Fashion that wants to improve quality of life

Discussion
Source: Camila Chiriboga
May 04, 2018
Matthew Stern

People with disabilities shouldn’t have to sacrifice comfort or fashion. That is the driving principle behind the concept of adaptive clothing, which has caught the attention of designers who are invested in creating functional apparel that helps improve the quality of life of the wearer.

A few designers at the forefront of adaptive clothing were discussed in a recent article by Retail Analyst Deborah Weinswig on Forbes.

Designer Camila Chiriboga from ve° created a collection for the visually impaired in which buttons are configured in a particular way and different fabric textures are used to signal to the wearer what an article of clothing looks like.

Maureen Horton, founder of MagnaReady, designs dress shirts with magnetic closures to help those with motor difficulties. Li & Fung has licensed the technology.

FFORA, founded by creative director Lucy Jones, has created a line of luxury handbags and accessories specifically designed for those dependent on wheelchairs.

Such combinations of fashion and function could become more important with an aging population that is still highly social and active, but also more prone to semi-debilitating ailments, conditions or injuries.

Adaptive clothing geared toward people with special needs isn’t the only space where designers are attempting to make clothing that’s both fashionable and next-gen functional.

At South By Southwest (SXSW) in 2017, for example, Levi and Google debuted a “smart jean jacket” retailing at $350. The jacket, woven through with electronic “smart fibers,” allows bike commuters to answer phone calls and get directions through their headphones by tapping their sleeves.

And last year Home Depot began piloting an exosuit, enhanced by carbon rods, which would allow employees to more easily lift heavy objects without risking muscle strain.

While the adaptive clothing designers detailed by Ms. Weinswig are using less “wired” technologies to address the needs of their customer base, it’s easy to imagine more high-tech enhancements like “smart fibers” also being used creatively in adaptive clothing. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see mainstream fashion brands and retailers moving into the adaptive clothing market? How might the aging population drive this trend? Where do you see the most obvious opportunities?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Adaptive clothing is both an entry point and exciting opportunity for new 'apparel tech' companies to enter the market."
"Fashion is way overdue for “smart” capabilities. “Cognitive” fashion doesn’t always even need to be functional, as it can be emotional, too."
"There’s certainly a huge opportunity for our clothes to do more. I think it may take time for mainstream brands to tap into this..."

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7 Comments on "Fashion that wants to improve quality of life"


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Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

The biggest problem with almost all clothing is finding a place to put a smartphone. They weigh down parts of clothing so they do not hang properly and the lack of interface between the mobile device and the clothing relegates each to their own isolated corner. Calls are missed when the phone is on vibrate and that heads-down walking mode is causing injury and deaths. Is apparel part of the solution? I think so.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Each generation inspires a new generation of apparel products. Adaptive clothing is both an entry point and exciting opportunity for new “apparel tech” companies to enter the market. The combination of thoughtful product leveraged into new tech-driven textiles could make life easier for millions of people. The range of opportunity for problems to solve is wide, ranging from health care to physical disabilities. Fashion brands and brick-and-mortar e-tailers may only pay lip service to adaptive clothing. This is a great opportunity for new digital retail brands!

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Fashion is way overdue for “smart” capabilities. “Cognitive” fashion doesn’t always even need to be functional, as it can be emotional, too. Just take a look at these examples (sorry if there’s too much IBM branding here):

Around the world, designers are jumping on board with machine learning AI adoption in the industry.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

This seems like a broad categorization, encompassing items that range from quite useful to those that are (to me at least) frivolous, but my short answer is “no.” I don’t see mainstreaming of these items because fashion brands remain focused on cost, volume and … well, fashion (which usually has little to do with practicality).

I do think, though, that some of the lines mentioned have strong growth potential as niche markets.

Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

There’s certainly a huge opportunity for our clothes to do more. I think it may take time for mainstream brands to tap into this — so many of them are focused on trying to catch trends that speed has become of the essence. But I think that as other brands lead the charge and consumers start to become more demanding of adaptive clothing, smart fabrics, connectivity, etc, all will become more mainstream. As to the aging population, I’m sure that plenty of brands will go with the money and if they can see an audience, they will explore producing fashion with extra benefits for them.

Lynne Thompson
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

I have been adapting clothing for military personal, especially amputees for almost 10 years. They need pants with the inseam replaced with a zipper for ease in dressing and adjusting their protheses. It would be nice to be able to order pants with the option of having one of the inseams open.

Susan O'Neal
BrainTrust
2 years 28 days ago

Mainstream fashion brands will make investments in “adaptive clothing” not because they see a market, but because they like the marketing of it. Meanwhile, niche use cases (such as the one described in this article and many more) will push the technology and learning up the curve in ways mainstream couldn’t or wouldn’t anticipate … but which may eventually have mainstream implications. I’m excited to watch the niche use cases progress!

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Adaptive clothing is both an entry point and exciting opportunity for new 'apparel tech' companies to enter the market."
"Fashion is way overdue for “smart” capabilities. “Cognitive” fashion doesn’t always even need to be functional, as it can be emotional, too."
"There’s certainly a huge opportunity for our clothes to do more. I think it may take time for mainstream brands to tap into this..."

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