i3 | November 11, 2021

Fashion Tech for a New Era

Susan Schreiner
Fortnite Fashion banner

Fashion Tech for a New Era

Hyperconnected consumers expect to interact with retailers through multiple channels simultaneously.

Technology is changing the way consumers shop for fashion through social media apps, retail shops, digital dressing rooms and augmented reality. Consumers now expect an integrated and consistent digital experience across platforms when they go online to browse, research and buy goods.

Fashion Capitals Go Digital

While couture fashion hubs have long been in New York, Paris, London and Milan — Instagram and TikTok are now setting the fashion agenda, with Instagram becoming a store window display and TikTok furthering the conversation. Technology has disrupted the traditional fashion power structure centered around Fashion Week. Instead of limiting the introductions to elite editors, buyers and stylists — many are taking their fashions directly to new pipelines making the merchandise in their runway shows readily shoppable. Influencers can buy the collections online and in stores the same day they were shown on the runway instead of the usual six-month lag. Social media also is democratizing fashion by enabling younger and smaller designers to directly connect with followers and new audiences.

“Smart” Wardrobes

It’s more than smart watches or what you wear on your wrist. Technology in fashion is becoming more pervasive. Digitally-enabled fabrics, with IoT capabilities are expected to become big business as new multi-material fibers reveal new applications.

Gaming and The Direct-To-Avatar Model

The fashion world was recently abuzz with news that Balenciaga and Fortnite teamed-up for a multi-tier partnership. Included are Balenciaga outfits for Fortnite players, a physical Balenciaga collection inspired by the game’s Retail Row, a virtual Balenciaga store and billboards featuring gamers, and behind-the-scenes videos on how it came together. It’s Fortnite’s first luxury fashion collaboration and a sign that fashion and the metaverse are getting cozier. Prior partnerships with the same cross-category linkup include Louis Vuitton x League of Legends in 2019 and Gucci x Roblox earlier this year.

This is big news because 50% of Fortnite’s 400 million global players are spending their time in Fortnite, allowing them to create their own virtual worlds. Immersive, customizable worlds are engaging and serving as creative outlets for large audiences that fashion brands are looking to target.

As the worlds of fashion, fabric and technology intersect, new collaborations are driving innovation.

Innovation in Fabric

MIT and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), joined forces in 2017 to build a bridge between design and engineering, and develop sustainable fabrics.

MIT and FIT also reached out to AFFOA (Advanced Functional Fabrics of America), a Cambridge, Massachusetts–based nonprofit public-private partnership. AFFOA and its membership ecosystem are helping to develop transformative textile-based products that meet the needs of defense, commercial and consumer markets.

The MIT, FIT AFFOA collaboration is yielding interesting results, as fashion and tech come together. Here is the latest news according to releases from the following groups.

Team Natural Futurism, developed a biodegradable lifestyle shoe using natural material alternatives, including bacterial cellulose and mycelium, and advanced fiber concepts to avoid use of chemical dyes.

Team Peacock, prototyped athletic apparel with color-changing material to highlight an athlete’s movement and quickly analyze motion through an app.

Team Ecollab, designed apparel and footwear using PE (polyethylene) and color changing material that is multifaceted and environmentally conscious.

Team Laboratory 56, created footwear to enhance longevity of product and reduce waste using PE, while connecting with the community through a recycling app program.

Tech fashion and the metaverse merge at CES 2022. 
i3 magazine November/December 2021 cover

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