Introduction

Technology is no stranger to a person of the 21st Century. No matter if it’s a young child craving their first mobile phone, a teenager on a social networking site, a middle aged man buying the latest fast car, or even our grandma finally getting to grips with her new ‘Freeview’ channels; technology is around us everywhere we go. You would think then that the fashion world – an industry known for being ‘up-to-date’, modern and bang on trend – would be one of the first to grasp the newest technology developments over the past ten years. In some aspects you would be right, but in others you may be surprised. This article will take a look at technology in the fashion industry today, and foresee into its development in the future. Now I know what you are thinking: ‘technology? Where are my usual style tips and upcoming seasonal trends?’ Well although this article may seem a little unconventional for the usual Fashionbeans posts, I know that the topic is a rising matter of interest in the industry, and one that should be considered by lovely fashion enthusiasts such as yourselves (overly-friendly compliment intended).

So now that I’ve buttered you up and got you mouth-wateringly excited to hear what I have to say on the topic, I must first establish what exactly I mean by ‘technology’ in the sense that I will be using it during this article. I am not talking about production technology in terms of machinery for making and producing clothing, but rather technology in terms of use of online marketing, modern electronics, and even technology in design. Confused? Read on.

CuteCircuit

The Twinkle Shirt With LEDs

One of the most prevalent uses of technology in design would be within the company ‘CuteCircuit’. The founders of CuteCircuit, Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz, fully grasp today’s fixation with modern technology in their range of electronic dresses and t-shirts. Yes you read correctly: electronic clothes. Seen above is their popular ‘eye twirkle’ t-shirt that sparkles and glistens as you move around with it; its use of what CuteCircuit describes as ‘smart textiles and micro electronics’ create a perfect fusion between the fashion and technology industries, resulting in what they describe as ‘wearable technology’. Other ‘electrifying’ items in their collection include the light-up dresses (video below), which infuse tiny, intricate LED lights into the dress’ design. But CuteCircuit don’t stop there; their use of technology not only fits in aesthetically to the fashion industry, but functionally also.

Below can be seen the newest member of the CuteCircuit collection, the ‘M-Dress’. Now I know what you’re thinking (I’m doing well at that today), as beautiful and elegant as this dress seems, it doesn’t look very technical? Well here you would be right… until it starts ringing. The ingenious ‘M-Dress’ doubles up as a wearable mobile phone that answers and hangs up when the person wearing it raises and lowers their arm. Just insert your sim card to the designated slot and you’re away. Perfect for girls who have nowhere to store their phone eh? As if this wasn’t enough, CuteCircuit have continued to push the technology/fashion barriers even further with their famous ‘Hug Shirt’ (see below right). This unconventional shirt contains embedded sensors that ‘feel the strength of touch, the skin warmth and the heartbeat rate of the sender’ using bluetooth software via mobile phones. In other words, you can send a hug to your friend on the other side of the world through a mobile phone and it will feel as if they are right there with you. Now I haven’t tested this product myself so I can’t confirm the effectiveness of it for you, but you’ve got to admit, it is a pretty amazing development since Adam and Eve’s use of fashionable fig leaves. Whether or not Francesca and Ryan’s CuteCircuit designs are to your taste, I think it is safe to say that everybody can admire the geniality and originality of these designs.

CuitCircuit M-Dress and Hug Shirt

After starting with such a strong example of technology within the fashion industry, you may be thinking that there is no need for further discussion on the topic – but you will be surprised! Although, as I have shown, there are some members of the fashion community fully grasping the idea of technology within the industry, there are many who are slow off the mark and are only recently starting to see the benefits it can bring to their brand. Online social networking and blogging is obviously no stranger to any of us here at FashionBeans, and the number of fashion blogs has increased so considerably that even toddlers are beginning to blog daily pictures of the outfits their Mum’s have put them in (okay maybe a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point). You would expect then, that the most prominent clothing brands amongst the industry would be at the forefront of this movement – in some cases this is correct. High Street stores such as Topman, River Island and Urban Outfitters have had online stores for quite a while now, and of course there is ASOS which is famously known for its online-only presence and has won several awards for its online services. ASOS have even gone as far as creating catwalk videos for each of their products so that the customer can see how the clothing falls and moves on a real-life model (see below).

Catwalk and Close Up Feature on ASOS.com

So with companies such as the one’s I have mentioned taking full advantage of the technology available and creating such a big online presence, it comes as a shock to me when large high-street stores such as Zara and H&M are only recently offering an ‘online store’ to their customers. And it isn’t just with the high-street brands either, one of the biggest innovators in the fashion world, American Vogue, has only recently updated their online platform Vogue.com. The site now boasts a range of features including the latest news, featured fashion articles and the latest catwalk videos; but I can’t help wondering why they hadn’t grasped this opportunity several years ago along with the other major online fashion platforms? With such key-players in the industry such as Vogue not making full use of the technology available to them, it is no wonder why others in the industry are slow in following suit.

Despite this, there have been breakthroughs in several areas of the fashion industry regarding technology. McQueen’s use of a hologram of Kate Moss on the catwalk in 2006 (video below) has become famous for making history in the fashion world, but also for defining its future regarding the use of technology. There is no denying the impact this had on the fashion industry, but this was several years ago now, and there has been little development by other designers of McQueens ingenuity and brilliance.

However, it is not just on the runway where members of the industry have pushed the boundaries and created new era’s in the technology and fashion relationship. High-street store AllSaints have often been known for their innovative uses of technology, and have recently confirmed that. With the launch of AllSaints radio (http://www.last.fm/user/AllSaintsRadio) back in February this year, the popular high-street brand allowed its customers to hear the tracks played in-store from the comfort of their own home. The launch of the radio also helps promote upcoming bands that mirror the image and ethics that AllSaints present. More recently, AllSaints have furthered their use of technology with their launch of the in-store iPads at their Soho, NY and Regent St, London stores (below). Here customers are allowed to view online collections, check stock availability and view the item on the model - all whilst staying in-store. Although it is only a reasonably small change for the brand due to it only being currently featuring in two stores, it is a large development in the use technology within the industry, and a welcome addition at that.

All Saints Use of Technology in Stores

So with the representative examples that I have mentioned (and I am sure there are many, many more), it is clear that whilst there are some brands and members of the fashion community really pushing the barriers between fashion and technology, there are some that are barely considering it. Technology is constantly being developed and integrated into our daily lives, and there is no reason why fashion brands should not be using what is available to them as an advantage, rather than waiting for it to become an already established phenomenon. So what are your thoughts? Is fashion as an industry slow off the mark to fully appreciate the technology available to us, or is it leading the way compared to other industries? I for one am impressed with some of the developments being made, but I would gladly welcome more examples of it throughout the industry, particularly within those at the head of fashion contingent.

Let me know your thoughts on the subject below and as always you can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/TomBloomfield

Thanks,
Tom