ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Technology»
  • Consumer Electronics & Personal Gadgets

How Technology is Changing Fashion

Updated on August 23, 2017
Wearable LEDs light this fashion shoot.
Wearable LEDs light this fashion shoot. | Source

Miniaturization and Wearable Technology

Not long ago, wearable technology would have referred to nothing more complicated or capable than an electronic wristwatch. The road toward more personal computing and ever smaller miniaturization has led us into these early days of truly wearable high-tech.


From this point on, the boundaries between what is fashion and what is technology will get fabulously blurry. Personal technology will become our wearable art. Fashion, now more than mere adornment or protection, becomes ever more multi-functional and tailored to fit our daily lives.


It is a testament to how far and how fast technology has come that the entire computing power of the ENIAC computer, which weighed three tons, took up 1800 square feet, and cost $500,000 in 1946 (or about 6 million in US dollars today,) can now fit onto a disposable chip from a musical greeting card.


If this trend continues, soon, maybe in another decade or two, the same amount of computing power in a new smart phone will fit inside a device cheap enough to be disposable and small enough to fit inside a human red blood cell.

As our computers get smaller and cheaper, personal electronics will become more wearable and far more complex in which feats they can accomplish. Adding connectivity into this equation, we reach toward having limitless computing power from the Cloud available from even the tiniest of devices.

Google Glass helped create a revolution in wearable technology by combining useful gadgetry with ergonomic design.
Google Glass helped create a revolution in wearable technology by combining useful gadgetry with ergonomic design. | Source

In 2014, the world-wide market for wearable technology was about 3 billion dollars. That number is expected to double by 2018.

Some experts estimate that this market will increase to about 50 billion over the next decade. Still others think that is a very conservative estimate. Either way, if you are looking for the next big thing for a long-term investment, then wearable tech might be it; and now might be the time to buy some stock.

Fashion Design and Energy Technologies

The advent of wearable tech is creating the need for portable power production, better personal energy management devices, and new power storage solutions. We are starting to think seriously again about ways in which our clothing can harness solar, thermal, kinetic, or other forms of energy. Batteries and supercapacitors are also shrinking, transforming, and becoming more wearable.


Once we can harness mobile personal power, we can use it to pixelate our clothing with tiny LEDs or LCDs. One day soon, changing the appearance of a garment might involve downloading a new app. One preprogrammed "fabric pattern," "texture," and "palette" might be traded to another set from a stored library or selected as one of many to cycle through a personalized lightshow for a more dramatic evening look.

For a glimpse into the future, take a look at this collection from CuteCircuit :

Materials are constantly being discovered or re-engineered to improve existing technologies and to pioneer new ones. Here are some recent events that may shape the future functions of our clothing and change how we use and power our wearable technologies.

A Recent Timeline of Energy Advances Impacting Contemporary Fashion

  • February 2012 Researchers at Wake Forest University announce the development of low-cost organic, thermoelectric fabrics with a multitude of wearable tech applications. Besides using body heat to power electronic devices and flashlights, winter jackets with thermoelectric inside liners can use the temperature difference between body heat and outside the jacket to regulate a constant set temperature or heat up a flexible, sewn in element to keep the wearer even more toasty.

  • June 2013 Dutch designer Pauline Van Dongen presented a coat and a dress designed with solar cells capable of powering other wearable tech. The two wool and leather prototypes have modules with solar cells which can be revealed when the sun shines or folded away and worn invisibly and close to the body until needed. The coat incorporates 48 rigid solar cells while the dress has 72 flexible ones. Each garment, if solar cells are exposed to full sun for an hour, can charge a smart phone to fifty percent.

  • March 2014 A research team from Dublin City University in Ireland and the University of Wollongong and the University of Sydney in Australia spun a strong, versatile yarn from graphene-oxide, using a new wet-spinning technique, a relatively simple method that could be scaled up to produce mass quantities. This technique allowed them to produce unlimited lengths of highly porous yet dense, graphene yarn from liquid crystals out of very large graphene-oxide sheets. This new graphene yarn has unrivalled electrochemical capacitance, as high as 410 F/g. The best capacitance value reported before this was as high as 265 F/g, also from a graphene-based material. The researchers believe that graphene yarn could create clothing that would act as a wearable supercapacitor to store power for any type of devices.
  • July 2017 University of Texas at Austin researchers developed graphene
    tattoo stickers for cosmetic, fitness, and medical applications. The temporary
    tattoos can not be felt against the skin but can monitor the body's electrical changes and interact with electronics, supercapacitors, or next generation prosthetics.

Moving Toward A More Sustainable Fashion Industry

While fashion is constantly changing, until recently, the fashion industry has been rather curiously resistant to change. It is still one of the most polluting, waste-producing, and wasteful industries of all. What does bring about change, and what the industry is most sensitive to, is new technology that comes along to do whatever needs doing more cost effectively. Luckily, doing things cheaper sometimes also means doing things more environmentally friendly as well.

3D Printing in Fashion

When Dutch designer Iris van Herpen presented her collection at Fashion Week in Paris in 2013 the world of couture got its first glimpse of what 3D printing technology could do as applied in runway fashion. Some of the garments in the collection were entirely seamless. All were made to fit each individual model.


The designer was excited about this convenience but also about the artistic freedom it offered her in creating complex geometric designs central to her show that would have been nearly impossible to create any other way.

3D printing is uniquely capable of the rapid construction of complex geometric, sculptural, and architectural designs created in a single piece.


3D printing increases a designer's productivity. It provides the capability to produce sample garments in a far shorter time. Rapid prototyping allows for the quick creation of a collection and fast fitting for a runway show.

This is a close-up of 3D printed fabric constructed to mimic basket weave.
This is a close-up of 3D printed fabric constructed to mimic basket weave. | Source

By utilizing 3D printing, designers have shorter lead times. They can produce items in small quantities or only upon an order from buyers or a client.


3D printing could revolutionize garment sizing and product development in mass production. It could also allow startup labels to produce small orders to avoid unsold stock.


Clients will enjoy high levels of customization according to their body shapes and personal preferences. Environmentalists will love the technology because it is sustainable and significantly reduces the amount of waste of raw materials.

The Need For More Eco-Friendly Materials in Fashion

Non-organic cotton farmers deploy 25% of the world's use of insecticides every year and about 10% of the world's use of pesticides in general. That is a lot of poison that is killing farmers and seeping into our water. According to the World Health Organization, about 20,000 human deaths annually are due to environmental pesticide poisoning. In addition, the US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that 67 million birds in the US alone die from pesticides annually.

The future demands more comfortable, innovative, and sustainable fabrics like these wicking high performance organic fabrics utilized here by Luxxe brand.
The future demands more comfortable, innovative, and sustainable fabrics like these wicking high performance organic fabrics utilized here by Luxxe brand. | Source

Luckily the use of organic cotton has become so popular in the fashion industry that in recent years there is not enough to satisfy the demand. Organic cotton is ideal for kids and people with allergies or sensitive skin and is also great for the environment. Right now, it accounts for only about 1% of the cotton that is grown world-wide. The fashion industry is helping to change that. It is also embracing sustainable fabrics like bamboo-based textiles and is actively developing alternatives to petroleum and animal based textiles, and otherwise problematic or environmentally unsound materials.

More Fashionable Materials

  • QMilch German designer and former microbiology student Anke Domaske uses waste milk to make the new fabric produced from fibers of casein. Qmilch ( the name combines the German words for quality and milk) is silky, odorless, affordable, and washable. Qmilch uses a half gallon of water to make 2 pounds of fabric. In comparison, making 2 pounds of cotton fabric requires about 3000 gallons of water.


  • Lab Grown Bio-Fabric London based designer Suzanne Lee grows leather-like textiles out of kombucha. As kombucha ferments it naturally produces microbial cellulose. Lee is working with biologists and various micro-organisms. However, the textiles produced so far are all water-soluble.


  • Thermal Fabric Recycled from Coffee Grounds California based performance wear company Virus pioneered a proprietary process by which old coffee grounds are turned into coffee charcoal, a natural eco-friendly fiber. The coffee charcoal fabric is moisture-wicking and heat-retaining, two properties that make it perfect for a base layer for athletes, travelers, and winter sports enthusiasts.


  • "Bionic Denim" Made from Recycled Plastic Ocean Waste Musician Pharrel Williams announced at NY Fashion Week that he is partnering with designer denim label G-Star RAW to incorporate recycled plastic waste collected from the ocean into jeans as part of the core of each strand of denim thread.


What do you consider the most important new trend for fashion?

See results

Looking Forward in Fashion

Imagine this. Since you were ten, you have known of your severe allergy to wasps. A couple of years ago you were paralyzed from the waist down in a skiing accident.

Today you are wearing a 3D printed smart bio-mechanical exoskeleton on your legs over your sustainable, high performance, LCD equipped smart fitness wear, currently displaying a racing number and official ribbon color, in order to participate in a charity run in your local park.


You are halfway through your run when you are stung by a wasp just behind your left knee. Though you don't feel the sting, your body reacts. Sensors in your fitness wear notice. Your clothing informs you of what has happened.


At the same time, your clothing summons an ambulance, reporting your identity, medical history, nature of your emergency, current condition, and your exact GPS location. A patch on your thigh injects you with an emergency dose of epinephrine to treat for anaphylaxis. Your clothing informs the team of paramedics on the way that you received this injection. Upon their arrival, your clothing uplinks with their equipment for the monitoring of your vitals on route to the hospital.


While this scenario might seem far-fetched, like something out of a futuristic movie, all the technology needed to make it happen already exists. It takes time to incorporate our current capabilities into working prototypes, and even longer to make them available to the public. One day soon, the above event might seem as expected, if not as commonplace, as watching someone purchase lunch with an iPhone, which a few of years would have seemed like science fiction as well.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Besarien profile image
      Author

      Besarien 23 months ago

      I'm so happy you got something positive from my hub, MsDora! I love reading about new technology as well as fashion. Project Runway is one of my favorite shows. I also enjoy making my own clothes. This hub was inevitable!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 23 months ago from The Caribbean

      Besarien, I learned so much from your article. You certainly take us into the future with all these possibilities. Seeing helps us believe; there's no way I would imagine some of these outfits. Thank you.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      I have been reading more and more about 3D printing, and that just amazes me. Of course I would have never believed all the technology we have today if I'd read about that years ago.

      As long as these new "inventions" do good for humankind, I'll all for it. I'm not too interested in using 3D printing for fashion, but more so in the medical field.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 2 years ago from North Texas

      Working on resolving the issue of the disappearing social buttons. Practicing on your hub, hope you don't mind. Was able to pin this article to Awesome HubPages using my phone, but had to use my lap top to share here with followers. Also voted up and awesome!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 2 years ago from North Texas

      Well madam, I have read all of your articles and so all I can do is tell you how excellent and well written they are again, starting over with this one. The improvements to HubPages that I'm told occurred earlier today removed all social sharing buttons from my own articles and everyone else's -- at least they aren't accessible to me, if in fact they still exist, so I can't share this article with anyone as I would like to do. Looking forward to your next hub!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 2 years ago from North Texas

      Exceptionally well written article! I learned a lot about this subject and I think there are a lot of useful and interesting ideas for fashion discussed here. Wonder if these things will be affordable for everyone . . .

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I wish you wrote more often. You are a good writer and I love to see good writing, no matter what the topic is. :)

    • word55 profile image

      Word 2 years ago from Chicago

      Besarien, you are really on top of things. You're like a scientist, have a gorgeous ear for music plus spiritually gifted with wisdom. This one is voted up!

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Well now, I'm all for an outfit that looks great and can change depending on pressing the right button, but is it durable? Why the hell is the world creating millions of garments that get thrown away after a year or two? I'd really like to see an end to a capitalist system and more focus on loving the planet, increasing durability and producing amazing things for humankind. Voted useful!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I enjoyed this and really liked the cutecircut video. No brave enough for the dresses but love those slacks and boots!

      ^+

    • DeborahDian profile image

      Deborah Carr 2 years ago from Orange County, California

      It is amazing how much technology has become part of every aspect of our lives, even fashion!

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I enjoy wearing fiber optics and holographic glasses myself!

    • Besarien profile image
      Author

      Besarien 2 years ago

      Hello Nell Rose! Other than beating my head against a hub I've been trying to write, everything is great. Funny how some just write themselves. I think the more dire the subject matter the harder it is for me to concentrate on it. Yet I'm too stubborn to give up. I figure if I just get something done every day... Hope all is well on your side of the Atlantic as well! Wishing many blessings find you and yours.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      Came back for another read, and wow still! lol! hope everythings okay with you, voted up and shared, nell

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      I love the idea of having cool technology laden fashion. I like the idea of clothes that can absorb orders or resist spills. I also like the idea of clothes that glow or change color depending on environmental conditions or even the mood or health of the wearer.

      I don't really care for fashion that has people with their unmentionables exposed. I am all for nudists, nude beaches and even naked vacations, but I really don't like someone masquerading nudity as fashion. The emperor is not wearing any clothes gosh darn it!

    • Abhinav4192 profile image

      Abhinav Garg 2 years ago from Bangalore

      I agree on the fact that use of organic cotton by fashion industry can change the world for better. Loved the way you presented the article.

    • Besarien profile image
      Author

      Besarien 2 years ago

      Hi Mel! Thanks for commenting! You are seeing where all of this is going. I agree with you. I don't even like to carry my phone all the time. There are futurists who think that wearable will mean surgically embeddable- not that it already doesn't already with cochlear implants and pacemakers- and even electively replaceable within the decade. I can't quite imagine giving up a body part that works for tech that works better-but a lot of currently popular body mods are far beyond my own personal tastes. Each to his or her own. It will raise a lot of ethical questions, like how does a surgeon "do no harm" and lop off a perfectly good body part- or is this something that some kid working in a mall will perform?? With ever answer there are only more questions.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      This is remarkable and useful stuff, but frightening at the same time. Our bodies will literally become computers and we will never be separated from our electronic leashes. Great hub!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hiya, just came by to say thanks again for reading my hubs, and look forward to reading yours, let me know when you publish again, okay?

    • Besarien profile image
      Author

      Besarien 3 years ago

      Hi Frank Atanacio! Thanks for stopping by! Fashion is a pretty frivolous arena for new tech I admit but really that was half the fun of this hub for me. I love the spectacle of fashion even though I don't wear it personally. I make most of my own clothes when I do need to replace what I already have and go for boring and basic rather than Christmas tree lights. Many one day I'll be doing it with a 3D printing instead of a sewing machine though! Thanks again for commenting!

      Hi colorfulone! I think you have the right idea- the LEDs are perfect for performers on stage. I do have an aunty who loves festive holiday and occasion wear who probably wouldn't think twice about lighting herself up. So happy you enjoyed reading it. Thank you for taking time to comment!

    • Besarien profile image
      Author

      Besarien 3 years ago

      Hi Nell Rose! Thanks for the comment! 3D printing just blows my mind- endless possibilities and with the "sister technology of 3D scanning anything seems within grasp. I heard about a little boy in Hawaii you got an "Iron Man" themed hand prosthetic from a charity that does free 3D limb replacement. He will get updates as he grows. Amazing!

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 3 years ago from Minnesota

      It is amazing to see what technology is being used in fashion now. I can see singers on stage wearing these to boost a performance. Amazing hub!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      it is interesting reading hubs like this one.. I agree tech is changing everything..not just fashion... :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Wow! what fascinating reading! those LCD dresses were amazing, but the tech behind the 3D printing is fantastic! great hub, and I love this sort of thing! voted up and shared, nell

    • Besarien profile image
      Author

      Besarien 3 years ago

      I agree with every word you said, bradmasterOCeal! Just because we can wear something certainly doesn't mean we should. Fashion even at its most relevant and most socially in tune can still be pretty silly. I can't help admire the creativity and craftsmanship that goes into a runway look though, even one that no one will ever wear aside from the poor model. I can admire the art and still not want to hang it on my proverbial wall.

      One aspect of 3d printing that excites me is that ready to wear- what we all will be wearing on the street, can now be customized to order at little cost. We wont have to wear a size that doesn't quite fit or a color we don't love or a badly placed pocket or sleeves too long or short, or buttons that won't stay closed or suffer any other indignity related to clothing because we can have ourselves scanned, and all algorithms adjusted to buy exactly what we want instead of what someone is trying to sell us. Our clothing will be truly our own. Theoretically at least! Thanks for commenting!

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      bradmasterOCcal 3 years ago from Orange County California

      This was a very interesting and illuminating hub.

      Unfortunately, I don't think computer chips is flattering wearable fashion. Some of the current fashion today looks light it is lit up, and some are even gross.

      Smartphones are already distracting, annoying and dangerous when walking and driving. Now, add to that a light show coming from a moving vehicle.

      It might be beneficial in a crosswalk at night.

      Prepare to strip down to your birthday suit when going to checkin at the airport.

      The same fire that warms us, also can burn the house down.

      Thanks

    • Besarien profile image
      Author

      Besarien 3 years ago

      Hi billybuc! Sorry fashion isn't your thing. Thanks for reading it anyway!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The fact that I just read an article on fashion should tell you that I respect you. :) Good research, my friend.