I’ve never been hooked on high-tech. To tell you the truth, I’ve even had to run to Office Depot because I couldn’t change the cartridges on my printer. I’m the kind of person who writes down to-do lists on loose sheets of paper, scribbles appointments in an agenda, and keeps the same phone for over three years. Yet, I recently thought about getting rid of this indestructible antiquity. The reason? An advertisement seen in the subway…
Honor, a Chinese brand, has just launched a new smartphone. Surpassing mine in every way, like 99% of the releases over the past six months, it has an additional advantage: its design has been entrusted to MOSCHINO. This is not the first time luxury has tried its hand at mobile devices. In 2006, LG invites Prada. A few years later, Hermès joins forces with Apple to develop its connected watches. In a world where every problem is solved by an application, with more iPhones sold than Birkins, luxury obviously wants its share of the cake.
However, the digital revolution seems to be affecting fashion well beyond electronic gadgets. While Shudu Gram and other virtual influencers are the masters of the Instagame, more and more designers imagine clothes that challenge the traditional boundaries of garment making. Could the future of our wardrobe lie in technological innovation?
An inevitable turning point
Creation and experimentation go hand in hand. While some labels play with twists, such as Margiela and his wig dress, others use materials that are normally rigid. Paco Rabanne and Versace are known for their metal meshes that are almost as comfortable as a t-shirt. Perpetually in search of novelty, fashion has come a long way since the invention of the sewing machine.
Innovation now comes directly onto clothing. In 2007, Hussein Chalayan causes a sensation by robotizing his dresses. Able to move, they go from long to short, open and transform into a coat, light up in the dark. Last year, John Galliano also imagines a collection between high fashion and high technology. On the menu, organza patchworks, augmented reality helmets in vintage car bodywork and down jackets with integrated iPad. For a season, Lagerfeld reinvents the logo of the maison rue Cambon in the form of LEDs.
That said, this phenomenon goes far beyond the framework of shows lacking originality. Fashion tech relies on several levers such as smart fabrics, capable of reacting with their environment, or even connected clothes (know as “wearables”). In other words, your running leggings that wick away sweat are at least as much part of this movement as the Chanel Time Square style bag — much less stylish though…
Redefining an entire industry
Some of these feats could deeply change the fashion landscape. 3D printing makes it possible to produce a sweater in less time than it takes to smoke a cigarette. Its speed is a major asset for brands which, in a context where this technique would be widespread, could produce almost all items on demand. All that would be left to do would be to manufacture what has already been sold, not the other way around. In addition to crushing inventory costs, it would therefore put an end to sales and reduce margins. How about that, see now buy now?
If the process is applied mainly to knits, fabrics such as silk and cotton being too thin to be handled by today’s automatons, we will probably soon see our entire wardrobe come out of a cartridge. Then, one may wonder to what extent it will rewrite our definition of luxury. Flirting with made-to-measure, 3D garments offer impossible prospects with ready-to-wear as we know it today.
In this spirit, fashion thus puts innovation at the service of personalization, reinforcing the feeling of exclusivity among its customers. ZOZO, a Japanese e-shop, has removed all sizes from its collections. When you’ll place your first order, you will first receive a strange tight suit, halfway between a diving one and Kim Kardashian’s favorite outfits. Equipped with sensors, it takes your measurements and sends them directly to the factory for production. Only offering basics, the shop still achieves a unique performance, capable of transforming shopping…
From Black Friday to Black Mirror?
Although we’re seduced by the phosphorescent vibe seen on the catwalks last month, fashion tech isn’t just about boosting our style. There are now sneakers analyzing the inclination of the foot or the number of kilometers run, radio wave-proof coats, or watches that measure the heart rate. Dressing is no longer necessarily a matter of looks or temperature, our clothes can also make our daily lives easier.
Yet technology raises its share of questions. Isn’t the ease of 3D likely to shorten the life cycle of trends? Will we be able to adopt a reasonable consumption when pressing a button is enough to create the room of our dreams? What will be the real environmental impact? What about the information collected by wearables? How long are they stored? Where?
Last summer, Tommy Hilfiger releases the Tommy Explore capsule. Equipped with Bluetooth relays, the models record the number of times you wear them. The most loyal customers are then rewarded with gifts — and the resale of their data to third parties. Even more, the wearer receives a message every time he passes by a shop of the New York label, with exclusive discounts. So to speak, your sweatshirt knows more about your actions than your own mother… •