At first glance, the fashion industry is one built on aesthetic trends. Shirts, pants, and shoes go in and out of fashion with every change of the season, it seems, simply because the upper echelon of fashion experts give a thumbs-down to plaid and paisley. However, there’s an underground element to the fashion industry, a system built upon technology, chemistry, and engineering. Let’s take a look into this secret side of fashion!
The Science of Textiles
Fashion and textiles designer Mark Liu brought discussions of STEM in fashion to the forefront in 2016, with an article posted to The Conversation. In his essay, Liu suggests that “the fashion industry is undergoing disruptive changes due to rapid advances in technology.” He evokes the concepts of silver nano-whiskers, which coat anti-bacterial fabrics of articles such as athletic wear. This coating is just one example of material science, the discipline that brings abstract aesthetic designs into the world of the concrete and wearable.
Beyond the type of fabric, even the color of the material is dependent upon STEM capabilities. A knowledge of chemistry, particularly acid and alkaline levels, influences fabric shades, providing the exact hue that designers look for.
The Power of Numbers
Measurements are what provide sizes for our clothes, and are what separate what fits from what doesn’t. In the fashion industry, cutting and sewing of garments require mathematical precision, not just for general sizing purposes, but for proper assembly and aesthetic design. Without a thorough understanding of algebra and geometric theory, it would be difficult to mass-produce the latest fashion items.
This is where the “T” in STEM comes in—technology can be used to create an exact cut or design based on the designer’s vision. In fact, every touchpoint along the fashion supply chain utilizes modern business tech to streamline efforts and make fashion less expensive and more accessible. For instance, the rise of e-commerce has allowed those of almost any geographic location to shop for the latest fashion at their own convenience, rather than having to seek out a specific piece of clothing at a specific brick-and-mortar store.
In addition, technology can help the fashion industry reduce its overall waste production. Approximately $180 million of clothing ends up in landfills this year, in part due to the “fast fashion” trend that creates a near-constant closet update schedule. However, technology can be used to reduce the amount of fabric wasted during design and production stages of the supply chain. After all, design software allows designers to bring their visions to life in a waste-free way. While not a perfect system, it’s able to reduce waste and lead to greater efficiency overall!