Coming from a specialized high school in NYC with a heavy influence on STEM, I’ve consistently heard the same mantra over and over again, “technology is the future.” That’s pretty much a no brainer. I mean obviously technology is going to be relevant, and it has been throughout history. What has bothered me the most about that is people keep stressing that the only way I can get a well-paying job in the future, is if I pursue some sort of STEM career. In response, I took up computer science for the sole reason that I was good at math. Learning about it never excited me in the same way that it did for other people, and I felt unsatisfied with what I was studying. Don’t get me wrong, I loved problem solving and the logic behind it, but it just felt too dull. It wasn’t until I was able to see the interdisciplinary applications of a field like computer science into more creative subjects. It’s not anything new. I’ve heard of people programming applications based on their needs and creative interests, it just took a little bit longer to clearly see the intersection between technology and fashion.
Fashion has always been known for its roots in handmade design (manus). However, we now live in an age where we have the technology (machina) to implement new innovations in our clothing, increasing both form and functionality. In the past, innovations in technology were fueled only by innovations in the machines that manufactured them. The invention of the sewing machine, for example, changed the way that clothes were made during the industrial era. It wasn’t until brands like Nike began to implement modern technology in their garments in order to increase their functionality. We live in the age of technology where now every one of our garments has the capability to improve our daily lives.
Within the last few years we have seen the introduction of technology into mainstream fashion. Take the smart watch. Companies like Apple and Samsung found a way to take a tool that was originally meant to tell time, and turn into your personal electronic companion. Additionally, companies like Nike and Adidas have consistently found a way to innovate their sportswear in order to increase performance. Look at something as simple as a running shirt. It now has the ability to monitor your heart rate, balance, and other vitals. Nike’s flyknit sneakers and Adidas’ boost material are the product of 3D rendering and chemical engineering, indicating the constant evolution in our sportswear. If that weren’t enough, Adidas has began to use 3D printers in order to produce its running soles.
Still, with all this excitement in mainstream fashion, where will technology come into play with the niche audience? Well for one, well established brands have found a way to squeeze their way into the tech game by means of Mophie, the portable phone charger. I know right? it seems like such an odd product to produce, but when you look at brands like Supreme (that produces some of the most useless tools ever…crowbar) and Opening Ceremony (just straight out odd) you can see how something that’s just as odd as it is useful fits the brand’s philosophy. Also look at the esteemed Japanese designer Junya Watanabe who just released pictures of his parka for FW16 that has solar panels built into it. SOLAR PANELS! Who wouldn’t love to charge their phone using their coat?
Just last week, hundreds of celebrities lined the red carpet on the Upper East Side for the annual MET Gala. This year’s gala was set to honor (you guessed it) the intersection between fashion and technology, requiring all the guests to implement some sort of technology into their outfit. The theme of the gala was in honor of the MET’s new exhibit, Manus X Machina, which will present a series of case studies to unravel the hand/machine conundrum. At the center will be an installation of toiles and prototypes presented as garments in the making or “monuments to ideas.” Emanating from this presentation will be a series of rooms based on traditional métiers of the haute couture, including embroidery, featherwork, artificial flowers, pleating, lacework, and leatherwork, which will be presented alongside versions that incorporate innovative processes, such as 3D printing, computer modeling, bonding and laminating, laser cutting, and ultrasonic welding.
Technology will always be prevalent in society, and instead of fearing it or ignoring it, we should embrace it. Even if you’re not into fashion or care about the way you dress, technology is going to change the way you wear and use your clothes. In a recent interview between Complex and Fashion Tech Forum co-founder Maria Wojcik, Wojcik said, “We’ll get to the point where the phrase ‘wearable’ becomes obsolete, and you enter this age where [everything is connected].” No matter what the future holds for fashion, regardless of trends, technology will always play a major role in its conception. So catch me making dope sweaters that can change temperature based on how hot or cold you are and sneakers that can help you navigate through running trails. STEM is here to stay, so we may as well make the best of it.