Back in 2010, London Fashion Week was the first in the world to live stream its catwalk shows on the web. Although technology and fashion have been ‘flirting’ with each other for some time now, it is only recently that we have begun to see some really interesting wearable devices hit both the catwalk and the market.
Technology has transformed what was once an elite and exclusive event into something accessible for all. Social media is now very much intertwined with London Fashion Week, with attendees sharing photographs or sending out tweets during the catwalk event. The internet is playing a huge role in marketing, enabling fashion houses to stir up public interest in their products.
Four years down the line, fashion and technology are becoming even more integrated. These multi-million pound industries are colliding and are now looking towards each other through a combination of digital innovations and new technologies. This is something that will affect everybody, regardless of their interest in cutting-edge fashion. Wearable technology will become more readily available and influential as it becomes more widespread.
Fashion and technology hybrids now come in the form of bracelets, smart watches, glasses and fabrics. This explosion in product availability begs the following question: ‘are these technology providers actually as fashion savvy as they would like to think?’
Three year ambition
This March, the British Fashion Council outlined their three year plan to ‘strategically reposition British fashion in the global fashion economy’. They have publicly stated five areas in which they will focus their attention:
- Innovation & Digital
Let’s take this bold statement and apply it to the wider fashion industry. Doing so, it becomes clear that fashion houses and the wider fashion industry have defined goals not just in terms of pushing fashion forward, but in attracting business investment and prompting technological advancement.
Wearables hit the runway
Apple have only very recently unveiled its first wearable gadget, the Apple Watch. It ‘promotes ambient awareness, without disrupting social interactions’.
There have been complaints, however, that Apple hasn't embraced fashion as much as they should have. Instead of collaborating with leading fashion houses, they have gone down the clunky, gadget-orientated route.
Wearables need design
Wearable technology is now very much something which only a select few have fully embraced. But how long will it take for wearables to go from ‘geek to chic’?
Currently, the fashion element within wearables is superseded by the tech-factor. If we look at Pauline Van Dongen’s dress, which captures sunlight using solar cells to then charge a mobile phone, it’s clear the idea is there, but not necessarily the execution.
Invisible technology will become important. The seamless integration of devices with fashion, which allow for our own self expression, is important to pushing the success of wearables. The technology needs to become unseen.
This great insight by The Drum is a fascinating look at how business leaders see the wearable technology industry developing.
This story about the development of ‘Fundawear’, by Australian company Wearable Experiments, first materialised last year. It is just one story from the company who have revealed many innovative garments that are being developed with the idea of ‘bringing fashion and technology together with a functional design aesthetic’.
The belief of Wearable Experiments is simple: for wearables to become mainstream, other design houses will have to move forward and adopt. If you remember the Pauline Van Dongen solar dress from earlier in this blog, just imagine if that project married with the stylistic outlook of Wearable Experiments. Fashion and technology becoming one is the only way in which these smart technologies can really change the way we dress.
Cute Circuit, whose headquarters are in Shoreditch, are leaders in interactive fashion. They have introduced many innovations to the fashion world and subscribe to a similar theory as Wearable Experiments. They combine technologies of the future with the latest fashions, integrating ‘beauty and functionality through the use of smart textiles and ‘micro-electronics’
Cute Circuit infiltrated the mainstream with their designs when Katy Perry hit the stage wearing a dress which glowed and light to create a magnificent light show.
Focussing on the music industry; technology and fashion can really become a hot topic, especially if promoted through popular public figures in an innovative way.
Form before function?
Fashion always runs in cycles and what was popular 25 years ago will ultimately come back around and become in vogue once again. Technology which helps us be at one with our clothing is a new phenomenon, and that leaves us wondering where exactly it will fit into the cultural landscape.
When design and technology become embedded with each other, and when tech products become stylish as opposed to being functional, the anticipation for the next generation of these technologies will be palpable.
There is no doubt that the recent announcement of the Apple Watch and the developments regarding Google Glass have raised many new questions about the fashion industry. Fashion and tech is much more than just a watch or a pair of glasses; the way we are consuming fashion is also now changing due to the latest smart technologies.
How do we buy our fashion now?
There is no doubt that technology has changed the way we purchase our fashion and has increased the amount spent on clothing.
Topshop, whose website attracts 4.5 million users a week, have pioneered the use of technology within fashion whilst being advocates of Instagram, Twitter and Google+ Hangouts. Topshop streamed their London Fashion Week catwalk shows online before then unveiling its ranges on social media. The brand then quickly allowed shoppers to get their hands on them only a few days later.
This ‘tech-first’ is a front running way of changing the way we dress. This is achieved by changing the way consumers get their hands on the latest fashions. Not only this, international sales for TopShop are sure to rise, thanks primarily to the growth in the brand’s international appeal.
Will smart technology change the way we dress?
There are still some hurdles. For example, these fashion items are still pieces of technology. Until the aesthetic of the product takes precedence over its function, it’s possible that popularity may remain limited.
Wearables will integrate social media platforms and allow us to become better connected to each other. It is now a common sight to see fashion houses and tech companies working together, and the incorporation of health monitors or trackers into designer clothing is the challenge that fashion designers face.
Apple has only recently intensified the spotlight on the wearable technology scene, but smart technology will only become a mainstream, or a global trend, when the industry becomes design savvy. The fashion industry understands aesthetics, while technology developers understand innovations, when the two work in cohesion together, there could be serious changes to the ways in which we dress ourselves.
The ultimate fashion accessory for many, mobile phones serve to highlight just how integrated modern life and technology have become. They have quickly evolved from a means of simple communication into a fashion accessory and a necessity for many. The fashion conscious design of modern smartphones has led to many manufacturers releasing limited edition versions of their handsets, with input from top fashion houses.
Mobile phones are a perfect example of how technology evolves to meet its user’s requirements. Designs have changed dramatically since their introduction. With sufficient interest and investment, wearable technology could easily move in the same direction.
If you have any thoughts on the future of smart technology and the fashion industry, please join in the conversation with Degree 53 on Twitter.