After all of the conferences of Fashion & Tech week, I ended up with pages of notes covering the wide range of topics we discussed. From wearables to sustainability and back again.

No matter the subject, the conversation comes down to a question of common ground. Who is leading the efforts for alliance? Who is adopting whom?

Technology is nothing if not an enabler for change. And for fashion, an industry that, in it's own way, reputes itself on representing what is new and what is current, and even the avant-garde, technology is an opportunity to put our money where our mouth is. 

In the first of the conferences of Fashion & Tech week here in Paris, the question was whether we are waiting for fashion to embrace tech, or if it's the other way around. In my opinion it is not one or the other. What we see are small, experimental connections made between the two that will eventually meet in the middle. A bridge that is being built little by little from both sides.

Ubergizmo's founder Eliane Fiolet organized a selection of wearable companies whom she finds the most advanced in their mergence of design and technology:

AMY PULIAFITO, Director of Communications, Misfit Wearable ; 
PIERRE GARNERDesigner Co-founder & Partner, Elium Studio
FREDERIC LINTZ, Designer Co-founder & Partner, Elium Studio

And the conversation left me with three thoughts overall:

What are the important functions, here? How will this object improve my daily experience? Is there anything here I can't live without?

Fashion is about individualism. When will the range of selection catch up with the range of fashion styles available?

And finally: Are these objects necessary? Are they wasteful?

This last point leads me into the subject of the round table the following day:

How is technology changing our approach to sustainability in fashion? This was a round table that we held after the screening of The Next Black which I wrote about here. Cécile Lochard, the brilliant sustainability advocate I interviewed for the FashionList, was sadly unable to join us. That just leaves us with the opportunity to dive back into the conversation from another angle on another date. We did end up with a great panel:

Jeanne BLOCH - Sustainability and CSR expert, artist

Isabelle DE BUSSAC - R31 Lab

Nicolas MALAQUIN - Flaxcomposites

Laurent VERGNEAU - Electrolux

We discussed: 

  • B2B: Investment in Research & Development
  • Waste at consumer level
  • Textiles i.e. recycled fabrics, organic fabrics

The conversation was quite theoretical and left many practical questions unanswered on a designer business level. When the conversation is concentrated in science, it is hard to translate into fashion. If anything, it was a great learning experience about how to approach the subject and what strategies might be employed next time to get different results.

For those who care to read, here you will see the first draft outline of the discussion:

Technology & the Future of Sustainability in Fashion

The fashion industry has a difficult time with all things sustainable and ecologically/ethically responsible. There are certain key players who act as ambassadors for the cause, and several companies who dip their toes in or have certain impactful research efforts going on behind the scenes. But to the public, it still appears as a niche category and one that has a connotation of earth tones and natural fiber, rough hemps and cottons, and expensive price tags. On the business side, sustainability remains a turn off to the sexiness of the luxury industry, and to those concerned with the bottom line.

The reality is, however, that innovations in technology are fast creating solutions to many of the issues keeping fashion stuck in its wasteful & harmful ways. Where eco connotes, even now, ‘by hand’ and ‘by nature,’ through technology eco can come to mean modern, efficient, made to measure.


Round Table Participant Bios

I Main Topics

a. Existing Problems

i. Potential Solutions

I.               Investment in Research & Development for technology (rather than sourcing new suppliers who already have eco-friendly practices)

a.     Expensive to implement sustainable initiatives

b.     The time line is long, can’t implement across the board right away

c.     Starting over finding new suppliers with Eco-credentials

d.     Limited options

i.     Invest in the research, rather than the  good selling point to engage the decision makers at the top of the chain regarding the eventual impact on the bottom line

ii.     Research & Development of new method & Machines will take time, but implementation will be highly efficient because of pre-existing relationships

iii.     A good basis for newly established fashion businesses when determining their level of commitment to low impact production

iv.     An encouraging reason for suppliers and factories to engage in this future direction, keep existing relationships, and change and grow together

II.            Waste at consumer level

a.     Free shipping from online retailers for returns, even=high transportation

b.     Buying too much, means a lot of garments sit in closets, get thrown or given away (differentiate between durable fashion & fast fashion- not worth passing on

i.     Crowd sourced fashion

ii.     Rental fashion/Resale fashion sites

iii.     Fitting algorithms, more accurate online shopping

III.         3D Printing

a.     Wasteful fabric cutting process

b.     Transporting raw materials and finished products all around the world

c.     It’s not just right so it’s never worn/made to order is not scalable

i.     Printed woven garment components rather than whole roll of fabric= no waste

ii.     No shipping=low carbon emission (consider, however, the energy used by the machine)

iii.     A scalable way to do made to order + high retention rate

IV.          Textiles i.e. recycled fabrics, organic fabrics

a.     Toxicity/treatments of fabrics absorbed through the skin

b.     Overwhelming waste we produce (recycled plastic fabrics, for example)

 i.     Organic fabrics or enhanced fabrics (aloe/UV protection) can actually create an extra protective layer for our skin

 ii.     Fabrics from recycled plastics, and other materials possibleàeventual possibility of creating new usable fabric from recycling fabric scraps or entire garments

CONCLUSION Fashion is ‘of the times’ – tech is leading the future of all industries, where will it lead fashion? What will be the tipping point? How far away are we? What is the most exciting innovation, either already implemented or in development, on the sustainability forefront in your mind?

–With technology this shift is possible: that responsible manufacturing and distribution will be standardized, not exceptional.

–Technology Officers / technology practices becoming an important role in companies & collaborating with or potentially replacing the Sustainability Officer