Iris Van Herpen, one of the greatest designers to combine technology and fashion, once said ‘fashion is something that is transforming right in front of our eyes’.
That is the nature of fashion, this transmutable, ever-changing concept that can take many forms. In the next few years, it appears that a significant form fashion will exist in, is technology.
Technology and fashion are merging faster than you think.
For about the last decade technology and fashion have had a symbiotic relationship, notably in the work of designers like Iris Van Herpen who combines techniques such as elaborate 3D printing with haute couture.
Although there’s been this intersection there hasn’t been widespread innovation in fashion and technology, until now. We are facing a cultural reset as a result of a worldwide pandemic which will result in more innovation and collaboration between these two industries at a quicker pace than ever before.
Insights by www.activate.com show that augmented/virtual reality is moving beyond gaming. We’re familiar with concepts like social media augmented reality filters or virtual stores which allow you to simulate visiting a real life store, take Ralph Lauren’s St Germain Virtual Store for example. Or the Gucci app that allows you to try on sunglasses and trainers virtually or use AR to decorate a space. Maybe in the future you might be able to sit in at a virtual reality fashion show.
Gaming is still a huge billion dollar industry and going forward it’s expected to become the new paradigm. Everything we do in real life we’ll be able to do in online worlds. With the pandemic forcing everyone at some point to shelter-in-place for long periods of time, it was inevitable that our screen times would increase. As a result people were exposed to new things. Activate found that during Covid, 52% of online shoppers purchased from a new retailer, 27% of which was clothing, shoes or accessories whilst 22% was beauty and personal care.
Remember Loudbrandstudios or Farai London? These brands were catapulted to visibility as a result of celebrities wearing and sharing their clothes on Instagram. They are great examples of this statistic, which presents an amazing opportunity, as social commerce (buying clothes via influencers and affiliate links) is expected to explode from $2.4bn last year to $19.8bn in 2024.
The pandemic has very much forced our minds to exist more in the online world in order to experience new things from the confines of our homes and has encouraged a complete behaviour shift in people and industries like fashion and technology.
Last year there were a few interesting collaborations between fashion brands and different technologies. League of Legends did a collaboration with Louis Vuitton, creating virtual items of clothing you can buy in the game, whilst esports entertainment brand Fnatic and Gucci created a limited edition physical watch that fuses the identity of both brands.
Bringing it back down to earth, technology and fashion may also become a vehicle for us to help the environment, having a positive impact on it just by wearing clothes.
In December 2020, Nii Hai released a cut out knitted top and skirt made from organic cotton that was covered in a photosynthetic coating that photosynthesises, created by Post Carbon Lab.
Yes you read that right, clothing that photosynthesises.
Just like a real plant, any piece of clothing treated with the photosynthetic coating being developed by PCL, will be able to take carbon dioxide from the environment, convert it to oxygen and emit it back into its surroundings.
Innovations like this will hopefully become more and more common and be supported by consumers as we become more conscious about our impact on the environment. Insights from the National Retail Federation show that globally, 57% of consumers are willing to change their purchasing habits to help reduce negative environmental impact. This was potentially a factor in consumers purchasing from new places during lockdown.
It’s a strange and hard world we’re grappling with at the moment and we all can’t wait to get our lives back. But serious adversity like a worldwide pandemic is usually a catalyst for growth and innovation and I’m looking forward to seeing the direction it takes the merging of the fashion and technology industries.
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