On Monday 15th December, IDTechEx attended the event 'Smartly Dressed - the Future of Wearable Tech'. Tucked away just off Shoreditch High Street in East London, the event brought together around 120 people to discuss technology incorporation in fashion.
Karrina Nobbs, Senior Lecturer at the London School of Fashion said that just 5% of wearable products today are designed with a "fashion-first" approach, pointing out that crucial questions around purpose, balance and visibility needed to be carefully addressed in the design process.
Matthew Drinkwater, Head of the Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion spoke of projects they have done with Nokia, Microsoft and Disney, incorporating technology with fashion for presentation on catwalks at fashion shows. The technology integration was generally very minimal, exemplified by Richard Nicoll's Tinkerbell-inspired dress following collaboration with Disney. With just a single LED, distributed by fibre optics woven within the fabric and using subtle 3D-printed housing, they attracted the most attention of any outfit at London fashion week, with over 200 million social media users engaged.
Matthew Drinkwater introduces the Fashion Innovation Agency
Technology incorporation in catwalk-level fashion is a useful tool for large companies gain excellent publicity and show their interest in the space. Moving to mass market is a significant challenge that varies greatly depending on sector. Both Karrina Nobbs and Matthew Drinkwater agreed with IDTechEx that fast technology obsolescence devalued high-end objects such as jewellery and luxury watches, and that solutions such as using a subscription based platform or modular, updatable technology components will become more common.
Moving to consumer-level fashion, price point and scalability are crucial. Many examples of wearable tech apparel are one-off prototypes, with large budgets and non-scalable production processes. Designers must work towards the needs of industrial scale clothing manufacture if they ever want to sell millions of items. Bulky electronics and connectors will not do. Emerging technologies such as screen printable, stretchable conductive inks, e-textiles and tiny flexible components are essential for the future of smart apparel.
IDTechEx provides detailed insight into technology trends for fashion in their report Wearable Technology 2014-2024: Technologies, Markets, Forecasts.