Unseen has developed a range of clothing that react to biological and chemical stimulus. In my opinion, her designs are stylish enough to grace the pages of  Vogue.

Lauren Bowker
Photo Credit: Lauren Bowker

FASHION TECH IS FREDDY KRUGER TO SOME CONSUMERS

With all the knowledge that is currently out there, we should not be so surprised that some consumers will have a fear of technology being part of their everyday wardrobe. If you take a closer look at their reactions you realise that they do not fear the advancement of FashionTech, they fear the thought of having to sacrifice their style in order to adorn something with technology. For designers to create something that will appeal to the masses they will have to think along the lines of embedding technology that is discrete because no one wants to dress like an extra from a Star Wars movie.

To continue, it is designers that understand that although demanding at times, consumers can be quite malleable. They do not need much convincing. The one thing that designers need to understand is that the majority of fashion conscious consumers are not typically early adopters of technology. They are also not massive fans of change. So when someone comes along with a collection that looks too far removed from the norm, the chances are that the designer will most likely get the column inches, but not the valuable consumer dollars.

How TECH looks to me

For that to happen consumers need to stop seeing FashionTech designs as nothing more than a novelty. I think it is time to stop with the blinking tie or the beeping dress. FashionTech designers really need to step up and show us what you can do.  When they switch on their creativity they should keep the consumer’s needs in mind. Their talent and achievements will be appreciated when they manage to seamlessly create functional garments that successfully combine technology and fashion into something consumers can identify as clothes. Sounds funny to say that, ‘identify as clothes’ , but looking at what is currently on offer, in terms of apparel, the designs are certainly creative but are not exactly what we expect to see in our everyday wardrobe.

With apparel still finding its way, tech accessories are fairing better. Designers of bags, jewellery and watches are designing the kind of tech infused products that consumers are identifying as an upgrade to their everyday accessories. A great example of this is the Leoht. It is not only identifiable as a bag, it has useful tech embedded in it and it can be used as an everyday that does not feel the need to shout out “hey! i am a tech bag”.

The Leoht Tech Bag
The Leoht Tech Bag

To continue, designers must remember that no one, except kooky fashion editors like Anna della Russo, would actually walk around with a pair of blinking trousers or a coat that requires batteries, because as fun as flashing jackets are, it takes a special kind of person to wear it. So taking note of consumers needs leaves us with the questions, how can we make the FashionTech industry better and more appealing? How can FashionTech make a real difference that lasts longer than a season? Where is FashionTech heading to?

THE FUTURE IS FASHIONTECH

When it comes to the future of FashionTech, Digital Fashion Week is simply not enough. Why? Because the future of fashion tech is one that is going to quickly become the norm sooner rather than later.  For that to happen seamlessly we need to have the Fashion world standing behind Technology. It is time to witness first hand the strength of their partnership. Fashion and Technology need to give consumers confidence that they are here to stay. We need to step away from the ‘jump on the bandwagon’ mentality that has been going on since 2014. Embracing FashionTech is not about liking it because everyone else does or giving it the FaceBook thumbs up just so you look cool, it is about supporting new and emerging fashiontech designers who want to use the advancement of technology to create a collection of clothes that will make our lives fashionably better. There are more designers with this mindset then we realise. It is not only about the usual suspects that are available for a quote, there are many more fashion designers out there looking for a platform to show what they can do, and we should let them do so without hesitation.

FashNerd's #WearableTechStylist Edit
FashNerd’s #WearableTechStylist Edit is about styling tech for your everyday wardrobe

Governing bodies like the BFC need to support fashion tech designers. Skilled in both Fashion and Technology, they are going to be the designers of all our future. How can they do this? Well all Fashion Weeks need to take a day out of their schedule to salute those who are using technology in their designs to benefit the majority. I am not talking about the usual luke warm reception that goes unnoticed. I want the kind of excitement that is more hooting and hollering. Is that asking too much? I do not think so.

Lastly, FashionTech is here to stay people, and not because DVF once had her runway models wear google glass during Fashion Week or because Karl Lagerfeld was once spotted ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhhing’ over the AppleWatch. It is because the innovations taking place right now, at this moment are so profoundly amazing that they are transforming fashion for the better. I believe that people need to stop worrying about whether Fashion and Technology’s  relationship will bear fruits. Just realise that it has always bared fruit like and will most likely continue to do so in the future. Let’s pause and take a good look at what is going on today, because in 5-10 years, FashionTech will bear little resemblance to what we are seeing today. Why? Because the partnering of Fashion and Technology promises a stylish change for the better and we cannot wait!

Feel free to add to this article by sharing in the comment section below.

  • Alyssa Couture

    Fashion technology with the use of programs online shopping, apps, and other ways that technology contributes to the fashion industry is more helpful than fashion tech design. I only say this because yes fashion tech can belong in galleries and exhibits, but in the world today, none of need to be computer chipped with our clothing. We already wear fashion tech with our accessories, phone, watches, computers, etc. what are the health effects of tech fashion, if you think about it, is it healthy?

    • FashNerd

      Thank you for your comment. With regards to it, I think that Fashion Tech needs to go beyond the creation of show pieces that are only fit for exhibitions, we need design and market the kind of fashion tech that would not look out of place in our wardrobe. I think it is important to stress that Fashion Tech clothes do go beyond blinking lights and the such, it is an industry that has the power to stop the unnecessary growth of Fast Fashion whilst also playing a part in looking after our health. Imagine a jacket that would tell someone with diabetes that they need to check their blood sugar? That would be a great achievement don’t you think? Yes, I understand how all this technology could be accused of adding further to our health problems rather than preventing, but you must remember that the same was said about the mobile phone, yet Lord knows all of us are still using that bad boy with absolute glee. You must keep in mind that with the advancement of technology there will always be an underlying risk, but if the good outweighs the bad than I think we should take a chance, don’t you think? Lastly, I think that as long as Fashion Tech designers design clothes with the consumers wardrobe in mind then I am sure you would agree that is a step in right direction. Today we carry way too much gadgets; phone, watches and computer, and if my LBD could do the job of my 1001 gadgets then I would be happy knowing that I could be soon carrying a much lighter handbag : )

  • Alyssa Couture

    I understand your passion for fashion tech, and I agree that it is useful for some very important advances in regards web technology, and the development or creation of products, apps and programs that allow one to investigate a product, and what i have recently learned new virtual sizing and fitting charts that make it easier for the customer. I am not sure if you have researched or learned about the serious health concerns people are having with EMF fields that are actually creating some serious ill health via the technology. In regards to wearable technology, I think accessories are much safer than having to wear the technology itself. The cell phones are literally frying our brains. Gadgets are one thing, wearing them would cause further damage.

    • FashNerd

      Hello : ) True, we are passionate about FashionTech and Lifestyle tech finding its voice, but we are not blind to the faults you bring up. That being said we are actually working on an article looking at the health concerns you have voiced, so watch this space!

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