Fashion has made leaps and bounds in technological innovation throughout all aspects of the industry. From the latest in textile innovation to the boom of AI-powered shopping platforms, we’ve created informative summaries and rounded up a list of some companies that have embraced the latest technologies to improve the way we create and experience fashion.
THE FL&R COMMUNITY
Material innovation has become an exciting trend to follow in the fashion industry, as patent filings in textile innovation have skyrocketed in recent years while large fashion brands have rapidly adopted new technologies. Though many innovations reside in sustainable reengineering and manufacturing, we have also witnessed radical aesthetic experimentation from the integration of technology like 3D CAD and printing with the design process. Fashion material innovation has even created new functionalities for apparel, as e-clothing is being developed for use in the healthcare industry.
E-textiles/smart textiles ("soft circuits") can be embedded into a patient gown to help physicians measure temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure before they even enter the room. The LOOMIA Electronic Layer (LEL) enables monitoring and data buses for easy communication between patient and physician.
There have been major advances in synthetic and reengineered fibres following the changing demands of consumers that want to shop for more environmentally friendly and ethically sourced clothing. The development of these sustainable materials has allowed for words like bio-fabricated leather, biodegradable textiles, closed-loop recycling and e-textiles to enter the manufacturing mainstream, leading to increased aesthetic experimentation by designers.
Bolt Threads is a material solutions company that has worked with companies like Kering, adidas, lululemon, and Stella McCartney to create cutting-edge, sustainable fabrics. They have invented textiles like Mylo, a material that looks and feels like animal leather but is made from mycelium in mushrooms.
With the purpose of creating an alternative to animal leather, Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez, both hailing from Mexico, developed a vegan alternative to leather made with nopal(cactus!), named Desserto®. Desserto® is a highly sustainable plant-based material that has the technical specifications required by fashion, leather goods, luxury packaging, and furniture industries, while also being partially biodegradable and cruelty-free.
Flocus is a textile brand producing yarn blends and filling made with Kapok, a naturally regenerative and environmentally friendly plant that Flocus claims to be the most sustainable fibre in the market, leaving no human footprint behind. Flocus unveils a host of additional kapok products including yarns, fabrics, and insulation materials, for many other applications.
Piñatex® is made of ﬁbre from the waste leaves of the pineapple plant. These leaves are a by-product from existing pineapple harvest, so the raw material requires no additional environmental resources to produce. The use of pineapple leaf fibre, an agricultural waste product, provides the opportunity to build a scalable commercial industry for developing farming communities, with minimal environmental impact.
Algalife formulates eco-positive, scalable solutions for manufacturing fibers and dyeing fabrics. So far, they've developed 100% biodegradable threads from algae and cellulose, as well as Algadye 3.0, an algae-based dye formulation that can be applied on all types of fabrics; synthetic, natural, and protein-based.
Some of the most exciting fashion technological innovations have come from fashion manufacturing, which has been changing how the entire industry works. Some key technological trends include the increased presence of optimized in-house supply chains, automation leading to efficient made-to-order reproduction cycles, and 3D printing allowing brands to create products tailored to the customers tastes and needs in a speedy and timely manner.
Supply Chain Optimization
Many companies have made the entire manufacturing process “in-house” to increase speed and supply chain efficiency. Things like materials sourcing, creative and technical design, samples, production and shipping under the same roof. Automation improves productivity as well as the quality of fashion products by minimizing human intervention and preventing manufacturing mistakes.
Machine Learning and Data Analysis
Machine Learning is transforming the way the manufacturing industry collects information, performs skilled labor, and predicts consumer behaviour. Tommy Hilfiger, for example announced a partnership with IBM and FIT to develop an AI System to determine this kind of data to optimise production, sales and also reduce cost and waste.
3D Design and Printing
Brands like Iris Van Herpen (pictured above) are exploring how 3D printing can help them produce goods on-demand and create new avenues for customization. There are also new 3D rendering technologies like CLO and EFI Optitex which allow brands to edit designs in the moment and instantly review changes.
Blockchain is one of the fastest-growing sectors in tech, and with its ability to prove exclusivity and prevent counterfeiting, many luxury companies are beginning to integrate blockchain digital identities with their products and supply chains. Current blockchain applications in the luxury industry are proving authenticity, anonymously communicating with customers after a sale, sharing supply chain information(tracking handmade goods or worker wellbeing), and even transferring the ownership of digital clothing.
Paris-based non-profit Arianee has developed a blockchain-based protocol that creates a digital identity for valuable goods, such as bags, sneakers and watches. The brand and the customer can communicate while allowing the owner to remain anonymous — even if the object changes hands.
VR, AR, & Digital Fashion
Virtual and augmented reality technology have allowed for clothing to be visualized and shared with customers even in times where in-person gatherings have been restricted due to COVID. At the same time, a brand new sector of digital-only clothing is rising in the fashion industry. Unlike physical clothing, digital clothing is never manufactured and is designed and marketed for avatars and virtual platforms.
The Fabricant is a digital fashion house leading the fashion industry towards a new sector of digital-only clothing. "We waste nothing but data and exploit nothing but our imagination;" the company argues that clothing does not have to be physical in order to exist.
RTFKT uses the latest in game engines, NFT , blockchain authentication and augmented reality, combined with manufacturing expertise to create one of a kind sneakers and digital artifacts.
Auroboros is the first fashion house to merge science and technology with physical couture, as well as digital-only ready-to-wear. Creating a romantic premise for the near-future, our work stands for innovation, sustainability and immersive design. The experimental design duo made up of Paula Sello and Alissa Aulbekova is the first to show a digital-only ready-to-wear collection at a major global fashion week.
Location: South Jordan, Utah
AI & Retail
Fashion retail has seen major developments in the social, mobile, and e-commerce sphere, as many new smart shopping platforms have arisen to introduce consumers to rapidly growing market segments like sustainable, handmade, and secondhand clothing. However, Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning have been the largest technological developments within fashion retail, as companies can now predict what customers will want to buy in the future while also being able to recommend and style clothes to shoppers based on their size and preferences. At the same time, visual search being incorporated with fashion retail now allows for shoppers to search for products using pictures rather than keywords
Wardrobe of Tomorrow
A highly curated marketplace dedicated exclusively to cruelty-free, vegan, sustainable, and ethical luxury fashion designers from all over the world. There’s nothing fashionable in killing animals or poisoning of our planet.
Location: London, UK
People’s unique tastes and desire for more choice are fulfilled by Lyst – a personalized fashion marketplace.
Location: London, UK
THE YES app uses newly-minted algorithms to tailor style and shopping preferences based on simple “yes” or “no” answers. Users might be asked “would you wear a cold-shoulder?” Or “would you wear a maxi skirt?” Results are based on replies and the "yes" items go directly into your personal, curated feed on the app.
Location: Berlingame, California
Depop is the peer-to-peer social shopping app where the next generation come to discover unique items. With a global community buying, selling and connecting to make fashion more inclusive, diverse and less wasteful. The app is like eBay, but closely mimics Instagram.
Location: London, UK