Smart clothes, a market ready to explode

As a reflection of our way of life, fashion has to adapt itself in a world which is changing. This is no longer a myth; technologies invade the very real world of fashion. It is the arrival little by little of technology in a world that is very traditional and artisanal. The collaboration between technology and fashion is a phenomenon that is developing more and more: technology is therefore at the service of crafts, the goal is not to turn our back on traditional skills.

Thus, we see appearing the term smart clothing, which by definition, are textiles capable of capturing and analysing a signal in order to respond in a suitable manner. There are different levels of smart clothing. Firstly, there are passive smart clothes, the technology which doesn’t require electrical power. It is the material of the clothes which by its properties tends to give technical qualities. Secondly, there are smart active clothes, able to react in a preprogramed way, requiring a processor and an electric current capable of putting them into action. Finally, there are intelligent adaptive structures, with a learning ability that can adapt to the situation.

At the moment, health and sport are the themes whose smart clothing has developed the most. Having a large number of technical fabrics capable of adapting to the comfort of athletes or patients, it’s possible to measure heart rate, body temperature or performance.

In passive smart clothing, brands such as Nike, Adidas or Reebok are already using textiles to protect the skin from temperature changes while letting it breathe and resist sweat, in most of their technical parts such as socks or leggings.

In terms of smart active clothing, we see that the health sector uses smart fibres to control people with heart disease or diabetes. For its part, Nike has launched sneakers that are laced by themselves (HyperAdapt 1.0), being the first fully functional sports shoes that electronically adapt to the contours of the foot through adaptive lacing technology. Finally Adidas has created a pair of sneakers resistant to vomit and beer, on the occasion of the 184th Oktoberfest in Munich. The materials used have been fully designed to be waterproof and without the possibility to be stained.

In addition, some brands want to offer us, to include features specific to our connected phones, directly in our clothing. Levi’s is preparing a connected jacket in collaboration with Google, being sensitive to touch. The jacket will control your smartphone remotely and activate several features like receiving calls, notifications and GPS information, while having an aesthetically beautiful denim version with high quality. The jacket having fibres composed of a totally invisible electronic device. It will allow people by bike, car or motorcycle, to continue their journey without putting themselves in danger. For example, simply by tapping the sleeve of the jacket, you can accept or decline a call.

Finally, it is in the professional field of risk that technologies and fashion are used frequently. Indeed aerospace, has space suits composed of many innovations and micro-technology to improve both the comfort and protection of astronauts. Firefighters also see their clothing evolve, having sensors that can control the temperature inside and outside the suit and alert the wearer in critical conditions. Finally it is in the military field that it is possible to find military suits that can reduce infections in case of injury.

This shows that smart clothing is not only a gadget but also can be used and needed in specific areas. This is why we must not be afraid of the technological revolution that is beginning to affect the field of textiles and fashion. It is a new way of putting technologies at the service of the craft industry, which enriches the industry and allow new actors to emerge which are becoming more and more important. However, this revolution can present certain risks, which must be informed, such as the emergence of new ethical and societal issues. Indeed, smart clothing creating new IP addresses and new data information brings new risks of data protection and the risk of malicious intrusions.



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Myriam Kijowski-Tran

2 thoughts on “Smart clothes, a market ready to explode

  1. Valerio Pettinicchi says:

    Hi, I like your article. I agree with this. Fashion like everything else must adapt to the change. However, the fashion world is characterized by companies that make of the tradition their point of strength. So the technology can be at the service of crafts but should not replace it. In the field of sport, technology could probably help more than on the other hand.

  2. Paulina Swoboda says:

    I could not agree more that fashion and technology are a great combo, which can really benefit some social groups. Not that long ago I was checking out a company called Polar Seal, which offers heated technology, and because I am always freezing, I was considering to pre order until I saw the price, which was almost almost $200. And I see the same issue with smartwatches, sport bras, smart shoes and any other type of clothing that is offered on the market right now. So, my question is, do you think smart fashion will come to a point when it is widely available and accessible to all? or is it going to end up being just another buzzword which actually purchase is unattainable to most of us?

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