Category Archives: Computers

Essential Elements of Your Fashion eCommerce Website

A well designed website is an essential element of a successful fashion business. Whether you’re designing it in house or hiring an agency to design it for you, it’s important to know what you should be thinking about, the questions you should ask, and best practices.

With that in mind, we sat down with Anshey Bhatia of verbal + visual, to get the scoop on Essential Elements of Your Fashion eCommerce Website.

When a potential new client comes to you for help creating a website, what are the questions they need to be able to answer?

Here are some key questions we always ask:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What kind of budget do you have specifically for the website, and also for marketing?
  • Do you have great content (photography and copy) ready, or is that something we’ll need to handle?
  • What kind of resources do you have internally, in order to review statistics, manage orders, update site content, etc
  • Do you have all of your branding together?
  • Who handles your marketing, both online and offline, and how do you promote the brand in general?

Many of the questions we need our clients to answer are not just specific to building a website, they are focused on using the eCommerce site as a platform for your business.

So many of the questions are business-centric and related to your vision, your operations and your resources, and you as the business owner need to be able to handle those questions. 

If you’ve ever watched Shark Tank, imagine yourself in the position of pitching your business.  If you can’t answer any question thrown at you from a business perspective, you’re not going to do well.

What questions do you think they should be asking you?

You should be asking us (and any vendor) about things like:

  • What resources we have on staff
  • Our experience within the industry
  • Preferred styles for the design side of things
  • eCommerce platforms of choice and why
  • How they can manage the site following launch
  • What if something breaks following launch and how will it be covered, etc.

That’s specifically for the site, then on the operations side you should be asking:

  • About order fulfillment and how that will be done internally
  • How will they track orders, process them and see the overall health of the eCommerce site

Beyond that, you should make sure that the site will work well from a marketing side: sharing products via social networks, sharing favorite lists, logging in with Facebook, email sign ups and integrations, discount code integration, etc. 

Lastly, from a budget side, ask

  • How can we make something that works well with your desired budget range
  • How can it fit into your company, from a branding side, an operations side, and a marketing side, in relation to your resources on hand.

What are the three most important components of an e-commerce website?

There’s definitely a lot more than 3, but if I had to pick I’d say:

  • Customer ease of viewing and finding products
  • Customer ease of checkout
  • Administration management (order fulfillment, stats tracking, etc.).

You want to make it easy for people to find it, look at it, and buy it within a few short minutes. 

If you don’t lead them into buying right away, they will lose interest and go somewhere else.  If you make it hard to buy in any way shape or form, you will lose the sale.  Period.

And if you can’t handle the order fulfillment process on your own end, no one else will buy from you when they hear about someone else’s poor experience on the site.

You recently completed the creation of PrivateStockBrand.com, which looks beautiful by the way, what were the goals for this brand’s website?  How did you communicate them visually?

Thanks for your compliment!  We’re very proud of that site, and it was even a nominee for site of the day (and year) on Awwwards.com!

Our goals for the brand website were to keep it very clean and photography centric, and to match their branding style as much as possible.

We have a lot of little touches which really make the site come to life; for instance, if you click on the Collections section, you can slide through each item by clicking on the arrows without moving your mouse.  That may seem small, but when you add together a lot of smooth, sophisticated touches across the site, it creates a site that is both unique and a treat for visitors at every turn.

Of course, besides brand continuity, we wanted to ensure that items could be found and purchased quickly and easily from the consumer side, and that order fulfillment from the client side was very simple as well.  Abandoned carts are one of the biggest stats to keep track of, and we wanted to make sure abandoned carts weren’t a problem, so we made the check out process very simple and straight forward.  Fill out the form, get your products in the mail.  Quick, easy and effortless.

What e-commerce platform did you use for Private Stock? Why is this a good option for fashion designers?

We used Magento for the eCommerce platform for Private Stock.  There are a bunch of eCommerce platforms out there, but really they fall into two buckets:

  • Lightweight platforms that are hosted by the cart providor (Shopify, BigCommerce, etc.)
  • Self hosted, customizable solutions such as Magento, WordPress eCommerce, etc.

I always tend to gather budget information from a client first, and then make a recommendation based on their budget.  Bigger budgets should go with a self hosted solution where you can control every aspect of your platform.  So, for Private Stock, we went with a self hosted solution (Magento on a dedicated server) and set everything up for them, including the hosting, secure certificate, etc. Magento is very powerful and you can customize it in any way you want. 

On the flip side, it’s also heavy on the programming side and takes significantly longer to customize than most other eCommerce platforms.  So it’s a much more time intensive platform, but you get a lot of benefits when its all said and done.

The hosted cart providers such as Shopify and BigCommerce are great for smaller budgets.  You pay a monthly fee to them, they have templates you can use instead of doing a custom design and development process, and you can keep your costs low.  They don’t have the power and customization of a self hosted solution, but if you’re just starting out these are great options.

You lose the ability to have a truly unique site that you can 100% control, but you make up for it in ease of use and setup, as well as budget of course.

3 Giveaway Platforms for Your Social Media Contests

Perhaps one of the greater takeaways from the evolution of an incredibly active blogosphere has been the power of giveaways when it comes to raising brand awareness. According to a recent study, 52% of those surveyed stated that their impression of a company is more positive after receiving a promotional product.

Designers who choose to take advantage of giveaways accomplish the following:

  1. increase brand recognition
  2. mass outreach at a low cost
  3. create a lasting impression

There are a number of third party platforms available for facilitating giveaways. However, when it comes down to choosing the best platform for your brand’s business, keep in mind that customization is a must.

The following three social marketing giveaway platforms will allow you to effectively engage with your label’s target audience while maintaining a consistent brand voice.

OfferPop

OfferPop offers a simple and easy to use follower growth-focused app suite which allows users to create tailored giveaway campaigns for both Facebook and Twitter. The platform has a wide range of options when it comes to creating social campaigns, including photo contests, referral programs, sweepstakes, and curated collections.

Pro: OfferPop is widely accepted as one of the most high-quality platforms in the space, and offers the greatest range of options when it comes to customizing your giveaway campaign.

Con: The price. With OfferPop you are definitely paying for the benefits of a well-constructed service. Although the company offers a ranging price model based on the size and fanbase of your brand, the platform is on average more expensive than some of the alternatives.

WooBox

With Woobox, designers can run targeted campaigns and sweepstakes from their brand’s Facebook page, on the one hand bolstering their label’s Facebook page, and on the other hand connecting visitors to their brand’s YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter platforms as well.

Pro: For the $29 price tag per month, users can use all of the tool’s applications from choosing any of the Facebook promotion offerings to sweepstakes, photo contests, and more. Reviewers also expressed that Woobox was easy to use, with a sleek simplicity missing from some of its alternatives.

Con: Woobox appeals to those looking for an effective, inexpensive option and willing to take a slight hit when it comes to capabilities. Brands looking for stronger engagement and virality should hesitate before choosing this platform.

NorthSocial

This platform is designed to help brands with fan growth, promotions, brand building, e-commerce, social stamping, and content distribution. It offers a range of user-friendly apps including donations, maps, videos, and partnerships that allow brands to create custom pages and fan experiences.

Pro: NorthSocial is best known for its content management system and beautiful templates included with each app. Users can save time by uploading images, links, and text to create messages and promotional campaigns without writing code or spending additional time with design.

Con: Again, the standard rule that you pay for what you get applies here as well. NorthSocial offers a monthly subscription for 18 plus apps for one Facebook page. Five plans range from a $19.99/month starter plan for small businesses to a $149.99/month multi-Page plan for larger brands or agencies.

Do you have a preferred promotional platform? We’d love to know about it.

Create the Perfect Finishing Touches for Your Fashion Collection with TrimLab

When it comes to creating your products, sourcing all of the important pieces (from fabric to zipper) can be one of the most challenging things you do. You have an idea, you have a sketch, you have a really hard time getting what you want…

What usually happens is that, if you’re in NYC, you walk around the garment district searching for the fabric or zipper or button or lining that’s in your head but not actually finding anything that resembles it. And, if by chance you do find it, flexible minimums for production remains elusive. IF you’re not in NYC, you’re trying to find what you need online. Good luck.

It’s disappointing and it’s frustrating.

Recently, we were introduced to TrimLab, a new resource that has popped up with a mission to help you get your hands on the trims and notions that you really want for your collection.

What exactly is TrimLab?

Made up of a group of fastener and trimmings companies, TrimLab is a fastener/trim showroom and a high-tech product development center for established and emerging fashion designers NYC’s Garment District.

This interesting new resource is setting out to help support NYC’s historic Garment Center and  guide you, designers, in the development of your fastener/trim ideas.

Basically, they specialize in customization and dye-to-match for:

  • zippers and zipper pulls
  • metal/plastic fasteners for sportswear, lingerie, and swimwear
  • bra cups and foam shapes
  • interlinings
  • specialty threads
  • elastics
  • notions

Combined, the group has about a few hundred of years of experience. Seriously. They have factories in the U.S. as well as around the world and now, through TrimLab, they offer sampling and customizing in their NYC showroom.

TrimLab

Why should emerging designers check out TrimLab?

  • The Garment Center location is super convenient for NYC based designers to work on trim development in the showroom/communal workspace; but desingers outside of NYC can also take advantage of the large selection of products and customization remotely.
  • While TrimLab works with established designers, they also have a particular interest in nurturing and guiding start-up and emerging design brands.
  • They offer emerging designers personalized, one-on-one guidance to ensure that you achieve your “signature look” while also helping you to select the correct product for application and avoid costly problems in the production process.
  • The rare convenience of sampling and customizing a huge selection of high quality fastener/trimmings products in one place.

Open House in NYC

On November 20th to the 22nd from 1-5pm, TrimLab will host an Open House welcoming apparel and accessory design companies and others in the fashion community to learn about the unique TrimLab concept and tour the brand new, high-tech showroom.

Indulge in some light refreshments and rub elbows with fashion industry experts, while learning about this new concept and resource.

You can schedule a private appointment with the TrimLab team during Open House hours or any time that’s convenient for you in the coming weeks or months. Sweet.

Showroom Location:
252 W. 37th Street
3rd Floor East
New York, NY 10018

Contact info for questions/inquiries:
Roy Katz
Roy@trimlab.com
212-279-2067

 

Though TrimLab commissioned us to share this cool new resource with you, we never agree to write about anything we don’t think is really awesome. Promise.

Computer programs within Fashion Design

Pros of CAD

Computer aided designs are helpful in that they save both money and time for designers. Designers who are more technologically advanced often choose to use computers in order to save money. The use of computers can help to cut down on the costs of production as well a the cost to pay workers. Without computers, a large amount manpower is needed to both design clothing and produce it. Using computers to design the clothing, can help designers to save the money and put it towards more quality production of the clothing. Overall, the cost of the computers is well worth the amount of money that I saved in the end.

Additionally, the sharing of clothing is much easier for designers using CADs. Designers who may want designs reviewed and edited by individuals with different viewpoints can easily share their computer generated designs. The more traditional method of producing sketches creates a roadblock for such sharing. Designers who use such methods would have to spend travel time to share their designs and gain feedback. In addition to sharing designs with other designers, CADs help designers to share sketches with consumers. The use of computer generated models and designs is quickly growing in marketing.

Cons of CAD

Computer Aided Designs have made the act of physically sketching and drawing a thing of the past. Is it necessarily a good thing that paper and pencil are becoming obsolete for fashion design? These programs dont do everything for you. Despite popular belief, many schools still teach the traditional way-drawing and sketching-because math is still required even for basic design. Measurements are required to make the actual product so hands on work is needed. When it comes time to put the piece of clothing together, the artist must be able to do manual labor.

Even though CADs are easily accessible and popular, they still are not the method of choice for many fashion designers. As with any technology, Computer Aided Design programs have quirks and problems. Certain designers may not feel like messing with technology and skip CADs all together. Most programs can be difficult to grasp and learn. Some artists rather act traditionally and stick to what they know. CADs are also much more expensive than drawing/drafting supplies.

Education in Fashion

Computers have forever changed the fashion industry. Education is now being taught in a completely different way from technology to drawing designs,to marketing, or to teaching, computers have changed the game completely. Designing a fashion line is no longer a timely process for students. The students are being taught to utilize the technology that computers now offer. The design and fashion industry have now become dependent on computer technology in order to be successful. Students are quickly learning these new tricks.

Computer technology has now become the forefront in education and in the industry. In fashion school the technology of computers is an important part of the curriculum. This generations fashion has evolved and progressed from the use of computers. The ever growing industry is accredited to the technologies that have become available on computers and are being taught to students. Through the use of CADs the industry will only continue to grow. Some top design schools are:

  • Parsons, The New School for Design
  • Fashion Design Insitiute
  • Pratt
  • Kent State University

Computer Usage within Fashion Design

Fashion

Fashion design has become an integral part of the lives of people all over world. Dating all the way back to 1826, officially, fashion design is no longer a hobby, but rather, an industry that brings in billions of dollars a year all across the world. Charles Frederick Worth can be referred to as the father of fashion design, beginning his work in the early 1800s. As vanity began to take a forefront in societies everywhere, fashion design became a booming industry. Jobs in the fashion design industry have quickly become glamorized as celebs and political figures seek the latest fashions for important events. Designers everywhere are constantly working to create the most sought after designs.

As fashion design has grown and evolved, so has technology. The fashion industry has has swiftly taken advantage of the growth in computer technology. Computers and their software are now widely used to create virtual images of clothing. Designers often create computer sketches of clothing designs and attach them to virtual models to gain an idea of how clothing would look in real life. As opposed to spending time and money on actual clothing and models, the fashion industry is able to cut down on costs through the use of computer designs. The emergence of Computer Aided Design (CAD) has been vital to the progression of fashion design.

Computer Aided Design

The technological advancement of Computer Aided Design has definitely made the life of fashion designers easier. These design programs are more commonly known as CADs. CADs are used to construct patterns and create collections of clothing. The designer can design pieces and see the end result without actually physically creating the item. Programs like StyleDraper allow the artist to create and save templates in order to quickly edit a piece. CADs are extremely popular for knit and woven fabric pattern construction.

CADs are useful in so many ways! The lightening fast speed of technology today saves time for designers! CADs are such a fast and easy advancement that save money as well! Artists can see the product before it is actually tangible so that changes can be made with just the click of a button opposed to the sew of a stitch. These programs are so readily available that anyone can learn the basics! CADs allow the artists to draw patterns in two different ways:

  • 2-D
  • 3-D

Fashion Management/Marketing

The use of computers and technology has made high fashion more accessible. Fashion has evolved into something more than runways and clothing stores. Computers have helped to bring design into the homes of everyday Americans, making it possible for average citizens to experience fashion events and learn about the latest designs from the comfort of their homes. Fashion shows from New York, Paris, and other well known fashion cities are streamed online everyday. Marketing as well as management has been made so much easier through the use of computer technology. Not only are individuals able to see the latest designs from the comfort of their homes, but they are able to shop and purchase fashionable items which helps tremendously in increasing the overall wealth of the fashion industry.

When searching web pages now you are most likely to see an ad for clothes. Computers have made it easy to advertise brands and fashions across the world. Department stores and fashion designers are now using computers and technology to get their clothes seen by a larger audience. Its no longer impossible to attend fashion week because of live streams and social networking have been made available through computer technology. Designers are pushing their products in new ways that are made possible through the use of computers. Additionally, designers can keep up with designs and information now through the use of computer spreadsheets and documents. Computers are used not only to sell clothing, but to keep records and histories of designs that are vital to the growth of the industry. Computers help with the selling and the organization that goes into the fashion industry. Computer technology that is used to market and manage fashion can be found below.

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Online Streaming
  • Social Networking Apps

 

Designer Spotlight: Computer Science Whiz Jana Hanzel

Jana’s design secret? Mad math skills.

Not only does this emerging Canadian designer have HOT style, she has a Masters Degree in Computer Science! Jana Hanzel is smart, dedicated, and beyond talented when it comes to working with fabrics to create beautiful works of art. She uses her math background and understanding of spacial geometry to develop flawless figure-flattering patterns.

Jana began designing for her first clients at a young age 16. After immigrating to Canada from Europe, she completed her formal fashion design education at Richard Robinson’s Academy of Fashion Design (Ottawa, ON)  in 2008.  During her study there, she was nominated as 2007′s Most Promising Designer. Since graduating, Jana has returned to Richard Robinson as a teacher of Pattern Making and Haute Couture Sewing.

Jana’s love for art and drama led her to design for many stage performances. She collaborated with the Kanata Ballet School for three years, and also with the Ron Maslin Theater for the Chekhov play “Seagull.” Outside of costuming, Jana’s passion is creating one-of-a-kind pieces for clients using the haute couture method of sewing. She creates wearable garments “with a twist.”  This results in her designs looking glamorous, yet sexy all at the same time… and what woman doesn’t want that? Her looks are often topped off with vintage-inspired hats that turn heads and make a statement. With brains and skill, Jana is definitely one to watch!

Here’s my interview with the brilliant Jana:

1.What does fashion mean to you?

Fashion is a way how we communicate with the outside world – without words. We express our relationship with the society through what we are wearing and we can also show how we want to be seen by other people. It’s a communication tool, indeed.

2.What drew you to fashion, and specifically to starting your own line?

It just happened. When something is strong enough, it comes out whether we expect it or not (originally I’ve got Master’s in Computer Design).

3.Who or what inspires your designs?

Women around me, on streets, inspire me. I think what style/design would be the most flattering to the particular person – I’d like to make them all look their best! Then they’d feel good, pretty and appreciated!

4.Use three words to describe your designs.

On-of-a-kind, feminine, sophisticated.

5.What is the most challenging part of being a designer?

Staying on budget when designing a collection. I have some many beautiful ideas and there are so many beautiful fabrics everywhere!

6.What was the first article of clothing you ever designed?

It was the entire collection for Barbie when I was 7. Imagine, I had no Barbie during my childhood so I asked my girlfriend to lend me one for a week and I’ve made those luxurious clothes for her. And the first design that I’ve actually made for an adult person was a haute couture kitchen apron! I was 11 years old, I guess.

7.Describe your personal style.

I like effortless elegance, with a little twist.

8.What is your favorite fashion trend of all time?

A feminine dress worn with high heels. It really works!

9. In your opinion, what is the biggest fashion faux-pas?

When people wear things that aren’t becoming to them. Very tragic are low-waist jeans combined with a muffin-top belly. Or wearing crocs when we are older than 6 (gardening is an exception). Always confront with a mirror and use your best judgment when leaving the safety of your house.

10.What do you think is the most underrated item of clothing or accessory?

A well-fitted bra.

11.Where do you see yourself as a designer in five years?

I’m learning continuously and I’d like becoming an expert that people could trust anytime – as a skilled designer and stylist as well.

12.What advice would you give to aspiring designers?

It will be difficult on the way – success doesn’t come easy and they have to have a strong belief into their dream. If they have doubts then don’t bother being a designer.

13.Where can readers buy your clothing?

I work exclusively with clients in my studio. I help them to shape their vision about the clothes that would reflect their personality and life style. Anybody can approach me through my web site www.janahanzel.com and schedule an appointment. It will be fun, let’s celebrate that we are women and let’s not take fashion too seriously! We should be happy in our life and fashion could help in it!

 

 

Introducing Boutiques: a new way to shop for fashion online

The way we shop for fashion is different from how we buy cameras—especially online. With fashion, reviews and specs are less important; fashion shopping is about discovering something that fits your taste and feels right. The web works well for buying cameras and other hard goods but for soft goods, such as clothing and accessories, it’s not the same as shopping in a store.

What’s more, the market for soft goods online is growing tremendously. A year and half ago, our team (which at the time was part of Like.com) started to wonder if we could create a better experience for people to shop online. Our team consists of PhDs in computer science with an emphasis on machine learning and computer vision, along with fashion designers and stylists—we jokingly called ourselves the computer nerds and fashion nerds (and a few of us were both). So, we set out to create a new way to browse, discover and shop for soft goods online.

Today, we’re excited to share with you our first step towards realizing this goal. It’s called Boutiques.com: a personalized shopping experience that lets you find and discover fashion goods, by creating your own curated boutique or through a collection of boutiques curated by taste-makers—celebrities, stylists, designers and fashion bloggers. Boutiques uses computer vision and machine learning technology to visually analyze your taste and match it to items you would like.


In fashion, there are lots of choices. If there are, say, 500,000 items in a store, that means there are literally billions of different combinations of outfits you can make with those items. How do you sort through all of this? This site had to be a collaboration.

First we partnered with taste-makers of all types. We asked them not just to curate 10-50 great items they loved, but also to teach our site their style and taste. They did this by telling us what colors, patterns, brands and silhouettes they loved and they hated. They took a visual quiz that taught the site to understand their style genre: Classic, Boho, Edgy, etc. Our machine learning algorithms use this information to enable you to shop all of the inventory in the style of that taste-maker, on top of the 50 items they’ve hand-curated.

These days, bloggers, stylists and everyday fashionistas are expressing their sense of style online. We invited them to create boutiques so people could shop their diverse styles. But you have a unique and independent style too, so Boutiques also lets you build your own personalized boutique and get recommendations of products that match your taste.

In addition to all this, Boutiques offers a variety of features to search and discover merchandise including:

Advanced search filters – Filter by genre, silhouette, pattern, color families and sizes.


Inspiration photos – Try a search for [yellow pumps] and you’ll see matching outfit ideas to the right of the search results. We feature images from streetstyle sites, and collage and styling sites to provide you with the online equivalent of styled mannequins to give you inspiration.
Complete the Look – Ever wonder what to pair with that dress? Our fashion designers wrote hundreds of style rules—like “heavily patterned handbags don’t tend to go with heavily patterned dresses”—that we used to develop a tool to suggest items that match.

Visual search – Sometimes you love an item but not in a particular color. We analyze the photograph of an item for its color, shape and pattern and try to help you find visually similar items.

Boutiques on your tablet – Download our iPad application, lean back and move through inventory as if you were flipping through clothes on a rack at the store.

You can start shopping now at Boutiques.com. At this time, Boutiques is only available in the U.S. and only for women’s fashion, but we plan to expand in the future. Tell us what you think on our feedback form. And if you’re a designer, stylist, celebrity or retailer and want to participate on Boutiques.com, drop us a line.

Intel doesn’t want Curie wearable computer making fashion statements

Intel wants wearable device technology to be inconspicuous, so it’s making its Curie wearable computer available through a button-sized board or as part of a chip package.

The Curie, slated to ship in the second half of the year, was first shown at CES in the form of a button-sized computer on Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s suit. The almost invisible Curie had technology that could read heart rates, and transfer the data wirelessly using Bluetooth. Blending technology discreetly into wearables is Intel’s goal with Curie, which will go into a wide range of tiny coin battery devices that can run for days and months without a recharge.

The wearable computer is for non-technical customers, such as companies outside of the IT industry, that want to plug and play technology into devices, clothes and accessories.

Intel’s larger wearable computers like the SD card-sized Edison were mainly adopted by enthusiasts. The company is considering a different approach to make Curie and its components accessible to a wider audience. One would be to sell a prebuilt “board” resembling a button with the Curie chip, wireless circuitry, sensors and expansion ports on it, said Mike Bell, corporate vice president and general manager at Intel’s New Devices Group, in a recent interview.

“Literally, you hook up a battery, you hook up some wires, and you have something you can build a product out of,” Bell said.

The other option would be to provide a smaller multi-chip package with just the Curie processor, radio and other basic circuitry. It’ll be smaller and come without the board, and will be ready to implement in wearable devices. That package will be quicker to implement, and should give device makers more flexibility in size when designing wearables.

Intel sells the Basis Peak smartwatch, but is taking a partnership approach as it tries to sell more chips in the fast-growing wearable market. Intel’s technology is already in SMS Audio’s BioSport earphones and Opening Ceremony’s MICA smart bracelet. Intel has also partnered with eyewear companies Luxottica and Oakley and watch company Fossil Group.

However, until now, Intel’s software technology has been used in wearables more than its chips. Whether an Intel chip is used or not, the company wants to make building wearables approachable and easy, Bell said. “It’s really cool to be able to put together products that allow people to do great things without becoming engineers. That’s a lot of fun,” Bell said.

Curie has a low-power Quark chip, Bluetooth wireless capabilities and a sensor hub to track activities like steps. It also has a pattern recognition engine, and software packages—called IQs by Intel—are key to analyzing collected data. For example, the health software package will use the pattern recognition engine to quickly analyze steps and other health data. “All these devices are interesting only if you can do something with the data,” Bell said.

Fashion companies don’t have time to think about technology, and the software packages make implementing Curie into wearables easy, Bell said. Still, Intel faces significant challenges as it tries to make a mark in wearables. Like it did in mobile devices, Intel has to contend with ARM and MIPS, whose processors are used in most wearables today.

Intel’s emphasis in wearables is on “making it easy and making it early,” said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. The early approach is to prevent what happened to Intel in tablets from happening as well in wearables. ARM got a head start in tablets and now dominates the market.

The wearables market is growing, and Intel wants to ensure the next big hit product has its chips, McCarron said.

Reinvention required

Combining fashion and technology can face some major challenges, which means adoption will take time. IDTechEx’s chairman Dr Peter Harrop says part of the reason for the poor progress that his company forecasts in e-textiles sales lies in the difficulty of the technology.

“Almost everything has to be reinvented, partly because the development programmes poorly align with what is needed,” says Harrop. “In electronics, there is very little development of any weavable fibre component beyond sensors. The portfolio of component functions being prepared is insufficiently broad for much to be designed by way of complete circuits even ten years from now. Plus textile manufacturers are hesitant to work with completely new fibres.”

In the absence of comparable e-textiles, much of the early development in smart fashion is likely to be in discreet wearable devices. The wearable industry is predicted to be worth $8.36bn by 2018, says analyst firm MarketsandMarkets. It is no surprise, then, that the likes of Google, Samsung, Apple, Nike and Adidas have heavily invested in wearable devices. However, these giants have created products which are better suited to the healthcare, military, medical and fitness and wellness sectors rather than fashion.

As wearables move into the fashion world, is there really a difference between them and smart textiles?

“You could say wearable technology and smart clothing are morphing into the same thing. So it could be smart materials.They may be active. Or passive, and so do not involve any electronics. Those can be impact polymers or materials that react to environmental stimuli,” says Cath Rogan, principal of consultancy Garment People. “The wearable technology side has surged because of the external influencers such as technology developers, but also, on the smart garments side, we have got better at integrating these solutions. Clothing is naturally the next area to put technology onto the body.”

Rogan explains the most common requests from her clients include remote physical monitoring, integrating sensors and wearable displays. The latter, however, is a while off yet. “People are asking for sophisticated requests but the technology is not ready yet,” she says. Despite the lack of technology options, she adds: “People are starting to look beyond activity and health monitoring and more towards how they can apply them to the Internet of Things.

“Timing is everything; the enabling technologies have enabled us to do more, for instance we have better conductive materials for sensors compared to a few years ago, plus the electronics and the devices have become a lot smaller and more power efficient,” Rogan adds. “These enabling technologies are beginning to catch on and now designers are beginning to take an interest. There is only so much real estate on the body and if these technologies can be integrated into everyday clothing, well maybe that’s the next big opportunity in the fashion industry.”

Another challenge with embedding technologies into fabrics is ensuring the garments stay connected for long periods. “Power is an issue, in particular batteries. When you look at how microelectronics have evolved they are getting so much smaller, but batteries are not keeping up with that,” says Rogan. “There have been efforts to tackle this by looking at energy-efficient devices to ensure batteries last longer, and there is the possibility of wireless batteries, but at the moment the technology is not quite there.

Electric weaves

Harrop says of the plan to bring energy to e-textiles: “In electrics there is some work on battery e-fibre and quite a lot on supercapacitor e-fibre and on photovoltaic harvesting with energy storage together.” But he adds that other useful technologies such as fibres that can be used as rechargeable batteries have seen little development.

As electrical components are incorporated into clothing, an obvious difficulty is the laundering process of these garments. Rogan explains: “Surprisingly it is not always the water and detergent, but the mechanical stress from the spin cycle which causes damage; people assume it is the water, but that’s the easy part.”

She adds: “People are thinking innovatively, but it will take time before the development and infrastructure catch up.”

Although batteries and electronics still need to become more fashion-friendly, designers have pressed ahead. The combination of code and clothing provides a way to expand fashion’s relationship with self-expression. Fashionistas will always want to define who they are to the world by what they wear. “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only,” fashion designer Coco Chanel once said. “Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”

To show what was happening around its wearer, London-based fashion house CuteCircuit created the UK’s first ‘Twitter dress’ in 2012. The gown, worn by singer Nicole Scherzinger, was embedded with 2,000 LED lights and become a message board for displaying incoming tweets in real-time. Other popular designs by CuteCircuit have included the ‘M dress’, which accepts a SIM card and enables the wearer to receive and make phone calls without carrying a phone, and, most recently, the company unveiled glittering garments embedded with LED lights, giving wearers the ability to alter the colour, glow in the dark and play video loops.

CuteCircuit is demonstrating the potential the Internet of Things becoming a contender in the fashion world, but along with this the attention towards big data will arise.

Rogan adds: “Big data will be a key concern once wearable clothing truly kicks off. If we look at the successful devices they are simple products which monitor activity but do not interfere with daily life. But they can generate masses of data and will cause a big impact, especially if the fashion and technology experts are unprepared for the surge.”

But Rogan believes the “products that will win are those that have a function other than just fashion, such as monitoring health and well-being. Practicality is essential”.

3D printing: fashion enters the technosensual era

3D printing and computer tools are changing the way fashion designers approach not just design but materials and manufacture.

“The future of fashion is code, not couture,” says designer Francis Bitonti, who demonstrated what this can mean when he collaborated with costume designer Michael Schmidt to create a Swarovski-crystal-encrusted, 3D-printed gown, worn by burlesque icon Dita von Teese.

Knitting and weaving machines provided some of the earliest forays into computer-controlled and computer-generated fashion. 3D printing takes digital creation into the realm of what has become known as ‘technosensual’ design. The technology, which allows digital plans to become reality by sintering metal or solidifying polymers layer by layer from a liquid feedstock, is providing designers with the means to create intricate objects.

Computer-generated objects rendered by 3D-printer hardware have been used in jewellery, shoes and handbags. Iris van Herpen’s creation of a skeleton dress and the angel wings worn by model Cara Delevingne at the 2013 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show demonstrate complex, if perhaps impractical, everyday wear designs.

By adding an interactive surface to the materials, 3D printing could mean “one day we will wear the surface of a computer on our bodies”, says creative director at fashion and technology company Studio XO, Nancy Tilbury. This could even include machinery, as demonstrated by Lady Gaga’s 3D-printed ‘Anemone’ dress complete with a bubble factory.

Van Herpen explains: “I find the process of 3D printing fascinating because I believe it will only be a matter of time before we see the clothing we wear today produced by this technology. Because it’s such a different way of manufacturing, adding layer-by-layer, it will be a great source of inspiration.”

Renowned for her haute couture embedded with technological designs, the designer unveiled an ‘ice sculpture’ 3D-printed dress during Paris Fashion Week. The dress was designed with the help of architect Niccolo Casas and 3D printing company 3D Systems. Van Herpen used the stereolithography form of 3D-printing technology, which works by using a liquid photopolymer that is hardened in sequential layers by ultraviolet light. The result is a smooth and translucent solid.

The dress was printed on 3D Systems’ ProX 950 printer in two runs. The first print took 45 hours and the second took 36, with an additional eight hours of polishing.

3D printing is not the only technology helping to move design and manufacture away from hand-drawn sketches and needles and thread. Designer brands such as Paul Smith, Coach and Victoria’s Secret have used software from vendor Optitex for 2D pattern making and 3D virtual prototyping, to create fashion garment and accessory samples.

“3D virtual products were the largest factor for shortening time to market in industries such as automotive and industrial design. However, these technologies are being recognised by the fashion industry,” explains Optitex marketing manager Dana Aroch-Soffer. “Virtual samples can be created in one to three days, instead of the typical waiting for three to four weeks for the first physical sample, plus they come with the real look and feel of the garment’s cloth.”

Optitex uses its 2D Pattern Making Suite with embedded CAD pattern design software to enable users to create patterns from scratch that require darts, seams, pleats, complicated curves and advanced measuring techniques. The software can be combined with Optitex’s 3D Suite, which turns the 2D visual into a photorealistic 3D avatar. It also features three applications: the 3D Creator, 3D Flatter and 3D Digitizer. The 3D Creator creates varied body types, which can adjust to the flat patterns; the 3D Flattener works with compressed materials such as swimwear and can be stretched over the avatar; and the 3D Digitizer alters 2D patterns by marking the virtual 3D pattern.

Smart textiles

Smart materials, dubbed ‘e-textiles’, provide a further avenue of development, helping to merge the trend towards wearable technologies. Within the fashion, medical and fitness and wellbeing industries, wristbands, watches and even interactive jewellery are emerging as new product areas. These wearables are embedded with technologies, enabling the user to track performance and manage health conditions.

E-textiles are innovative fabrics embedded with electronics and interconnections that remove the need to use separate wiring and hard-shell electronics. Smart garments offer the wearer added value, and they have the ability to do many things ordinary fabrics cannot do. E-textiles vary from apparel to household fabrics, bandages and bed linen, and will variously be able to sense, emit light, show changing images, heat, cool, change shape, compute and wirelessly communicate or harvest energy to create electricity, and even diagnose and treat medical conditions.

Smart textiles come in two categories: aesthetic and performance-enhancing. The former includes everything from fabrics that light up to those that change colour. The latter can monitor physical performance, typically for health and fitness but also military industries. These fabrics can help regulate body temperature, reduce wind resistance and control muscle vibration.

The ‘E-Textiles: Electronic Textiles 2014-2024’ report from market-research firm IDTechEx claims there is a multi-billion dollar future for e-textiles as they are adopted by a variety of specialist designers. According to the report, we spend at least 70 per cent of our time in contact with textiles that have the potential to be replaced with more intelligent forms. The research departments of top design houses are looking at incorporating fibre optics, carbon nanotubes and other light- or electron-carrying elements into clothing.