The hot topic coming off the runways isn’t what a haute couture designer has done or what colours are in style in the spring, its wearable technology. Ideas such as sensor technology, incorporating smart device features into fashion, colour changing fabrics and smart textiles are growing in popularity and practicality.
In fact, the UK will see it’s first-ever Wearable Technology Conference and Expo next year, an event focused at promoting technology “in primarily non-technological fields, including the creative world of fashion.” Mashable has an entire section on their website dedicated to ventures in wearable technology. And of course, Google has perhaps one of the most popular pieces of current wearable technology, the Google Glass.
The idea is to create devices that can be worn on the body that solves problems or needs that people currently face. Considering the fact that it is wearable, this device should be practical, without being overwhelming, and it should interface well with the wearer (by essentially becoming an extension of the wearer or their clothing), with other devices and with evolving technology platforms. Lastly, this technology should enhance our lives, instead of burdening them.
However, with all this innovation and progress, we must not forget that this technology and fashion should consider the ethical and environmental implications involved in the design, production, sale and usage of these products. Functionality and style are important components of wearable tech but if that comes at the cost of unethical labour policies or environmentally-harmful practices, we are not making much progress.
In relation to these concerns we must look at the sourcing of the materials used in wearable tech, the labour practices involved in the production of such products, the environmental impact of the design, production and sale of these products, and the long-term social implications on the lives of the workers that make them and the users that utilize them.
1. Sourcing: We need to ensure that the materials and technology involved in the production of wearable fashion products is not setting the ethical fashion movement back by interfering with fair trade or the eco-friendly movement. This includes the way in which the raw materials are acquired and how they will eventually be disposed of.
2. Labour practices: Just as many other technologies are mass-produced wearable tech will almost certainly grow more affordable through mass-production and distribution. In this process, we must ensure that workers are given safe working conditions, fair wages and the opportunity to sustain their lives and their communities.
3. Environmental impact: In the design, production, distribution, sale, usage and eventual disposal of the products, we must ensure that the environment is considered and respected. This includes smart designs that support the eco-friendly movement, production that takes into account the impact on the local community, distribution that considers the environmental impact of packaging and transportation, sale and usage that reflects a desire to be more efficient in our usage of resources and disposal that doesn’t end up in landfills for decades.
4. Long-term social Implications: I believe that the ethical fashion movement must embrace wearable technology in order for the movement to continue to grow. That being said, wearable technology must embrace the principles of ethical fashion in order to work towards a better fashion industry. If wearable technology is designed to becoming an extension of ourselves and solve our daily problems, we must make sure it does not create new ones. Fashion technology that embeds the principles of ethics and environmental-consciousness into its core could do amazing things for the complex issues that our global community currently faces.
At Shopanthropic, our goal, vision and mission is to bring affordable products, while improving the lives of underprivileged producers through empowerment. We embrace innovation and technology (it is the future!) but as the wearable tech market grows, we must continue to monitor how new ventures address the concerns of ethical fashion.
To learn more about wearable tech, visit: http://mashable.com/category/wearable-tech/.