Tech­nolog y

Are be­spoke dig­i­tal de­sign and au­to­mated sewing ro­bots the future of fashion?

Fashion (Canada) - - Contents - By Caitlin Agnew

When it comes to au­to­ma­tion, fashion has lagged be­hind other in­dus­tries. Are AI de­sign­ers the next big thing?

If you were to close your eyes and imag­ine the cloth­ing of the future, you’d likely pic­ture se­vere, an­gu­lar cuts in syn­thetic fab­rics, like some­thing out of Blade Run­ner. Set in 2019, Ri­d­ley Scott’s ’80s ver­sion of the future still seems very far away. In all like­li­hood, it was Spike Jonze who got it right with his 2013 movie Her. One of the most-talked-about as­pects of the film was the high-waisted pants, worn by Joaquin Pheonix, that were at odds with the high-tech world in which they roamed. “Spike liked to de­scribe them as your pants giv­ing you a hug around your waist,” cos­tume de­signer Casey Storm told The New York Times. “It’s an emo­tion that felt nice to us.” This sar­to­rial sen­ti­ment is echoed by Min­istry of Sup­ply’s Bos­ton-based chief de­sign of­fi­cer Gi­han Amarasiri­war­dena when he talks about his brand’s 3-D blazer, a seam­less gar­ment that is made by a ma­chine in 90 minutes to a cus­tomer’s ex­act spec­i­fi­ca­tions for $355. Cus­tomers say it feels like “wear­ing a hug,” says Amarasiri­war­dena, adding that con­sumers can now be­come more in­vested in what they’re wear­ing and how it’s made. “It al­lows us to build a deeper re­la­tion­ship with our prod­ucts rather than just some­thing that you buy and then throw away.” An MIT-trained chem­i­cal en­gi­neer, Amarasiri­war­dena was lured into the ap­parel busi­ness by the prospect of bring­ing pro­fes­sional work­wear into the future. “All of this per­for­mance ex­isted in the out­door space and the ath­letic space, but so lit­tle of that has trans­lated into what we wear ev­ery day,” he says. Un­like other in­dus­tries that have em­braced tech­ni­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses, mass fashion has chased cheap labour around the world, mov­ing fac­to­ries from North Amer­ica to Asia, and now parts of Africa, in­stead of try­ing to find new, ef­fi­cient and eth­i­cal ways to in­no­vate pro­duc­tion. Be­cause of its trend­set­ting na­ture, fashion typ­i­cally fo­cuses its en­ergy on sea­sonal stylis­tic changes rather than func­tional in­no­va­tion. But the rise of au­to­ma­tion and dig­i­tal pro­duc­tion is fi­nally trick­ling into the fashion world. Last year, Jonathan Zornow cre­ated Sewbo, a process that chem­i­cally stiff­ens fab­rics to al­low au­to­mated sewing ro­bots to pro­duce an en­tire gar­ment. A soft­ware en­gi­neer, Seat­tle-based Zornow was in­spired by an episode of How It’s Made on jeans. “It seemed strange that we wouldn’t have more au­to­ma­tion in that field; I had as­sumed that ro­bots were mak­ing all of our clothes,” he told Fast

Com­pany. With his new in­ven­tion, this as­sump­tion may come to fruition. A 2016 study by The Brook­field In­sti­tute for In­no­va­tion and En­trepreneur­ship found that 42 per cent of the Cana­dian labour force is at high risk of be­ing af­fected by au­to­ma­tion over the next decade or two. One com­po­nent of ro­botic pro­duc­tion is 3-D print­ing. Typ­i­cally thought of as ar­chi­tec­tural ob­jets, cloth­ing pro­duced by 3-D print­ers first made waves in 2010, when Dutch de­signer Iris van Her­pen sent her award-win­ning cou­ture down the run­way at Am­s­ter­dam Fashion Week. Im­pres­sive feats of imag­i­na­tion they may be, but wear­able they are not. To­day, these oth­er­worldly cre­ations are be­ing brought down to earth by Cana­dian la­bels like Sid Neigum, who in June won a $50,000 grant to ex­plore 3-D print­ing. Even he was sur­prised by the soft, flow­ing fab­rics cre­ated by the tech­nol­ogy. »

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