Innovation in Textiles: Digital Technology Drives Sustainable Innovation
The emergence of new digital tools and technologies for the apparel and footwear industry provides designers, brands, manufacturers and retailers with exciting sustainable innovation opportunities, which cover the entire product lifecycle from design and development, manufacturing, sales and consumer use to the product’s end-of-life.
Industry focus: Technology and sustainability
The recent PI Apparel conference in Los Angeles featured disruptive technologies for digital product creation and data management and for the first time, paid special attention to the question of how the apparel and footwear industry can leverage technology to enable strategic sustainable innovation.
Automation is another hot topic and we have already seen commercial adoption in the footwear industry with adidas Speedfactory, an automated local production unit in Germany. Automated manufacture is also gathering momentum for apparel, promising compelling sustainability benefits such as reducing transportation impact through local manufacture and the elimination of excess stock through on-demand manufacture.
Atlanta based SoftWear Automation presented their fully automated Sewbot systems for home goods, footwear and apparel, highlighting opportunities for the viability of made-to-measure high volume basic garments such as t-shirts and the benefits of cost-effective local manufacture, which further results in job creation for skilled engineers and technicians to support the fully automated manufacturing process. However, the adoption of automated sewing machines is predicted to have significant social and ethical impacts, as the need for human workers in traditional manufacturing regions will be drastically reduced. Therefore, the fashion industry must begin to plan for up-skilling or retraining workforces affected by this significant change and embrace the opportunity to provide workers with higher-value and more fulfilling jobs in the future.
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