Today’s digital adoption is fast-tracking more smart wearables to the market, and it’s expected that the wearables industry will reach over 5 billion USD by 2027, tripling its current size. Brands are adding this functionality to their designs to reach a wider audience, and to create elevated pieces that are built to last. From innovative start-ups to partnerships between well-known names such as Levi’s and Google, the fashion industry is undergoing a shift to the digital side.

Smart apparel is one of the latest trends to hit  the fashion industry, with wearable technology that can be used in a variety of ways, from changing the look of a piece of clothing to tracking health indicators like heart rate or body temperature, working with other devices in your home or even communicating with people.

Owlet’s Dream Sock

To create smart fashion tech, many brands use Big Data, 5G and IoT technology, creating wearables that have connectivity and can transmit data. Health and wellness technology relies on real-time biometric data which requires a combination of 5G, IoT and cutting-edge computing to prevent incidents for the wearer.

Smart fashion offers so much potential for brands, from traceability to enhanced sustainability efforts, to data collection and biometrics that could help keep wearers safer and healthier, without any additional effort on their part. The versatility of smart textiles and innovations in this industry mean that brands have the opportunity to showcase their values and work in alignment with their ethos, whatever their focus may be.

Enhancing the health industry

Brands are using smart fashion tech as a way of enhancing the lives of their customers, with increasingly innovative ideas. The health and wellness industry is one such example, where wearable technology is making it easier to live a healthier lifestyle.

Golfing equipment specialists Golf Swing Systems provide IoT-based insoles that improve the posture of the wearer and give them accurate data whilst playing golf. Similarly, Nadi X created Bluetooth-enabled smart yoga pants that have sensors and haptic technology to provide feedback on yoga poses and balance.

Skiin, a Myant Brand.

Biometric monitoring apparel, including activewear, workwear and even underwear, can monitor your body’s vital functions throughout the day, from sleep habits to heart rate, movements and more. Award-winning textile company Myant specialises in unique smart underwear that measures stress levels, stationary time and temperature to track functions such as ovulation, and fagitue for the wearer.

Keeping consumers safe

Manufacturers are creating everything from smart belts that monitor fall risks for the wearer to baby socks that keep a check on their heart rate, helping people live their lives in a healthier, safer way without interruptions. Even the globally renowned brand, Levi’s, has created a smart trucker jacket which combines the classic denim jacket style withtouch-sensitive smart textiles, making it possible for the wearer to operate their phone whilst carrying out other activities. The technology is exciting and, going forward, offers such vast potential for other applications.

Levi’s® Trucker Jacket, using jacquard technology.

In 2020, researchers at Stanford University and Nanjing University came together to modify pieces of silk to make them reflective, with the goal of cooling the wearer. 20% of a buildings’ total electricity use comes from its cooling devices, such as air conditioners and fans, so having cooling clothing could help reduce electricity consumption at the source. Creating reflective silk with aluminium oxide nanoparticles enabled the researchers to keep the skin 12.5oC cooler than normal cotton garments.

Similarly, engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed programmable fibres which could enable us to store data in our clothes using silicon chips which are electronically connected to each other. They could store data for up to two months without requiring additional power, an innovation that offers incredible potential for monitoring physical performance, detecting diseases and even predicting the wearer’s activity and body patterns to spot ill health.

The Smart Belt, WELt.

Innovations to support eco efforts

Eco brands have been striving to find ways to support a more sustainable business model, and materials are the obvious place to start. Smart textiles that have the capability to replace those of animal origin are a more ecological choice, broadening the reach of potential customers and reducing the impact of the fashion industry. Intelligent fibres that could reduce the need for as much electricity by generating electricity from the temperature difference between the wearer and the surrounding environment are another example of how clothing could alleviate the pressure on the planet when it comes to power.

Likewise, these fabrics would adapt to changes in temperature, meaning the wearer would need fewer clothes and this would, in turn, reduce textile waste. Overproduction is a serious concern in the fashion industry and smart garments could facilitate easier inventory management, disposal and recycling to reduce waste. Companies can adopt blockchain technology by using smart labels so that they, and their customers, can access data to make smarter manufacturing and purchasing decisions.

Programmable Fibers, MIT.

The world of smart fashion is still evolving and there’s so much left to figure out. From new innovations and problems solved through smart apparel and digital fabric designs to making smart clothing accessible for all and understanding who has access to the data these devices collect. But one thing’s for sure: the market is continuing to expand and we’re likely to see even smart apparel from more brands in the not-too-distant future.