The Future of Wearable Tech in the Textile Industry

The Future of Wearable Tech in the Textile Industry

The market for wearable technology has witnessed considerable growth over the last 2-3 years. Devices are being used in a variety of different industry verticals, including healthcare, BFSI and retail. Analysts say it will be worth over $30bn in 2016, and expect it to value over $100bn by 2023.

In fashion, wearable technology has the potential to impact everything from what we wear to how it is designed, manufactured and marketed.

3D CLOTHING

3D printers are capable of fabricating anything from guns to body parts to entire houses. These devices offer various advantages such as design flexibility, cost effectiveness, and less wastage in the designing of parts for various end-use industries. A recent report forecast the market to grow from USD 530.1 million in 2016 to USD 1,409.5 million by 2021.

In recent years, fashion designers have begun experimenting with 3D printed pieces of clothing. As far back as 2011, Iris van Herpen became the first designer to send 3D-printed couture down the runway when she debuted a 3D-printed dress at the Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week. Since then, we have seen it evermore frequently.

It’s not unthinkable that a domestic version of the printer could be widely available in the coming years. Imagine having a printer in your home that, instead of putting ink on paper, can actually create three-dimensional solid objects. You could print a new pair of shoes, pants or dress. What impact could this have on the fashion industry?

NFC INTERACTIVE CLOTHING

Near Field Communication (NFC) is the technology behind contactless payment, and it’s also being used in stores for display advertising and targeted promotions. In a previous blog we talked about NFC “beacons”, tiny devices that use bluetooth to seek out and send relevant messages to shoppers' smartphones as they pass by.

But there is another way NFC could be used to enhance a consumer’s shopping experience. What if they could use their phone to swipe over the tag of a product they were interested in, and be shown additional details like style ideas, long-term care instructions or relevant in-store promotional offers?

Out of all the technologies mentioned in today’s blog, NFC is the first one that could be widely adopted. It is inexpensive and already readily available. Forecasts already show that by 2020, the NFC market is set to reach a value of $20 billion.

VIRTUAL REALITY

Brands are already experimenting with virtual reality. North Face collaborated with cinematic VR company Jaunt to give viewers an immersive tour of California’s Yosemite National Park from the safety of the outdoor apparel company’s stores. Dior and Tommy Hilfiger ran similar campaigns, installing headsets in-store which transported shoppers to pre-recorded catwalk shows.

In the future, virtual reality could impact the fashion industry in a myriad of other ways. What about a virtual reality mirror that could display clothing items on a virtual version of yourself? Or virtual fitting that lets you swipe through a collection of outfits?

KINETIC ENERGY

Some designers are exploring the possibility of using clothing to capture kinetic energy. This could then be used to power a watch or smartphone.

We looked at how movement can be converted into electrical energy in a past blog. Laurence Kemball-Cook, founder and CEO of Pavegen Systems, had developed tiles to convert energy from people’s footsteps into electrical power. Applied to the fashion industry, this would follow the same general idea.

For example, a designer named Soledad Martin is working on a prototype to place kinetic energy harnesses in common shoes, allowing the wearer to charge a phone battery while they are on the move. Another designer, Rafael Rosenkranz, has built a jogging suit that can power an mp3 player solely by the kinetic energy generated through exercise.

CONCLUSION

These technologies will lead to drastic changes in all sectors of the fashion business, from in-store experience to marketing initiatives. The possibilities are endless.

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