How Technology is Shaping

Since we started wearing clothes, hundreds of thousands of years ago, technology has always been a major driving force behind how fashion evolves. Scientists estimated that the needle and thread was invented 61,000 years ago.

By Aaron J. Cunningham

Think of how profound of an influence that must have had on the various ways that people could shape and design their clothes, even if those clothes were comprised of only a few animal pelts.

Fast forward several thousands of years to the Neolithic Era, and we have the invention of natural dyes. Talk about a major leap forward in fashion: no more wearing drab browns. Now, our ancestors could wear reds, oranges, yellow, greens, and, eventually, even blues and purples.

Fast forwarding through our past, one can see the direct link to how other technological advancements changed fashion forever. Weaving looms, synthetic dyes, and sewing machines all had significant impacts on women’s fashion. And where would we be without nylon, spandex, rayon, and polyester?

shift souls mask

Today, the future of fashion is 3D

A major leap forward in fashion has come from the 3D printer. Today, for relatively little cost, a designer can set up a 3D printer in their workshop and literally print jewellery and accessories. Any form they can envision from deep inside their wildest imagination can now be printed out layer by layer.

The technology can also be applied to materials. Several 3D material printing start-ups have popped up which are completely revolutionizing the way we create our clothes. One huge leap forward is that 3D printed clothes are seamless: the entire garment can be printed as if it were somehow molded from one piece of magical material. The material can also be easily modified to have more flexibility or breathability in certain areas, like elbows and under arms.

The creative director behind Chanel, world-renowned fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, had been experimenting with 3D printed materials. With the new technology, he was able to create garments which are both familiar and alien. Chanel will continue their 3D innovation with the Mademoiselle Privé exhibition in Shanghai, taking place this April 2019.

When it comes to mixing fashion and 3D printing, one of the most influential designers is Iris van Herpen. During a recent show at Musée des Beaux-Arts in Paris, she unveiled 3D printed face jewellery and heels in her latest collection, Shift Souls. Her intent was to use the technology to produce pieces which distort or obscure the wearer’s body.

Prior to this, she had produced an entire collection of 3D printed clothing that was meant to emulate water pouring off of a naked body, which was designed completely based off photographs of such a phenomenon.

Even more revolutionary than the mind-bending shapes and high fashion creations that can be 3D printed, is the fact that soon your average person may have a 3D clothing printer in their home. Imagine you’re getting ready for your Friday night out on the town, you realize you have nothing to wear, so you go online, purchase a 3D outfit and print it out while you’re in the shower. That reality is actually not as far away as it may seem.

Pocket Dial

Google and Levi’s have partnered up to push the boundaries of wearable technology with their Project Jacquard. The smart technology woven into the cuffs of a Levi’s jacket is machine washable, and, when paired with a mobile phone, allows the user to operate their phone through their jacket. Imagine: a few taps of your cuff and you’ve skipped ahead a few songs or looked up a new route for your car. The cuffs can even buzz to let you know you have an incoming text, chat, or call, allowing the wearer to access the most important features of their phone without having to take their eyes off the road. You’ll have to make a trip to the US, though, because this technology isn’t currently available in Canada.

The question on many people’s mind is, “Do they make more than just jackets?” The technology is being designed so that it can be applied to any garment. Once it is woven into a piece of clothing or shoes, the user clips on a simple removable smart tag to activate the clothing.

model getting fitted at chanel fitting

The future is sustainable

Since launching her first collection in the early ‘90s, Stella McCartney has been reshaping fashion, one collection at a time. Known for creating modern fashion that embodies natural confidence, the luxury designer is a pioneer of alternative and futuristic technologies.

The McCartney Spring/Summer 2019 collection is youthful, fresh, and, most of all, sustainable. The brand’s director of sustainability recently shared on her Instagram how the company is pushing boundaries on sustainability with organic denim, sustainable viscose (made from wood pulp), organic cotton bags, Econyl regenerated nylon, and organic cotton sourced from a women’s farming collective in Egypt.

So, what’s next for fashion?

What would our hunter and gatherer ancestors say if they knew that tech start-up Modern Meadow is growing biofabricated materials inspired by leather by engineering the DNA of yeast to produce collagen? The company claims to be bringing together the best of nature with the best of design and technology.

Better yet, watch them all bow down in awe as your t-shirt changes from red to blue with the tap of a button. Recently unveiled at the Materials Research Society, was a fabric woven from tiny copper wires housed in a polymer sleeve that can immediately change colour based on input from the wearer.

The future of fashion is about to be radically changed by innovations in fabric, just as it always has been for as long as there has been clothing. The difference between then and now is the rate at which it evolves has been significantly increased by scientists equipped with the latest supercomputers and limited only by the imaginations of the designers.


Written on: September 17, 2019