Technology has certainly come a long way in recent decades, with society now increasingly embracing the concept of wearable technology. What was once considered to be the stuff of fantasy movies and books is now becoming a potential reality, with clothing and accessories beginning to merge with technology. From enhanced fabrics that can detect a person’s vital signs to more futuristic visions of augmented reality, wearable technology has already made considerable strides as an added accessory in our day-to-day fashion.
This article will look at the ways in which wearable technology is transforming the world of fashion, from the groundbreaking designs of fashion pioneers to the more achievable forms of smartwatches, fitness trackers and augmented reality glasses. It will explore how these technologies are becoming increasingly popular and how they could potentially shape the future of fashion and beyond.
Definition of Wearable Technology
Put simply, wearable technology is any item that can be worn as an extension of your body, as opposed to a device that is simply handled or operated. A popular example of such tech is the Apple Watch, and in recent years the range of devices being developed that fall under this category has grown rapidly. From fitness trackers to smartwatches, clothing with enhanced fabrics to laser-activated jewellery, there has been a rise in these devices that offer both utilitarian and aesthetic value.
History of Wearable Technology in Fashion
The connection between technology and fashion has been part of modern culture since the 1950s, when clothing manufacturers began using synthetic fabrics in order to create new shapes and textures. It was from there that electronic clothing came into existence in the 1970s and 1980s, with items such as electric-charged sweaters and jackets integrating voltage into their design. This not only created more interesting fashion choices for the user, but also offered a more practical value in terms of a layer of warmth that couldn’t be achieved just by fabric alone.
The dawn of the new millennium saw the rise of ‘smart clothing’, with features such as touch-sensitive interfaces and even electronic displays being merged with everyday items such as jackets and shirts. Life-logging devices were also on the rise, with products such as electric running shoes able to log the distance of a user’s run, while other items such as airbags being integrated into jackets and helmets became practical yet stylish ways to stay safe.
Recent Developments in Wearable Technology
As technology continues to evolve, the possibilities with wearable tech have become even more varied and impressive.
The smartwatch is probably one of the most popular pieces of wearable tech in recent years, with devices such as the Apple Watch and Garmin Forerunner offering a range of useful features such as tracking the number of steps taken during the day and delivering calendar alerts. Connecting to a phone via an app, these watches allow the user to make and receive calls, display notifications from social media, and even control other devices such as a car.
Fitness trackers also offer a range of features for those looking to keep in shape. These trackers are worn either on the wrist, clipped to clothing, or attached to an item of footwear, and allow users to keep an eye on their progress when it comes to activity. With these trackers, the user can monitor such things as their daily calorie intake, the number of steps taken, and even track the quality of their sleep, all at the touch of a button.
Some of the most advanced wearable technology has come in the form of augmented reality devices such as Google Glass. After a highly successful pilot scheme with creative professionals, tech enthusiasts, and even medical professionals, Google have released an updated version of the AR wearable device called Google Glass Enterprise Edition. This device utilizes a range of sophisticated sensors and cameras in order to deliver augmented reality experiences while the user goes about their day, offering an enhanced version of their regular world view.
How Wearable Technology is Shaping the Future of Fashion
The integration of technology and fashion has been a longstanding, almost cyclical process, and with the recent advancements in wearable tech it seems that a more permanent paradigm is slowly being established. The potential for this technology to be used to create fashion that is both utilitarian and visually dynamic is limitless, and what we are seeing today is just the beginning of this journey.
The concept of smart fabrics should not be seen as a distant notion, as a range of companies are already developing such fabrics for a variety of applications. This range of fabrics features conductive inks and coatings which can be used to power smart clothing that is both comfortable and secure, while also able to interact with its surrounding environment. Sensors are also being developed which can be used to monitor things such as movement and heat, while items such as smart buttons and magnets are allowing clothing to do things such as respond to voice commands and even self-adjust to the weather.
3D-printing is also becoming an increasingly viable way to create fashionable wearable tech. Companies such as HP are utilising this technology to develop fabrics and items such as shoes and belts that can be quickly and easily printed, reducing lead times and consequently speeding up the production process. This has the potential to revolutionise the way we create fashion, as the traditional methods of weaving, knitting and stitching the items can be replaced with a highly efficient machine-based process.
Aesthetic Wearable Technology
The concept of adding technology to clothing and accessories is not only useful, but can also be stylish. This technology can be used to enhance the look and feel of a garment or accessory, while using minimal amounts of fabric and making use of existing materials. Companies such as Bellabeat have created a range of products that are designed to be both aesthetically pleasing and useful, such as the Tranquility bracelet which monitors a wearer’s heart rate and stress levels.
Wearable technology is already having a major impact on the fashion industry, from the popularised use of smartwatches to the more intricate applications of augmented reality and 3D-printing. What we are seeing now is likely only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fashion being combined with wearable technology, and there is no doubt that the fashion world will continue to be transformed in the years to come. This technology has given us the potential to create wearables that are both utilitarian and aesthetically pleasing, with the potential to revolutionise the way we dress forever.