‘FashTech’ is a term used to describe the intersection of fashion and technology, including wearable technology such as Google Glass or Apple Watch, new methods of creating clothing such as 3D printing, and production of ‘smart fabrics’ or E-textiles. The fashion industry has been comparatively slower than other industries to embrace technology due to the traditional view that hand-made clothing or haute couture is far more valuable than machine-made clothing. Despite this, the FashTech trend is booming, bringing together fashion designers, engineers and innovators together to revolutionise the industry.

In 2016, London Technology Week showcased some of the latest technologies in the fashion industry. The Met Gala theme, “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology”, saw a dazzling display of technology-infused garments made by the best in the industry.

For those not quite ready to don a floor-length ball gown threaded with LED lights, FashTech also includes different ways of using technology to change the way consumers have access to fashion, such as online shopping, e-marketplaces for upcoming designers to reach buyers, and apps that can help you find clothing easier online.

FashTech and The Fashion Technologist

One of the biggest obstacles for the entrance of technology in the fashion industry was that fashion designers and critics were not necessarily familiar with technology or how it might be used in their line of work. 

FashTech is an organisation founded in 2014 that connects industry leaders with the best new technology coming out of startups and established companies. They act as accelerators by hosting events and curated discussions to encourage innovation and discovery in the intersection of fashion and technology. 

The Fashion Technologist is a blog, launched in November 2013. Its primary function is to provide fashion bloggers with straightforward tips on coding. It was created by Chloedigital, which is a full-service strategy, support and technology provider to top bloggers in the fashion industry. It helps fashion bloggers get started, especially if they have little experience with technology, compared with their extensive expertise in the fashion world, also encouraging the flow of discussion in the changing fashion industry. 

Holographic Mannequins And Robots In Fashion

The FashTech showcased at London Technology Week (LTW) showed how it could benefit retailers, by cutting costs and helping them better understand consumers. London-based company Headworks, for instance, presented the first ever holographic mannequin. Not only is the mannequin 3D, but it also talks and interacts with consumers and has enormous potential for capturing data about customers. The Headworks mannequin was invented and built by animator Dominic Faraway, who sees the significant potential of in-store FashTech for fashion retailers in the future. 

The FashBot R(evolution), included in the LTW installation, was a project by the teams from Brooke Roberts and Holition, with the assistance of sculptor Gael Langevin. It is a 3D printed robot wearing projected fashion illustrations. This piece of FashTech allows people to see various carefully hand-drawn garments projected onto the InMoov robot, which could revolutionise the creative process for fashion designers who were traditionally limited to pen and paper sketches. 

Smart Fabrics

Smart fabrics, also known as E-textiles, is an area of FashTech that focuses on designing materials with extra functionality. Already, technology has been used to create a heat-sensitive fabric that can regulate the wearer’s body temperature, ‘odour-eating’ fabrics that control embarrassing personal smells and bio-therapeutic materials used for medical purposes such as monitoring heart rate or combating infection in serious wounds.

At LTW, the Bruise Suit was exhibited, which is an ‘injury detection suit’ used to help people, especially athletes, with disabilities. The suit is made up of sensitive removable panels that change colour when impacted with enough force to cause injury. It assists those with a loss of sensation in limbs, who would not otherwise have known they had sustained an injury.

Modeclix has also come out with a new 3D printed ‘fluid’ fabric that contours to the body and is far more wearable than traditional 3D printed garments that are more rigid. This smart fabric brings us closer to the futuristic dream of printing your own clothes at home.

Online Shopping and Consumer Tools (or Apps)

The holographic mannequin is undoubtedly an amazing FashTech tool for retailers to collect data on their customers so as to better understand what they want and how they shop. Likewise, technology is changing the way we interact with and access fashion, making it easier for us to find and access what we want to wear. 

Say you watch a movie and love the what the main actress is wearing. The London-based Asap54 app allows you to upload a photo of the item you like and uses visual recognition technology to try and match you with a similar item that is available for retail. It may not be a perfect match to the image you upload, but the software will analyse the colour and pattern of the garment and produce results for where you can find the item in stock at the time. If you are not having any success, Asap54 also has an in-house team of stylists who can manually search and deliver five suggestions via email.

FashTech even helps you to get the right size when shopping online. For instance, in 2009 Zugara launched a virtual dressing room technology called The Webcam Social Shopper (WSS). WSS allows a shopper to use their webcam to try on items virtually.

Also, if you have a keen interest in fashion, you can even attend fashion week without going at all. Village, with the help of Alligator, created a 360-degree virtual reality film experience of London Fashion Week.

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FashTech is a booming area and manifests itself in many forms, from bloggers and organisations encouraging discussion and innovation, wearable technology and smart fabrics to the various retailer and consumer tools available. 

If you are thinking about developing or using your own FashTech, need to protect yourself online or get a patent for your fashion creation, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers or patent specialists to assist you.

Annie Gunn

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