When we think of technology’s current contributions to the field of fashion, we tend to think of when it is embedded into a fashion product, like smartwatches. However, it would be a mistake to ignore the developments that go on behind the scenes that not only inform fashion, but also alter its landscape entirely.
Let’s say it’s time to shop. You’re headed to the mall, a local boutique, or your favorite e-tail sites where products are branded, packaged, and styled with no trace or whiff of where they came from. This is because the supply chain – with over 100 stages from fabrication to shipment – is so vast and complex that very few of us have any idea where our purchases come from, nor are we aware of the human/environmental costs of production.
Denim, for example, is made from cottons that are sourced from all over the world, shipped back and forth as it is manipulated into fabric, sewn, dyed, washed, treated with chemicals to make it more stain-resistant, etc. Furthermore, from the first seed planted to the point when you’re taking a new pair of jeans home in a plastic bag, the water and carbon required is staggering. Extrapolate that by the fact that Bangladesh alone produces one and a half billion pairs of jeans per year, and you have an epic crisis on your hands.
Ethical fashion company Everlane set out to solve this problem of waste by creating a new line of flattering, sustainably made denim for men and women. The results are amazing. By partnering with an ethical factory in South Vietnam, Everlane was able to reduce the energy used to create denim. It also recycles the toxic sludge created by denim’s production by extracting it and sending it to a nearby factory to be mixed with concrete that builds homes.
This is but one of the many new methods that fashion companies are adopting and innovating in order to transform the industry from one of monstrous waste and ethical violations to one of responsibility and sustainability, guided by a moral compass. Read on for a list of the latest fashion innovations that are guaranteed to blow your mind.
At the multinational tech company IBM, a new cognitive system named Watson has been developed that will change the industry as we know it. In the words of Falguni Peacock, an Indian designer who partnered with IBM Watson to help create a collection for her label Falguni and Shane Peacock, “This is not just the future of fashion, this is the future.”
Peacock narrowed her focus to Bollywood for her forthcoming collection, and IBM Watson then scanned over 600,000 images to establish the dominant trends over the entire history of Bollywood filmmaking. Her ‘Cognitive Couture’ collection reflects the palette, silhouettes, and embellishments proposed by IBM Watson from the data it compiled. “It does not feel like technology,” Peacock confessed. “It feels like you’re communicating with a higher intelligence that gives you the answer you want fast – very fast.”
Jason Grech is an Australian designer who also crafted a ‘Cognitive Couture’ collection in partnership with IBM Watson. For his presentation, the cognitive system analyzed ten years of color data and presented him with a pastel palette, and analyzed photographs of architecture so that Grech could transform them into fashion designs. Grech said that IBM Watson offers up different points of view that a designer could be confident in pursuing for a collection because it predicts future trends with incredible accuracy.
See both results of these extraordinary ‘Cognitive Couture’ collections in the videos below.
As consumer habits continue to change and evolve, companies have been compiling data on new consumer behavior, expectations, trends, and more behind the scenes. However, as “Big Data” is collected from how you shop on your phone and computer, the majority of brands struggle to interpret the data so as to benefit their bottom line. Now, things seem to be falling into place in the fashion industry as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used to more comprehensively interpret consumer needs and wants, which helps companies streamline everything from design to the supply chain itself.
Fashion AI start-up Omnious is capable of “deep learning”, which means that it can take huge amounts of data, analyze it, and then formulate adjustments to supply and demand automatically. It can also analyze data so that customer service experiences can be curated to the individual and used to simplify the design process.
Speaking of design, AI has been used to assist design by creating programs that learn how to create virtual blueprints for clothes and accessories. Zalanda, based out of Berlin, is one such platform that worked with Google and Stink Digital to create Project Muze. Project Muze comprised a neural network injected with data by 600 fashion experts and the Google Fashion Trends Report, and is capable of making its own creative decisions when it comes to color, texture, and style preferences. Using this complex maze of information, users were able to create 3D designs, and each result is hyper-personalized. Some designers at Berlin Fashion Week took things a step further and transformed three Project Muze designs into real-life clothes.
In the AI “arms race”, Edited is a game-changer. This data analytics company specializes in fashion, relying on software that is capable of “learning” and recognizing apparel products from a database of 60 million fashion products, while a natural language processing software classifies the products in mere seconds.
Retailers like Net-a-Porter rely on Edited to provide real-time data in order to respond rapidly to price and stock fluctuations, buying trends, market trends, and more. This means companies that use Edited can rely on fast, flawless, predictive results, thereby removing human error from the equation. The future is robotic, and now is the time to innovate or be left behind to perish.
One of the ways that fashion is embracing a brave new future is in making sustainable materials of paramount value. As the second largest producer of waste in the world, the fashion industry has begun pursuing sustainability with new “technical” fabrics made from surprising ingredients as well as new ways of reinventing traditional modes of production that focus on reducing and recycling waste in ways that benefit humans and the environment.
Newlife by Sinterama takes 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and transforms them into a high-quality polyester yarn. The process of spinning this special yarn uses 94 percent less water and 60 percent less energy than traditional polyester manufacturing methods. It also yields 32 percent less carbon emissions. In order to prove just how luxurious the results can be, Eco-Age Creative Director and Green Carpet Challenge co-founder, Livia Firth, wore an exquisite gown that Giorgio Armani created from Newlife textiles to the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards.
Orange Fiber is yet another textile company on the way up, having received a new round of investing from progressive venture capitalists. Its extraordinary material is made from citrus-juice byproducts that were typically thrown away, magically transforming them into an array of refined fabrics. Salvatore Ferragamo was so excited by this innovative Italian brand’s textile development that it became the first fashion house to use Orange Fiber for an entire collection.
Bacx is the result of development by another innovative textile manufacturer in Italy called Centro Seta. This genius new blended silk textile is comprised of Newlife fibers, “Greenfiber”, certified organic silk, and silk yarn made from waste. Erdem Moralioglu was an early adopter of Bacx, using its duchesse satin for Erdem’s ‘Green Carpet’ collection in 2015.
Novozymes is an interesting company that has figured out a way to deploy enzymes to do many of the tasks that more labor- and resource-intensive processes have typically taken care of. It may not seem like a huge deal, but Novozymes has developed an enzyme that interacts with denim in such a way as to make it appear stonewashed. Going forward, this entirely eliminates the need for actual stone washing, which is a literal method using stones and multiple washes to create a uniquely distressed look. Using Novozymes’ enzymes saves water and does no damage to the denim, which means the fabric lasts significantly longer.
Stella McCartney has been a beacon of hope for the “conscious” fashion lover in search of sustainable luxury goods. By holding firm to her commitment to omit feathers, leather, fur, and animal skins of any kind from her collections, McCartney became “the first sizable global fashion brand rooted in sustainability” according to Business of Fashion.
Her company devotes a lot of time and money on researching viable, sustainable alternatives to traditional fashion fabrics. One of its most recent efforts includes the use of modacrylic or “modified acrylic”, which is a nearly identical replica of animal fur. Her faux-fur looks for Fall/Winter 2015 where so convincing that they sold out almost as soon as they hit the shelves.
Seacell is a really cool textile launched by smartfiber AG, made from actual seaweed and algae products. Not only does Seacell mimic the luxury fabrics that you’d love for your wardrobe and your home, but it also contains minerals, vitamins, and travel elements from the sea, meaning it’s actually good for your skin.