Fashion and Sustainability: the advantages of smart clothing
A particular category of smart connected products is smart clothing. In fact, the IoT phenomenon and connectivity no longer concern only wearables, but also t-shirts, jackets and so on.
Many textile companies and fashion brands are already producing smart connected clothing and the market share is expected to increase by 2.95 billion dollars from 2021 to 2026, with a CAGR of 14.84%. [Technavio]
What is smart clothing
Smart clothing refers to garments capable of collecting, storing and exchanging information from the body or the environment through sensors. The data are then transferred via Bluetooth to apps on the smartphone, where users can access them.
This is possible by inserting small IoT devices into the garment, or by implementing metallic materials, optical fibers and polymers in fabrics. Often, nanoparticles are added to protect the technology from washing and wear, but they are also antibacterial, water-repellent and protect from UV rays.
The result is garments that can monitor and improve consumers’ lives. For example, they can control the state of health (heartbeat, breathing, sports performance, etc.), which is why they are particularly popular in the fitness sector. But smart clothing has enormous possibilities: integrating services, adapting to the weather, offering directions, providing energy and much more.
4 examples of smart clothing
Tech-label by Tommy Hilfiger
In 2018 Tommy Hilfiger launched the clothing line “Tommy Jeans Xplore”.
The label of each garment contains a chip that connects via Bluetooth to the smartphone. A smartphone app stores the frequency of use of the garment and assigns points to customers. The more they wear the garment, the more they accumulate points to get discounts and promotions.
Smart Shirts by Ralph Lauren
In 2015 Ralph Lauren, in collaboration with Canadian OMSignal, created PoloTech. The fabric of these smart shirts is made up of mini-sensors and silver fibers that monitor biometric data (heart rate, breathing, movement, calorie consumption, etc). Users can view data and plan customized workouts through an app compatible with Apple devices.
Smart socks by Siren Care
Siren Care smart socks (2017) are intended for diabetic patients. They can monitor the temperature of the feet to warn of the onset of inflammation via an app.
Smart suit by Samsung
In 2016, Samsung introduced Smart Suit, a smart business suit featuring an NFC tag. Through a button/pin on the lapel of the jacket the wearer can exchange digital business cards, unlock the phone and interact with other devices.
Impact of smart clothing on the sustainability of the fashion industry
Textile and fashion industries (especially Fast Fashion brands) have a strong environmental impact. Water pollution, resource consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and the production of waste are just some effects.
However, Rebeccah Pailes-Freidman, founder of Interwoven Design Group, suggests a different future:
“Sometimes when people think of smart textiles, they only think of electronic textiles. […] You have to think about the entire life cycle, close the loops and think about what textiles can do for designers.”
So, even if they are recent innovations, smart textiles and smart clothing can change the game completely.
Here is how.
- Smart textiles may produce energy
There are smart clothes capable to recharge a smartphone, but at the moment they work thanks to batteries. What if small photovoltaic cells were inserted into the fabrics? T-shirts, curtains and other textiles would become capable of producing clean energy.
This would represent a further step towards the green transition.
Smart clothing can replace materials of animal origin
Smart fabrics allow industries to replace the materials of animal origin used, above all, for coats or jackets. This is a more ecological choice. It also satisfies those consumers interested in animal protection.
Intelligent fibers are coming
Smart clothing often needs electricity to function. Is it possible to make them produce their own energy?
Well, a team of scholars created a fabric that generates its electricity from the temperature difference between the human body and the surrounding environment.
This fabric is not only useful, but also easy to dispose of and environmentally friendly.
And it is just one of the many to come.
Smart clothing may produce less waste
Smart garments will be able to intelligently adapt to changes in temperature. This suggests that people will need fewer clothes and thus generate less textile waste.
In addition, smart garments are traceable. This means that companies will be able to manage inventory more efficiently, reducing overproduction.
Finally, smart clothing should facilitate disposal and recycling.
Textile and fashion industries can guarantee their sustainability
More and more consumers want textile and fashion industries to be more eco-friendly. So, companies should prove their sustainability. They can do so by adopting blockchain technology. How? For example, using smart labels. These labels allow customers to access data about the manufacturing processes and the supply chain directly via the garment itself.