If it feels like a year since the last BDYHAX conference, that’s because it has been. As Austin is preparing for another three-day celebration of human enhancement, transhumanism, biohacking, we look back at last year’s Apparel Futures panel and extrapolate some key learnings that are still very much relevant today. The “Apparel Futures” panel brought together influencers from media, fashion design, and academia: Valerie Vacante Founder of Collabsco and Contributor to Futur404, Kristina Dimitrova (Founder and Editor in Chief of INTERLACED), Bushra Burge (Founder of Bushra Burge Studio), Birce Ozkan (Interaction Designer, Luminous) and Kristin Neidlinger (Founder of SENSOREE) shared their experiences and learnings when it comes to designing the future of fashion.
The fashion tech industry is at a crossroad. In the past, designers and tinkerers merged technology and fashion with the tact of Dr. Frankenstein. This resulted in clothing that was neither useful, nor fashionable. The cure, according to the panelists, is to create with purpose. A great example of this is Project Jacquard, a Google/Levi collaboration that is trying to “weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile.” The Levi's Commuter Trucker Jacket uses this technology to make biking safer. With simple gestures or touch, the cyclist can interact with his or her phone to answer calls or access navigation information. This is the type of integration the panelists emphasised when talking about blending tech and fashion with a purpose.
When designers and engineers don’t collaborate from the inception of a project, you get gadgets like Google Glass. It clearly looks like a technology-first, design-second product. With many brands feeling the sting as a result of lack of collaboration between design and technology it is now imperative for these two industries to come together right from the start.
As a professor at Parsons Design school, Birce Ozkan, shapes her classes around projects that require collaboration from engineers and designers. She believes that encouraging this collaboration in school will help instill collaboration in the students as they embark on their careers. WiseWear, a high end fashion tech company that was present at BDYHAX, collaborated with fashion icon Iris Apfel to help design their latest line, receiving praise from designers and techies alike.
Sustainability is always a hot topic when it comes to fashion tech and innovation. The electronics industry has had a harmful impact on the environment, and questions of sustainability, and responsible sourcing are increasingly important factors for consumers. As Kristina Dimitrova and Bushra Burge noted, one way to design with sustainability in mind is to use “component sized” electronics. That way, if one piece of the garment stops working, it can be replaced, rather than having to throw away the entire thing.
Other trends that are reducing waste in fashion are custom design and on-demand production. The fashion industry recognises that the one-size-fits-all approach to design is outdated. Nowadays, if you want a Nike shoe with custom color patterns, all you have to do is design it at Nike.com. That way, if you are the only person in the world who wants that color pattern, Nike doesn’t have to make hundreds of pairs for retailers. This type of custom design and on-demand production are combining to cut waste in the fashion industry.
One aspect of fashion tech that doesn’t quite fit into the fashion or tech realms is how it is changing how people interact with the world. Kristin Neidlinger and Bushra Burge are designing pieces that change the way people feel, see, and communicate. Imagine wearing a shirt whose colour changes with your mood. Or, a vest that turns sound into vibrations so that you can feel your surroundings. Some of the most exciting trends in fashion tech are changing the way we experience our world.
A Safe Place for Innovation
Valerie Vacante encourages global brands to be brave and be truly open to innovation; the most effective organisations communicate their vision, allocate resources towards innovation, they work collaboratively, and iteratively, failing fast while sharing learnings with the larger organisation. Often times global brands seek specific case studies, itemised deliverables and need to “have it all figured out” before investing in experiments - that defeats the point. Having a safe, dedicated space for innovation will help create a culture of learning, improve or uncovering new products or experiences, increase team performance and revenues throughout the company.
Give it a Go! And Collaborate
How do you get into the industry? The panelists had one common piece of advice— “Give it a go!” It doesn’t matter if you’re in your garage with a sewing machine, some gadgetry, and a soldering iron. Just start. That is what is so remarkable about all of these futurists. They didn’t have a fancy lab or large amounts of funding, but they still created amazing pieces of Fashion Tech.
The panel was upbeat about the industry’s future. Kristina Dimitrova summed it up nicely when she said that in the future, Fashion Tech will simply be called Fashion. But, it will take purpose, collaboration and experimentation to get us there.
Watch the full discussion below and check the photos from BDYHAX 2017 fashiontech show here.
This post was written by Rawad Al-awar. Rawad Al-awar is the Co-Founder of Whear, a virtual community for fashion and style enthusiasts. He is an entrepreneur creating new innovative solutions that connect people and emerging technologies for a better way to live.
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