Fashion and technology: the growing diversity gap

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Although the fashion industry has linked well with the technology industry in terms of social media and with regards to wearable technology like the Apple watch, there are still gaps between the industries that don’t show any sign of closing.

Smart Watch

There are great new fashion apps being created almost every day, a great example is Depop, which is similar to Instagram. It encourages users to take pictures of clothes and outfits that they want to sell and then share the pictures to potential buyers – sort of like a seller’s version of Instagram. Alexa Chung has also recently launched an app called Villoid, which allows users to click on the clothing in an image to take you directly to the shopping page. Although these are interesting and useful to some, they don’t offer that much to the wider industry.

One place where developed technology is distinctly lacking in the fashion industry is when it comes to the amount of pollution that it creates. BusinessOfFashion.com has said that the fashion and textiles industry is hugely guilty of pollution and is second only to the oil industry, which should give an indication of how big a problem the industry has.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, it can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1 kilo of cotton. Putting this into perspective, that amount of cotton is only enough to make one white t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Similarly, it can take up to 8,000 different chemicals to turn raw materials into clothes, which includes the dyeing processes that are vastly important to the creation of garments.

Other industries seem to be looking to reduce their pollution and become more sustainable, for example the automotive sector is constantly using and creating new technologies that make their products more energy efficient and decrease how much pollution they emit. When it comes to the fashion industry and technological advances to improve its green credentials, it looks rather like it’s being left behind.

Futuristic smart glasses

What’s worse is that all of the pollution that is a byproduct of making clothes is largely for nothing. The throwaway culture that is a large part of the fashion industry dictates that clothes are relevant for various parts of the year, whole wardrobes can be replaced twice a year, thanks to spring/summer and autumn/winter collections. For most, when clothes are out of style or not in season, they can be thrown away, which leads to huge amounts of clothes piling up in landfills.

The clothes literally become waste and it begs the question that if car manufacturers can build eco-efficient technology to improve their models, then shouldn’t the fashion industry should be able to follow suit?

There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of innovations for improving this pollution in terms of technology, rather suggestions for improvement include using different fibres and recycling old clothes. Although this can be a help, it’s not necessarily the best way to make sure that the fashion industry is sustainable, leaving a serious gap for technological advancements to forge ahead in this area.

Issues with chemical pollution and wasting water are a regular problem for the hospitality industry too. Figures produced by Green Hotelier in 2013 showed that water accounted for around 10 per cent of utility charges in hotels. It has also been noted that hotels pay for the water they use twice, one for fresh water they use and once when they throw it out as dirty water. This makes it an expensive commodity for hotels and depending on their efficiency they could be saving 50 per cent more water per guest per night if they had the innovations to do so.

Comfedesigns.com wrote an article last year that detailed gaps in the fashion industry as identified by a tech entrepreneur. The article pointed out that the fashion industry rarely reports game-changing technology and that similarly the technology industry doesn’t seem hugely invested in changing the face of fashion.

However, it also says that by using information technology, the fashion industry would be able to better regulate things like the cost of the retail sales model to the customer. It’s suggested that a lack of capital, lack of sales and a lack of technology are primarily due to flaws in communication and a missing ability to show customers the value of fashion as an industry.

It is difficult for the industry to articulate its challenges to its consumers, which if it was able to do could lead to increased economies for investors and increased values for customers themselves. However, there is a difficulty in articulating a technological solution that fixes these issues, so although there is a gap for technology, technology has yet to find a solution with which to fill it.