Promoting Sustainability While Bringing New Technology to Fashion Design and Manufacturing with POLYCHROME

The world around us is becoming obsessed with new technology and inventions and the apparel industry is no exception. As designers and manufacturers, we need to keep abreast of all the new developments and we should welcome these new technologies because the tools they offer will be opportunities for us to grow as creatives and entrepreneurs. We will embrace what works and eschew what does not with each new leap into the future. To do otherwise would be looking backwards, and that is LAST thing fashion should aspire to.

Bolt Threads bio-engineered fabrics; image via Innovation In Textiles

Bio-engineered fabrications

If early indicators are accurate, some of the most cutting edge fashion textiles being developed in the next ten years will be created in a lab as opposed to traditional fibers sprouting in a field or from the pelt of an animal. Take, for example, Bolt Threads out of Emeryville, CA. They have been spending the last several years perfecting a synthetic spider silk to rival the traditional version spun by silkworms with the additional benefits and tensile strength of spider’s silk. Other amazing advances are being made in developing vegan leathers by companies such as Modern Meadows in New York. The chance to provide consumers with a material that behaves and feels like real animal skin but is in fact made of vegetable matter provides not only the benefit of easing our consciences on the animal-cruelty front, but also an environmental win since it does not have the negative impact of tanning hides. These new fabrics and many more are being created to challenge the issues of sustainability, performance, and longevity in the fashion world.

Video of Connected Clothing from designer Ying Gao

Connected garments

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Recent strides in the realm of smart textiles are pushing the boundaries of what we have come to expect from clothing. Some marvelous example of this were showcased at the Coded Couture Exhibit, which took place last summer. Smart garments are made for more than just covering us from the elements, or expressing our personal style; they are functioning pieces of tech that expand what a garment can be for its wearer. Pretty soon the term “performance clothing” may cover a lot more features than we would have even been able to conceive of twenty years ago. Additional advances have been made in garments to be used in the medical industry which will assist patients with anything from heart monitoring to emotional issues.

Designer Noah Raviv, example of 3-D printed clothing; image via dezeen.

Strides in 3-D printing

There are compelling predictions that eventually we will be downloading the schematics to the latest fashions and printing them at home  This could really mean substantial benefit for the environment – imagine the positive impact of less product shipment worldwide. Also the convenience of having the product you want within hours of purchase is certainly appealing.

Design-wise, there are some amazing things happening with 3-D printing in regards to fashion. For the longest time apparel construction has basically involved taking a relatively 2-dimensional material, fabric, and constructing it to wrap around, shelter, and move with a dynamic 3-dimensional object, the human body.  3-D technology is creating a shift in the starting point since we can begin building the garment as a structure in a different way. Companies such as Ministry of Supply have already begun selling their 3-D product to consumers.


Algorithm based design; image via Stitch Fix.

Algorithm based design

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There have been several businesses and experiments over the past few years in using algorithms and big data to do everything from anticipate trends and customer needs, to projections for manufacturing and inventory control. The most mysterious of all has to be using artificial intelligence to produce entirely new creations, such as those proposed by the company Stitch Fix. Throughout history the ability of the mind to be inspired, conceive of, and then execute the creation of a new idea has always been assumed to be something uniquely human.  The concept of intelligence gathered by a machine as the impetus of design is equal parts fascinating and terrifying – it is uncharted territory.


Video of Sewbot for robotics in manufacturing

Robotics in Manufacturing

The SoftWear Automation company and their Sewbots are one of many examples of the new inventions that are rising on the frontier for manufacturing. Their robots can make a variety of items such as t-shirts, bath mats, towels, etc. Companies are developing sewing robots to cut down on both waste and cost. Robots are also being proposed in warehouses to pick items from inventory for order fulfillment. As human hands are still needed to work on and program the robots, these new bots are also creating jobs and helping out in that market.

About Polychrome:

Longtime veterans of the apparel industry; upstarts in the illustration field; visionary trend forecasters … our aim is to put this passion and experience to work providing a fresh perspective in design that reflects the direction we predict the marketplace will be headed in.

We are excited to provide a convenient online marketplace for original print repeat artwork specifically for the fashion apparel and lifestyles industries. We are committed to making our client’s work easier – our print artwork is not only fresh and attractive, but also user-friendly and is designed to help cut down development time for your design team. Find out how here.

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