Industry 4.0 transforms all industries. But fashion, in particular, benefits perhaps the most, opening up an extensive range of new functional and aesthetic possibilities for garments.
Smart clothes have indeed evolved as a promising opportunity for the fashion industry. Since the rise of wearables, intelligent apparel has recently appeared on the market. Biometric body analysis in sports and health care, as well as digital services as part of the Internet of Things environment, are just some of the product concepts and use cases.
The pharmaceutical and beauty industry also counts on innovations in the field of smart clothes and is investing in apparel made from therapeutical textiles.
According to the European Cosmetic Directive, cosmetotextiles are any textile product containing a substance or preparation that is released over time on different superficial parts of the human body, and containing special functionalities such as cleansing, perfuming, changing appearance, protection, keeping in good condition, or the correction of body odors.
It’s a dream premise—getting the perfect body simply by wearing the right clothing, whose active ingredients work as we carry on with our daily lives.
Amazingly though, this is not an empty promise. Clothes infused with skincare ingredients have existed in various cultures, including India, Greece and Turkey, for centuries and their benefits have often been endorsed by modern science.
After all, what could be a better way to maintain a continuous delivery of skincare ingredients to our body than something that’s worn right next to the skin?
The challenge till now though was to find a way of infusing the cloth fibers with formulas that would not wash out at first rinse. Also, there needed to be technology that would keep up constant interaction between the skin and the cloth, without the cloth feeling uncomfortable or sticky. Fortunately, the answers to these problems are increasingly becoming clearer with innovations in nanotechnology and microcapsules.
However, many challenges remain.
From a business perspective, these developments make it necessary to reconsider product development approaches, business models and collaborations. Getting these innovations out of labs and into the hands of consumers requires collaboration between scientists, manufacturers and designers with a specific understanding of what consumers need.
The speed at which fashion companies generate new products is another major hurdle. In biotechnology, the timeline to develop an idea and take it to market can be eight to 15 years. Fashion doesn’t really have a history of having R&D that goes 10 years out. Mindsets need to change.
Further, the clothing made from the beauty product infused fabrics is typically more functional in nature, relying more on comfort than couture. Nevertheless, that should not make the garments any less fashionable.
And it seems only a matter of time before these “wearable fabrics” are used for other kinds of garment. Perhaps even PPE. All we can do is wait and see.
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