Paris has long laid claim to being home of the global fashion industry, and with the start of the French capital’s 3rd FashionTech Week today it has cemented that position even further.
Fashion is one of the many traditional sectors being disrupted for the better by new technologies. The FashionTech Week will see many astonishing Fashion tech items walk down the runaway in Paris, such as a Zac Posen/Google’s little black dress. Thanks to Google’s Made with Code team, this dress features LED lights that display different moving patterns; the aim is to incentivise young girls to try computer science.
In 2011 software revolutionised the way fashion designers work by allowing designers have their designs printed on fabric in an instant. Previously, creating such an original fabric pattern would have required days of work. This was just the start of fashion and technology becoming interconnected. In 2014 the Google Glass designed by Diane von Furstenberg was one of the very first high-tech products to catch the eye. Among the first luxury fashion houses to rethink wearables was Ralph Lauren. The US-based company has set out on its wearable tech adventure with sensored sports shirts that monitor heartbeat, respiration and stress levels. Other practical FashionTech items which have emerged include the Hövding scarf-airbag, replacing the less fashionable cycle helmet. Only last week Apple announced the Hermes edition of the Apple Watch – the latest must-have for fashionistas.
Not only can technology be incorporated into the garments, it is often the tool to produce them. 3D printing is already being used to create prototypes and finished products for jewellery, hardware, futuristic fabrics and shoes. The next generation of 3D printers and programming is expected to further simplify the process of transforming ideas into products. The Silicon Valley Fashion Week in May witnessed a three-day complete with drones and robots carrying clothes down the runway. Other ways tech and fashion connects can be seen through We Dress Code, Zalando’s tech-savvy blog. It shows the engineering and ideas that are behind the company’s daily work by posting technical talks and tips, news about their open source projects, among others.
But it comes with its challenges – especially if you are not a wealthy Fashionista. The high price of items is often singled out as a primary obstacle. Distribution is another restraint, as it is difficult for ordinary consumers to source these products online. From a policy perspective, high-tech fashion items also pose legal challenges in terms of intellectual property (IP) protection and data protection and privacy. In respect of IP protection, the product name, its function, and look and feel need to be protected. More controversial is data protection. Some wearables can contain many personal data, including health information. This of course enables users to have a unique digital identity, but at the same time, they are exposed to various risks such as hacking and data breaches.
One thing is certain, FashionTech is coming to Brussels’ corridors of power (dressing) very soon.
Ani Gundes is a consultant at FTI Consulting in Brussels and Charlotte Norlund-Matthiessen is a consultant at FTI Consulting in Brussels.
Over the coming months FTI Consulting will be celebrating the positive impact new technology has on a whole range of business sectors – from fashion to financial services – in our special series of analysis blogs entitled Where industry meets technology. We plan to take a deep-dive into different sectors such as financial services, energy and healthcare, which are undergoing rapid and radical change in the face of technological progress. The telecom and transport sectors have already shown how technology disruption is bringing about new regulatory challenges and major revisions of existing legislation. It is critical that regulation adapts to these changing times to avoid needless barriers to innovation and growth.