Jun 29th 2016

London Tech Week sports a new fashion-conscious focus

Last week, the third annual London Technology Week showcased the capital’s vibrant digital expertise. The week-long event, boasting over 400 exhibitions, was attended by 43,000 people – a record high. As anticipated, some of the world’s biggest tech giants and well-known brands displayed their wares alongside university laboratories and digital start-ups – a diverse plethora of technological innovation. But this year, it was the UK’s leading fashion technology designers who were in the limelight, demonstrating the vast potential of fusing fashion and technology.
London-based digital knitwear designer Brooke Roberts opened the event, debuting her new collection in collaboration with other innovative fashion tech designers. Roberts, a former radiographer, is no newcomer to the crossroads of fashion and technology, and has been working in the sector for over a decade. For her own fashion label, Roberts uses a technique called digital knitting, translating medical scans and images from her radiography days onto knitwear through the use of pioneering digital programming.

Roberts’ collection at London Tech Week was commissioned by new London mayor Sadiq Khan’s promo company, London & Partners. The curated collection brought together a range of projects and products showcasing a striking collision of fashion and science. The installation included 3D printed garments from the Modeclix project at the University of Hertfordshire, as well as the world’s first holographic mannequin – an ultra-realistic life-size model – from Headworks. London-based Infi-Tex Clothing showcased the future of textiles with custom made sports jackets that allow users to play music through sensors or connect to external smart devices.

One of the more compelling combinations of fashion, technology and science demonstrated how technology can be used for those in need. The Royal College of Art and fashion designer Mary Benson showcased their creation for disabled athletes – the BRUISE Suit. Winner of the James Dyson Award, BRUISE is an injury detection suit for athletes with loss of sensation and who, as a result, may be unaware they have been hurt. The suit is made up of a pressure-sensitive film, which essentially visually communicates the severity of sporting injuries through colour. If an area is excessively stressed during an accident, the film’s colouring will irreversibly change. After training or competing, injured areas can be easily spotted and effectively treated.

Fashion tech is definitely gaining popularity, with some industry experts predicting its growth will surpass that of the AR, VR and digital health sectors. This is unsurprising given the amount of high-profile companies jumping on the bandwagon and investing in top fashion designers or wearable tech start-ups to create gadgets and gizmos that will transform our wardrobes. Fashion designer Tory Burch has collaborated with Fitbit to create an exclusive “super chic” collection of fitness trackers. Intel, Google and Luxottica joined forces to design and develop a new breed of iconic eyewear for Google Glass. And in the past five years, Apple has hired talent from Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent and Tag Heuer for a number of wearable tech projects including the Apple Watch.

Contrary to popular opinion, fashion technology doesn’t always have to mean kitsch garments or gimmicky gadgets. London Technology Week proved the fusion of technology and fashion has the potential to create innovative, value-add products that hold the promise of transforming the high-fashion, sport and even healthcare sectors. It will be interesting to see how this collaboration evolves as more use cases are unearthed.