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Expert Opinion Fashion & Beauty Tech

How Wearable Tech could disrupt one of the world’s leading polluting industries.

August 23, 2020

Words by Christine Noumba Um  | Her Economy Girl @xreman

The fashion industry is worth $3 trillion, and in terms of trade intensity, it is the 2nd biggest industry in the world. Furthermore, it employs 57 million workers in developing countries, but this may not be a point to be proud of, as they’re often exploited and work in horrible conditions. However, as an important economic sphere it greatly matters to society, and consequently it has a large bearing on our personal lives, as what we wear is the first point of storytelling and image-making that is within our control.

The latter point spurs on some individuals’ ‘passion for fashion’ and triggers their resolve to work their way up in the industry. While the fashion system that has emerged in Western countries can be seen as frivolous and sometimes is in reality, it offers community and an inspirational outlet for some to carve out an identity.

Fashion taps into our need to feel great about ourselves, and in this sense it sells us a dream that dovetails nicely with the capitalist system we inhabit. Much of the world’s economic growth and industrial development were in direct correlation to technological advances made in regards to clothing. From the spinning jenny in the 18th century to the latest 21st century technology applications,

fashion brought in new labour skills and relevance to certain regions able to supply demand, creating powerful worldwide hubs.

Today, ‘wearable’ technology puts fashion at the heart of social, political and environmental discussions. London College of Fashion masters’ students , embracing technology, have created a garment washing system that detects the level of pollution in clothes, as well as performance music jackets that allow remote users to experience and interact in live shows.

LCF’s Fashion Innovation Agency, in partnership with Richard Nicoll, have created the Disney based ‘Tinkerbell dress’ for London Fashion Week, using fibre optic fabric activated by high intensity LED’s in the dress, which creates a magical digital pixie dust effect down the runway.

Through smart processes and smart materials designers and coders can co-create to grow the wearable tech market, the importance of which is reflected in 2016’s Met Gala ‘Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology”.

Working in Fashion can thus be a worthwhile endeavour, as the industry poses challenges that require innovative and problem thinking skills to find solutions. Exploitation of garment workers, lack of diversity and environmental damages are some of the most prominent problems that

face the industry, but these issues can translate into new and exciting opportunities that can instigate a profound impact on how the market underpinning society is run.

The ‘Catalytic Clothing’ project, run by Helen Storey MBE and chemistry professor Tony Ryan, shows that fashion can have a positive influence on the environment, society and our health if it continues to adapt with science and technology in the aim of bettering our lives.

The project explored how textiles that are used as catalytic surface can purify air through the creation of a catalytic dress called ‘Herself’ that carries a photocatalyst and then breaks down air-borne pollution into harmless chemicals. ‘Herself’ was introduced in multiple cities in the UK to showcase how clothing and textiles can play a role in improving the urban environment.

In the same vein, a bra was recently developed with the ability to detect tumours before the start of a breast exam and smart socks that use temperature sensors are able to track diabetic health…

Fashion can thus play a crucial role in the future of human wellbeing, and partaking in this stylish adventure promises to be exciting!

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