It was at least 10 years since I was talking about wearing technology and fashion in conferences and 10 years later we don't see any mass commercialised products out there. It is another example of innovative technologies usually takes way longer that we imagine for diffusion for a number of reasons. May be this is the year we start to see it coming.
There are a few out there working hard to make it happen. CuteCircuit is one of them. It is a wearable technology and design company based in Shoreditch, London. Founded by Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz, the company incorporates LEDs, telecommunications, and smart textiles into fashion, bringinga sense of style and tech fun to wearable tech. I visited their studio a month ago and talked to them about the challenge and opportunity.
Rosella's background is in fashion, having worked at Valentino and Esprit, while Genz was an artist and anthropologist. The pair met while studying interactive design at the Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, Italy in 2001 and began to collaborate almost immediately. The first collection Rosella and Genz designed, called TransforMe, was based on the idea that garments could change shape, color or illuminate during the course of the day in response to the mood and activity of the wearer.
The most well known piece from the collection is the Kinetic Dress, a dress with embroidered electroluminescent fibers that light up in response to the wearer's movement. The dress features Victorian style mutton-sleeves and a train, and is made from black elastic that creates a sleek, body hugging silhouette. And their famous “Aurora Dress” which was designed for an opera singer, features 10,000 LED lights and hundreds of Swarovski crystals.
The fashion industry’s manufacturing system has been using the same supply chain design for many years, disrupting this process, even slightly, has to be done slowly. Facing the manufacturing process has helped refine the products and streamline designs, and has given the opportunity to create viable products. Like any other industry innovation, the biggest barrier is always the supply chain. The industry needs a new flexible supply network to achieve scale. Perhaps in another 3-5 years. May be more. I can't wait to see when we all have a "smart" wardrobe.