Fashion technology, while incredibly exciting, has yet to find the marriage between useful and desirable for consumer products. I still contest that the biggest problem with these products is that they fall short of high fashion, making them look and feel dated. Wearables are still relevant but they’ve kind of lost their luster as industry darlings. By no means does that signify a dying market. I do believe we will get there one day, it’s just a matter of time. These 10 innovations prove to be the most useful technologies currently out for the apparel and retail sectors. Because the apparel industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world, these innovations focus on sustainability and environmentally friendly practices; making these technological advances especially beneficial and useful.
- Air Dying – Developed by Colorep, AirDye is a system that uses proprietary dyes which are transferred onto fabric with a one step process that uses heat instead of water. The process saves anywhere from 7 to 75 gallons of water per pound of fabric, plus it uses 85% less energy.
- Digital Printing – Prints are applied directly to fabric using a printer, enabling a reduction in water usage of 95% and an energy usage reduction of 75%. Not only that, it also reduces textile waste.
- Solar Panel Clothing – Worrying about dead devices might just become a thing of the past. Clothing and accessories with solar panels are here to make sure you’ve got a charge all day. This technology is infiltrating everything from dresses to backpacks, and sunglasses to jewelry. Never again will we miss another Snapchat again.
- Plastic into Fabric – In the same way that bamboo fibers and other materials are made into thread, up-cycled synthetic material can be broken down, melted, and extruded as fiber. This practice can help us slowly chip away at all those plastic bottles and bags clogging up our ecosystem. Wearing garbage never felt so chic.
- Online Shopping Software – Online shopping tools are being developed that may reduce returns dramatically and minimize waste through custom fitted garments. MyShape is among those who have developed a tool of this kind.
- Waterless Stone Washing – Levi’s has launched a Waterless product line that allows them to use between 28% - 96% less water in the finishing of their jeans. To date the company has reduced their water usage by over 172 million liters. Simply mind blowing.
- Bio-Filtering Waste Water – Better known as Sequencing Batch Biofilter Granular Reactor, this comprehensive technology is truly innovative. It helps to remove the most toxic components of textile dyes and produces around 80% less sludge than conventional bio-filters.
- Smart Tailoring – DPOL (Direct Panel on Loom), also called Smart Tailoring, was created by the Indian designer Siddhartha Upadhyaya. It increases fabric efficiency by 15% and reduces lead time by 50% in the manufacture of high end garments.
- Pollution Indicators – Imagine a world where our clothing can clue us into potentially dangerous situations, such as toxic levels of pollution. One dress changes colors based on acidity levels in rain, which also alerts the public. The “Rain Palette” dress aims to track global air quality by allowing people to scan and upload color changes to an app. Other clothing in this category reacts to poor air quality or unsafe gases like carbon monoxide through use of led lights or other mechanisms. Not only will wearers of these technologies be a lot more safe in threatening environmental situations, but the world as a whole can get a better idea of the general environmental climate.
- BioCouture Fabric – Growing textiles? This is a complete game changer. BioCouture uses organisms such as bacteria and yeast to grow bacterial cellulose, which has similar qualities to leather. The coolest part, it’s completely compostable. The potential here is infinite, with a myriad of production methods and countless applications. “Through an engagement with biology I’m really excited about how we can think about organisms like microbes as the factories of the future,” Suzanne Lee, founder of BioCouture.
We are only seeing a glimpse of what’s possible when fashion and technology come together. With consciousness shifting to a more sustainable world, these innovations are a step towards turning one of the most polluting industries into one that contributes to the well being of the planet. This is truly the future, and we are living it now.
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