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Fast (forward) Fashion

Due to new technologies, the Fashion industry has been speeding up exponentially and shows no sign of slowing down.

I have to admit a sense of overwhelm when I approach this exciting topic. I realize it is largely because there are so many sub-topics to address when referring to fashion's embrace of new technologies. Also, I cannot help but be curious to look at it from all sides and am fascinated with how it will all converge to revolutionize the industry as we have known it for the past 50 years or so.

3-D printing in Fashion by Joshua Harker

Quixotic Divinity Headdress by Joshua Harker. image source: EOS


It cannot be denied that there is the sense of caution that many have when immense change is afoot in any industry. There have been technology naysayers in the past when those working in the field experiencing change feel alarmed about what the new technology means for them personally - and by that I mean for their livelihoods. The apparel industry has certainly had its issues with advances leaving workers in the dust. From the invention of the sewing machine to automatic knitting machines to the present moment where robotics is poised to alter manufacturing dramatically, the casualties of new technology are usually the skilled workers at the bottom of the production chain.

One thing is sure, if history teaches us anything it's that it is futile to nurture luddite tendencies. While there will always be a respect for time honored craftsmanship and handmade product, to fight the incoming tide of new technology is to drown in its wake. I suspect the changes that fashion will go through in the next several decades will be as dramatic as those experienced during the industrial revolution when apparel production ceased being a cottage industry.

Regent Cotton Mill, in Failsworth c.1935 fashion industrial revolution

Beaming Department at Regent Cotton Mill in Failsworth, circa 1935. image source: Manchester Evening News


A big part of fashion's current upheaval started innocently enough - with the explosion of the internet and what that meant for the spread of information. Information that used to take more than six months to get to the average consumer, and was largely projected through the lens of esteemed publications, now can be seen online in real time. Although many large publications are still dissecting, analyzing, and disseminating the majority of what people see, they are far from the gatekeepers they once were. More information is good, right?

Dior Spring/Summer 2018 runway show. image source: Standard UK


Well, the one of the more sinister outcomes of quicker access to information is fast fashion. As consumers saw the trends as they were unfolding on the runways, retailers rushed to get new trendy items to them ASAP and at a fraction of the price that clothing has ever been I history. It gave rise to an almost insatiable hunger for something new, literally every day.

landfill full of fast fashion clothing

Landfills are overwhelmed with discarded clothing. image source: Urbanette

The relatively new demand for fast fashion is not at all sustainable; the strains on our environment, natural resources, and global workforces are just too great. There are signs that people are finally realizing that change is needed. With all the new advances in technology that are happening in the fashion and textiles world, I wonder if the solution is closer than we think. A successful answer will have to be something that ultimately has consumer appeal, whether we somehow make it uncool to never wear the same thing twice, or we reestablish the idea of clothing as being precious.


With these challenges in mind, as well as an overall fascination with where new advances will take us, I intend to explore different sub-topics pertaining to technology in fashion over several upcoming blog posts. We have already written extensively in prior posts about smart fashion and textiles technology, but in future posts we will cover more specifically advances in - Manufacturing, Retail, and Design.

Look for the Tag #FastForwardFashion for the posts in this series.

I look forward to exploring these topics with you, and invite you to leave a suggestion if there is something specific you would like us to address.

Sources: Manchester Evening News | Standard UK | Urbanette | the Atlantic | Fashionista | SiteSeerX | Mill Museum | Fast Company

* We intend no copyright infringement by displaying images from other sources on our site. Unless otherwise noted, all images are the property of their respective owners.

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