We are at the pointy end of the wearable technology revolution. Despite the fact that Apple recently sponsored the recent Met Gala “Manus x Machina” fashion blockbuster, wearable tech is goes well beyond a gadget you strap to your body.
In a 21st-century fashion version of Silicon Valley, incubator hubs for “advanced manufacturing” are dotting up throughout Brooklyn New York, according to a recent New York Times article. The wearables movement is bringing together designers and and engineers, but the design needs to lead – which is why fashion epicentres around the world are driving the trend, rather than traditional technology centres. “The West Coast has a lot of software talent, but not really a strong fashion culture – they take a very engineering-led bottom line approach to their start ups” said Francis Bitonti, a Brooklyn designer whose primary tools are algorithms and 3D printers.
Design Intersects with Technology
There is an emerging ecosystem that merges the instincts and design skills of fashion, with research and IP. So when you have scientists researching how to turn fabric into a battery – they need to know who can actually scale the fabric you make, or who can actually make clothes out of it. Who can design them.
Wearable fashion technology spans a wide range of options – including digital printing, laser cutting, 3D knitting, weaving, chemistry and biology. Anyone who ever spilt wine on a linen shirt will appreciate a patent for nanotechnology that bonds water-phobic polymers with natural fibres on the molecular level. The process can be licensed by clothing brands to make linen, cotton or denim shirts repel liquid.
Or at ZWD (Zero Waste Daniel), the designers painstakingly collage scrap fabric from the cutting room floor and their goal is to connect with a company who uses a visual algorithim to identify and manipulate the scraps, automate the process and produce at scale. Using up ever more textile ends that would end up as landfill.
Transforming the Manufacturing Process
As Scott Cohen of New Lab, a pioneering wearable tech hub, says “If you put designers and engineers really close to the manufacturing process, what happens is they realize they do things the way they do because they are working with machines that were made a long time ago.”
“Suddenly they say, ‘Why not just make a new machine?’ And it transforms the process”. And this is just what happened when start-up shoe line, Thesis Courture, enlisted a rocket scientist, and orthopedic surgeon, a mechanical engineer, a shoe designer and an Italian shoemaker to re-engineer the stilletto. The result looks like Jimmy Choo, is made from ballistic grade thermal plastic polyurthane, and makes a four-inch stiletto feel like a wedge.
Fashion has been using technology forever, from knitting needles, looms and sewing machines. There have been many points of disruption over the centuries – this new “silent” technology – the tech you can’t see, is just the next step.
Sourced from “Brooklyn’s Wearable Revolution” NY Times, April 30