Designing for the future: trends we need to consider now
‘The best way to predict your future is to create it.’ Abraham Lincoln
What is the future of fashion design?
The fashion industry has evolved considerably over the years and every season brings innovations and new trends. Fashionistas all over the world impatiently anticipate fashion weeks to reveal what their wardrobes are going to be filled with in the upcoming season. Some collections introduce brand new elements and others re-invent past trends. But what is the future of fashion design?
Fashion designers will start listening to consumers, the real people. Clothes will be made for them and not for models, celebrities, fashion shows or magazines. Consumers will play a more active role in the design process and designers will pay attention to what real women look like and what their needs are. They will finally appreciate that women come in all shapes and sizes. We are already observing the infancy stages of the democratising sizes trend and the emerging of plus size models like Ashley Graham. Fashion will become more about diversity and inclusion, e.g. creating collections for people from different cultures and different age groups. Consumers will be influencing designers and trends and not the other way round. It will be a constant dialogue between the designers and the consumers whilst still maintaining some mystery and surprise of the final outcome.
The spectacle of fashion week itself will be also transformed so that the collections presented on the runway will be available to be purchased instantly, without the six-month delay. This transformation process has already begun as Diane Von Furstenberg, the chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) announced their plans to become more ‘consumer facing’ so the collection seen on the runway will be available to buy immediately. Shortly after this announcement, some of key players like Tom Ford, Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger announced their intentions to also adopt the ‘see-now-buy-now’ model.
The ethical fashion movement will become more and more powerful, resulting in raising awareness of social and environmental responsibility as well as bringing an end to animal slaughter in the name of fashion. The future of fashion design will go well beyond “making nice things”.
Currently fast fashion is in demand and it’s one of the world’s most polluting industries. The low cost of clothing means that corners have been cut in the manufacturing process, including the people who made them. Social responsibility and sustainability will become crucial parts of the design process. The fashion industry will need to slow down, make quality products that last and use better materials whilst stop exploiting people and destroying the planet. We have less and less living space and we don’t want to clutter our wardrobes with cheap clothes that quickly go out of style, we want to buy less and better. A lot of influencers and bloggers already promote slow fashion and classic high quality garments that won’t go out of style next season.
Consumers will require complete transparency from brands. They will be interested where and how the item was produced and they will be prepared to only buy products not linked in any way to a breach of human rights or had a negative impact on the environment. At the moment the majority of people don’t realise their jeans were distressed by a man with a blade and not a machine or the amount of chemicals involved in this process.
I would recommend watching ‘Made in Cambodia’, a short film directed by Asad Faruqi, Oscar winning cinematographer, which premiered at the world renowned Parsons School of Fashion. The documentary follows three graduating Parsons Fashion students to Cambodia where they come face to face with the women who make the clothes and get an understanding of the human effort behind the production process. This film is a real eye opener.
The ethical aspect of fashion design will also apply to the use of animal products, not only real fur, but also leather. Wearing real fur is already considered to be a faux pas by the vast majority of the population. However, so many designers still use it and so many celebrities wear it. I believe we are heading in the right direction where wearing real fur will not be acceptable. When people will no longer want to wear it, the designers will stop using it in their collections.
Using real leather is a standard practice and is still being associated with high quality. The current process involves the slaughtering of animals and raising them for that purpose requires a large amount of land, water and produces up to 130 times more methane every year than the entire human population. In the future, wearing real leather will be less and less popular in favour of improved quality ecological leather. Stella McCartney already uses cutting-edge sustainable materials including synthetics that replace leather. However, there might be a way of using genuine leather in an animal friendly way! Modern Meadow, a company based in Brooklyn, are pioneers in the field of biofabrication and they have developed a way of growing an infinite amount of genuine leather in a lab using a single stem cell extracted from a cow. They are able to genetically manipulate the cells to obtain the desired characteristics of the end product, like different colours or patterns. The amount of land and water used in this process is significantly lower than the traditional method and it does not require the killing of animals.
It is truly amazing to think how much technology has progressed in recent years. Sometimes I wonder how on earth people functioned in the past without the internet or mobile phones! If you required a piece of information you didn’t know, you had to go to a library or ask someone hoping they would know the answer. If you wanted to call someone, you had to call their landline. What if you arranged to meet someone and you were running late or had to re-schedule and they had already left the house? Now think about people living hundreds of years ago when light came from candles and appendicitis was a mysterious and lethal side sickness.
According to Sophie Hackford, Director of WIRED Consulting and Education, the next 20 years will be equivalent to the previous 200,000 in terms of technological progression. Technology is evolving at a rapid pace and the influence of technology on fashion design is inevitable. Virtual reality, automation, 3D printing, digital design, fashion accessories doubling up as smart devices, an app being your personal stylist… the possibilities are endless! Imagine being able to configure your garment to match your preferences, then download the design onto a computer and print it using a 3D printer in your own home. The Big Data will be used to predict upcoming trends based on consumer needs.
There are some interesting examples of where technology and fashion have worked together to create something truly amazing:
- Apple collaborated with Hermès to create leather straps for its smart watches.
- The growing industry of 3-D printers resulting in the creation of 3D printed clothing.
- Jasna Rok clothing line uses technology that reacts to our emotions, also known as “brain interface fashion”, as well as smart textiles coated with nanotechnology which makes it water-repellent, UV-protected and it can’t get dirty. The next step is to make it odourless and antibacterial.
- Waterless dyeing techniques with the use of the super critical liquefied form of carbon dioxide which reduces the vast quantities of pollution generated by textile dyeing process. One of the companies that developed the waterless dyeing technology is DyeCoo and some major brands including Nike and Adidas have been integrating these technologies into their product lines.
- The Crated, a technology and textile studio creating innovations like a heated jacket or a programmable LED matrix dress for Zac Posen.
We create the future and the world, including the fashion industry, evolves with us. We become more socially and environmentally responsible and develop new technologies. The future of fashion will be based on the close relationship between the consumer, ethics and technology and all three will play a crucial part in the fashion design process. This exciting journey has already begun.