via The Economist
What will people wear in the future?
Innovation in fashion is sparking radical change. In the future clothes could be computers, made with materials designed and grown in a lab.
A new wave of innovation is fueling a radical change in fashion. Wearable technology, data, automation and lab-grown materials will have a major impact on what people will be wearing in the future. Since the birth of sewing and weaving, technology has always led developments in fashion. The Industrial Revolution mechanized manufacturing enabling mass production. In the 1960s synthetic materials like polyester took off, creating new possibilities for fashion. Now the convergence of new technologies is opening up previously unimaginable possibilities.
Self-styled fashion scientist Dr Amanda Parkes is in the vanguard of the industry’s latest reinvention. She heads up innovation at FT labs, a venture capital firm that invests primarily in disruptive fashion tech startups. Among these startups the race is on to find the next generation of renewable materials that can be grown in a lab.
Traditional silk is produced from insect larvae that form cocoons, most commonly silkworms. But rather than relying on these insects bolt threads is creating silk in test tubes. Bio fabricated materials remove the need for animals and insects and they are a more sustainable and efficient way of producing raw materials. Other companies are creating leather alternatives. Rather than using animals scientists are creating bio fabricated materials from pineapple leaves and even mushrooms. The convergence of fashion and technology also provides opportunities to transform not just clothes but the people wearing them.
Myant is a company that’s pioneering the creation of clothing that can monitor your every move. So called smart fabrics are being touted as the next frontier of wearable technology. Yarns are paired with electronic sensors so that essential data can be captured from the human body. To create clothing that can monitor the wearer’s health and fitness, Myant has brought together teams of people that have not traditionally worked under the same roof. Smart fabrics could radically change consumers relationships with the clothes they wear but as technology increases the pace of change, how can the industry keep track of what consumers really want?
Francesca Muston is the head of retail at WGSN, the world’s leading fashion forecasting agency. The staff here use big data to analyze political, social, and environmental trends in order to predict the hot new looks of tomorrow. Technology is driving an explosion in consumer choice as well as the bewildering array of clothing design and creation. To keep up the industry is also turning to technology. Machine learning technologies are now central to fashion forecasting, quickly spotting patterns among the ever-growing volume of data. From biotechnology to demographic shifts predicting trends is no longer an art it’s becoming a science.