Smart fashion refers to technology embedded in fibre, yarn or textile, or in clothing; or in new forms of production. The expression can refer to smart clothes, smart materials, or smart production.
Smart fashion is made of textiles or materials that can sense and/or react (“think” and “act”) to environmental conditions or stimuli, often through a computer and /or electronic technologies (i.e. e-textiles). Smart fashion technology is versatile and can range from e-fashion, smart materials, wearable electronics, solar energy and 3D printing to bio-couture and nanotechnology.
Smart fashion is just one of the terms that are being used. The most used term is ‘wearable technology’ or simply ‘wearables’; the disadvantage of this term is that it refers more to technology than to clothes. Wearable Technology (‘wearables’ for short) usually refers to clothing/garments and accessories that integrate computer and electronic technologies (for example: GoogleGlass). Other terms are also used, such as ‘fashionable technology’ by Sabine Seymour (2009, 2010), which helps to bring the field of advanced technology more decidedly to the field of fashion. Bradley Quinn has used the term ‘technofashion’, which has also been used by Lianne Toussaint (2018). Anneke Smelik has used the term ‘cybercouture’ (Smelik, 2017); and ‘science fashion’ (2018). All these terms refer to the ‘marriage’ of fashion and technology. Studies in the field provide an overview of techniques and applications (Mattila, 2006; Cho, 2010), or summarise its developments and actors (Quinn, 2002, 2010, 2012; Seymour, 2009, 2010). The most extensive research on smart fashion or wearable technology is Lianne Toussaint’s PhD dissertation (2018).
In itself the relation between fashion and technology is not new: making a fibre out of bast, plants or fleece; spinning a yarn; weaving, knitting and sewing; and dyeing are all intelligent inventions by humans involving technologies. It is important here to refer also to the invention of synthetic fibres through chemistry, such as nylon, polyester, elastane and many other fabrics. Generally, technology today is understood as related to the scientific and industrial revolutions of modern times. Usually, four industrial revolutions are mentioned (Schwab, 2015).
The first one is mechanization of production with the invention of the steam engine feeding huge spinning and weaving machines. The second one is mass production enabled by electricity, for example the sewing machine. The third one is the automation made possible by the computer, for example CAD, computer aided design in fashion design. And finally, the networks: the internet (of things).