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The exciting thing about working in fashion is the constant innovation. Designers are always peeking around the corner and planning what’s next. It’s the same with technology – engineers upgrade their ideas all the time. That’s why, to us, fashion tech is one of the most thrilling fields to be a part of. Its combination of beauty, artistry, science, technology, practicality and the business of what will be successful and capture the public imagination, along with complex issues of environmentalism and social issues has us hooked.
There have been so many great new projects this year that it’s hard to pick just ten. However, these are the ones which really stood out as 2019’s hottest fashion tech concepts.
1. This $9,500 dress by The Fabricant. Is it hand embroidered? Sewn with gems? Made from costly fabric by a big-name designer? None of those things. And yet, it is tailored to fit, incredibly rare, and a ground-breaking investment. The dress is digital. It only exists on a computer screen – you couldn’t wear it to the Met Ball. But since most people who see your finest outfits now do so via the photos you post on social media, why not choose an outfit which is digital in the first place? It has very little environmental impact, no silk moths were harmed in the making of it, nobody laboured for hours sewing it. And digital outfits don’t have to be practical. It’s a beautiful dress with no limits on the imagination: literally a fantasy dress. It’s also an investment piece.
2. Hot Second. But let’s be democratic here. You don’t have to be a banker with a vast amount of money to own a digital garment. Hot Second have come up with a concept that allows anyone to have a digital garment from The Fabricant, Carlings/VIRTUE or RÆBURN in exchange for an unwanted item of clothing to go into an installation. They also have an upcycling workshop. This popup, which was on in late November, was brilliant as it highlighted digital clothing and its possibilities, bringing several brands together in a physical environment.
3. This fabric scanner from TG3D. Digital garments are not just made as stand-alone creations. They are used in the design process, to model how an item of clothing will look before making it. Part of this process to accurately scan actual fabric. We absolutely love the scanner that TG3D launched this year. They realised that with high-resolution cameras already in our pockets, there is no need to waste resources on wires and imaging technology. Their fabric scanner is, therefore, a simple self-assembly box which you lay your phone on. It works with their software for a perfectly detailed scan. The combination of high- and low-tech is genius.
4. Obsess’s Virtual Reality Boutiques. It’s time to make online shopping a bit more exciting. Up till now, companies have mainly concentrated on making clothing as easy-to-view as possible, with models photographed on plain white backgrounds. How about underwater boutiques decorated with giant coral reefs where shoppers can home in on racks of clothing and pull one out to view more closely? Or a chic yoga studio? The software company Obsess is helping fashion companies move beyond the thumbnail grid to something with more imagination and fun.
5. Adidas FutureCraft Loop. Reduce, re-use, recycle, goes the mantra. But while those of us who are eco-conscious might try to reduce our purchase of new trainers and use the ones we have for as long as possible, in the end we’re going to need some fresh footwear for the gym. It would be lovely to pop the old ones in the recycling. But historically, recycling clothing and shoes is tricky. There are many different types of materials which make up each garment or accessory. Trainers may be made with leather sewn with polycotton thread, with a sole of EVA plastic, a lining of microfibre and a woven label made of nylon. All of these components would need to be separated before they could be re-used. The Futurecraft Loop shoe is made entirely of one material – TPU – and Adidas have created a process for it to tossed whole into a grinder, melted down and reformed into each necessary component for a brand new, entirely recycled shoe. An excellent example for the whole industry to follow.
6. Volcat recycling. In a similar vein, IBM are researching ways to recycle plastics. The Volcat technique will filter out contaminants that today’s recycling can’t cope with. So, whether a bottle is dirty or clean, clear or coloured, it can be ground down into a powder that can be processed into new polyester filaments, which are perfectly useable for new garments.
7. Nike Adapt BB basketball boot. An app-connected self-cinching shoe which also tracks stats. Back-To-The Future’s self-lacing trainer has finally come to life! It’s also an interesting step towards perfectly fitting custom clothing.
8. DeepVogue. An AI designer which used machine learning to design a fashion collection that won the People’s Choice Award and a runner up prize at the China International Fashion Design Innovation Competition 2019. AI is getting creative. Computer programs have written poetry, created art and now fashion. Although these programs have human input, it is fascinating to see what an entirely different type of “intelligence” creates.
9. FlipFit. A new combination of social media and shopping site. It’s a great idea to leverage the “likes” of social media into “buys” of actual clothing. FlipFit incentivises interaction from its users. This could be a new platform to rival Instagram, and top influencers will find the idea of monetising the looks they put together very appealing. By using the Stitchfix model, shoppers can make sure that the clothing looks good on them as well as their friend online, or send it back if it doesn’t.
10. rag & bone’s New York Fashion Week presentation. rag & bone haven’t shown at fashion week for three years, but they made up for it with an SS20 show which pulled out all the stops. There was music, there was singing, there was dance, and of course, fashion, and a robotic camera-wielding arm captured it all. This resulted in images from unusual perspectives which were live streamed onto central LED screens. They were also instantly translated into 3D pointillist models of cloud-point data which were projected as a multi-dimensional 360-degree view. The brand’s creative director Marcus Wainwright has spoken in the past about how “boring” the traditional catwalk format is. This was anything but.