Fashionably Connected

By Catherine
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By Catherine Bolgar

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What if you could have a different dress to wear every day, without having a closet full of clothes? It’s already possible, thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Everything around us is digital. Why shouldn’t our clothes be digital as well?” asks Francesca Rosella, creative director and co-founder of CuteCircuit, a London-based digital fashion house. “In the near future, we predict that many devices will disappear and their functionality will be integrated in our clothes. Everything will be on the body.”

CuteCircuit started in 2004 with the “Hug Shirt.” A person wearing a Hug Shirt gives herself a squeeze. Sensors in the fabric detect the position, strength and duration of the touch. The data goes to the person’s phone to be sent to a friend. When the friend accepts the message, actuators in her own Hug Shirt will warm up and create the sensation that the sender’s arms are wrapped around the recipient.

Over the years, CuteCircuit has designed many collections: specialty products, haute couture and ready-to-wear. Several celebrities have worn the haute couture on the red carpet and onstage, including a skirt that displays a video of a tiger roaring.

The clothes use “Magic Fabric, developed by CuteCircuit, that can change color,” Ms. Rosella says.

The fabric can display anything as if it were your TV screen, but a soft fabric TV screen.”

cutecircuit_handbag_2Fabric—mostly silk because of its durability, but also cotton and cotton elastane—is fused with a layer of sensors or micro LEDs, and textile-conductive connectors that eliminate the need for wires. “They’re little nylon ribbons woven with gold and silver fibers,” she explains. “We don’t want anything dangerous in contact with the skin, so we coat it all with gold.”

Another layer of fabric is fused on top of the electronics layer, so the wearer feels only the soft fabric like a normal piece of clothing. The garments can be dry-cleaned or machine-washed at 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) and hung to dry. All the garments can be recharged via USB, and the small batteries snap directly into the garment with buttons.

cutecircuit_the_nieves_dress_2Ms. Rosella hopes CuteCircuit can lead a revolution against fast fashion. “Fashion shouldn’t be overconsumption of resources,” she says. “We only manufacture a certain amount, but with beautiful fabrics that last a long time. So you have one garment but can download many animations. You can have the same garment for a long time, but it feels like new.”

For example, a T-shirt allows the wearer to change the message on its front as often as desired, via an application. “You can display messages from friends,” Ms. Rosella says. “Everybody loved the idea of tweeting to your clothes. Digital fashion is a new form of self-expresslon.”

Apparel brands are also using the Internet of Things in order to communicate with their customers as traditional lines of communication are being disrupted by subscription services, online marketplaces and new retail outfits. And many of these are not owned by the brand, says Julie Vargas, director, global market development, technology solutions, of the Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS) business of Avery Dennison Corp., a Glendale, California, maker of labeling and packaging solutions. The RBIS business is a global leader in apparel and footwear branding, packaging, labeling and RFID solutions.

“In the future, the one component that stays at the center of attention is the product,” Ms. Vargas says.

A special tag on clothes gives each item a unique digital fingerprint. The consumer can connect to the cloud-based Janela Smart Products Platform to upload the clothes. “Today, the mobile device is how people are interacting, but we expect it to evolve,” Ms. Vargas says. “The core is the platform that can integrate with sensors today and those of tomorrow.”

The platform, launched in April, gives apparel brands the ability to connect directly with consumers, regardless of where the item was purchased. It can provide information about the product; the story behind it, such as which celebrities have worn it; or information from other consumers, such as product reviews or suggestions for styling the garment with other items. The brand also can send out messages if the consumer wants (the consumer maintains the ability to refuse). “When you’re in or near the store, you can connect to find out what content is unlocked, like digital artwork or videos,” Ms. Vargas says.

At the same time, the Janela platform gives consumers an opportunity to talk to the brand.

A consumer can provide a product review for other users, but could also offer one-to-one communication with the designers,” Ms. Vargas says. “You could say, ‘I love this garment, but it wish it had pockets,’ or something like that.”

Sensors with near-field communication technology often aren’t washable, so sensors need to be removed before washing. However, QR codes, fabric labels and heat-transfer labels launder well. “There are a lot of different places to put the connector and ways the connector can look,” she says.

Avery Dennison and CuteCircuit both have incorporated ways to encourage consumers to recycle garments, to offer more transparency about where materials are sourced from and to expand the story of each item as consumers seek meaning in their purchases.

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, now working as a freelance writer and editor with WSJ. Custom Studios in EMEA. For more from Catherine Bolgar, along with other industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion on LinkedIn.

Photos courtesy of CuteCircuit

 

 

MIT’s experimental 3D-printed sneaker shape-shifts to your foot

By Alyssa
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Byline: Marc Bain

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At the moment, 3D printing is still mostly about experimentation. While it hasn’t quite taken off to revolutionize the way consumer products are made just yet, it does offer a lot of exciting, innovative ideas, especially in the realm of sneakers.

MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, a group focused on research into “active” materials, is working in collaboration with product designers Christophe Guberan and Carlo Clopath on one of the most unique footwear possibilities involving 3D printing: It’s a shoe that can be “programmed” to match the contours of your foot.

Their Minimal Shoe, as they’ve dubbed it, is created in a unique process. They stretch out a textile and then 3D-print lines of plastic in varying layers and thicknesses on it—essentially, the structure of the shoe-to-be. Next they cut out the portions of the textile they want. Released from the original stretch, the textile will “jump” into a new shape according to the arrangement of the 3D-printed lines left on it. Hypothetically, you could either custom print a shoe for each wearer with just a few lines of extruded plastic, or you could make a nearly one-size-fits-all shoe, since the stretchy textile will conform to any given shape.

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Skylar Tibbits, one of the directors of the lab and a research scientist in MIT’s architecture department, tells Quartz they’re investigating both possibilities, and that the “morphability” of the textile could make for a more comfortable and adaptable type of performance footwear.

The whole shoe wouldn’t have to be created with this method either. Just the upper could be, or portions of it, and then it could be attached to a more traditional sole. It’s also relatively easy to make, compared to 3D printing an entire sneaker.

“Imagine using active materials to produce one-size-fits-all shoes, adaptive fit, and self-forming manufacturing processes,” a statement by the lab says. “This technique would radically transform the production of footwear forever.

Although the shoe is still a work in progress, Tibbits told The Creator’s Project that a large sportswear company is currently interested in the process, though he isn’t certain what might come of it.

Actually, of all the consumer-goods industries exploring uses of 3D printing and customizable textiles, sneaker makers could well be among the first to bring products to a mass market. Adidas has already introduced a 3D-printed midsole that could give every customer the perfect fit, and Nike’s COO recently expressed his confidence that we’ll soon be able to 3D-print Nike sneakers at home or the nearby Nike store. Both have also shown an interest in finding new ways of manufacturing lightweight textiles that can stretch and contour to the wearer’s foot, as in the knit uppers that have been so popular for both.

The Self-Assembly Lab is working on other projects too, including materials that can transform in response to outside stimuli. So, for instance, something like sneaker laces that could tighten from heat or the energy of a small battery. Currently it’s collaborating with Airbus on creating a dynamic carbon-fiber component for the company’s airplane engines.

The Minimal Shoe in particular came about when the lab received an invite to design footwear for the “Life on Foot” exhibition at the Design Museum in London.

To discuss this and other topics about the future of technology, finance, life sciences and more, join the Future Realities discussion on LinkedIn.

‘My Design’ webinar: how a typical furniture company turns ideas into reality?

By Lauriane
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Do you want to develop innovative and successful products?

Do you need to improve efficiencies and make the right decisions while reducing development time and costs? 

Dassault Systèmes has developed “My Design”, an integrated solution that expands your growth and helps increase your margin, making sure you develop a successful product that your consumers will love.

Click here to discover how a typical furniture company has rapidly developed a new office chair, with an integrated approach, from ideation to market launch. Imagine that all internal and external players can easily collaborate together.

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Marketing and Innovation

What if marketing and innovative departments could keep abreast of market needs by managing the free flow of ideas and providing multimedia dashboards?

With a few clicks, the Marketing Manager can easily consult design trends and blogs and monitor project status, all in real-time. Together with her colleagues, she can perform a detailed review of key trends, challenges and consumer expectations. With this visual information, managers can assign maturity levels bumping them up from proposal status, to concept through to validation.

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Creative Design

What if industrial designers and stylists used powerful and intuitive tools that allowed them to focus on innovation?

With CATIA, industrial designers can create freeform 3D sketches. It’s fast and easy to use allowing the user to explore more design scenarios in a short amount of time. He can transform ideas into a 3D reality while exploring detail design variations directly on 3D objects. Sketching combined with the intuitive act of painting demonstrates the power of realistic 3D modeling. Using subdivision-surface technology, the industrial designer can very quickly sculpt in 3D, while keeping surface curvature continuity under control.

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Decision Review

What if you could improve efficiencies and make the right decisions while reducing development time?

It’s time for important decisions to be made during a design-review session with the product manager, the CEO and the marketing manager. To ‘sell’ his ideas, the industrial designer is now using CATIA to present and promote projects with a high-end visualization and rendering solution.

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Concept Development

What if you could reduce development costs by enabling industrial designers and mechanical engineers to work in the same integrated environment?

Mechanical engineers can quickly design Sheet Metal parts by taking capitalized know-how and manufacturing constraints into account early in the design process. The engineer can intuitively manage the forming process directly in 3D and automatically generate flattened views from the 3D design part.

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Simulation and Validation

What if decision makers could harness accurate information to define the best consumer experience and make the right choices?

Integrating simulation in the design workflow improves quality and reduces the cost linked to physical testing. Now that the product is completely defined, all actors and decision makers can easily experience the final product in context and digital assets are ready to be re-used for marketing purposes.

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Conclusion

“My Design” is an integrated solution based on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform for Consumer Goods companies. It allows the free flow of ideas through social innovation and provides multimedia dashboards to keep abreast of market needs. With “My Design”, your company can develop innovative products faster and cheaper and deliver products consumers love.

Discover more

Watch ‘My Design’ Webinar: how to turn ideas into reality

Discover My Design Industry Solution Experience

Watch the video and Listen to Tomasz Bardzik, CTO of Nowy Styl Group

Find more about Dassault Systèmes’ in the Consumer Goods & Retail industry



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