Sensors in fashion could change the $3 trillion industry and unlock the powered clothing revolution


Long promised by science fiction stories, we're now at the threshold of a real revolution where sensors, flexible electronics and printed batteries could finally be playing a key role in the way people mediate their social image through fashion. As an industry veteran, I trust that fashion—not industrial designers—will be in charge of designing successful form factors (plus, it won't be long before IBM Watson helps quantify the "cool" index", the "chic" index, the "comfy" index of any given product).

The global apparel market is valued at US$3 trillion, accounting for two percent of the world's GDP. Premium and luxury segments are doing well. In fact, The McKinsey Global Fashion Index forecasts industry sales growth to nearly triple between 2016 and 2018, from 1.5 percent to between 3.5 to 4.5 percent. 

Yes, some still regard fashion as a frivolous topic, instead of the social identity tool it has always been. It is especially powerful with Millennials, for whom it belongs to pop culture, like social media, music, TV series, sports or gaming.

2018FLEX flexible hybrid electronics fashion

Photo: The author's display on the intersection of fashion and tech at Collette, a luxury retail store in Paris

This in fact might have been the missing key of success for the first generations of "wearables". Although they started by targeting the fashion market, they somehow missed seducing the prestige market. No doubt that their current re-marketing shift into the health sector—especially obvious during the recent CES—will make these devices more relevant and sought-after tools.

But as they're stepping into their smart age, fashion brands will have to be more proactive in understanding and integrating electronics. Most of the luxury groups

in Europe and the US have opened some sort of tech pathway. But what about the indie designers, usually the most creative and copied talent of the fashion industry? How can they even dream of getting to the Silicon Valley designers and integrators, with their $500K to $1M prototype price tags?

This is why I am excited to be leading the messaging to these brands on the electronics developments and their implications. I am participating at technology industry events (including the upcoming 2018FLEX in Monterrey, California) to gather my own data. Some of the things I am excited about:

  • In a couple of years, mixed reality goggles will miniaturized enough to become a chic accessory on my nose, branded by Saint Laurent or Dior, powered by ODG or Ostendo Technologies.
  • My fashion friends won't be troubled any longer by the "douchetooth" look coming from their Apple Airpods: Cartier Smart Jewelry will work its magic on chic hybrids, gold earrings/airbuds.
  • Instead of lighting Lady Gaga's dresses, designers will finally turn the LEDs inside our garments for a discreet pro-collagen treatment.
  • The NBA Nike jerseys will collect sweat, via fabrics powered by bacteria and movements. Those athletes' biometrics data will be a bounty for coaches and doctors eager to prevent health issues.
  • At home, the NFC tag of my coat will remind me that it could use laundry.
  • All my electronics will power on-the-go thanks to induction charging hidden (printed? woven? embroidered?) in my pockets.

Which of these trends can you help start? Send me an invite to meet with you at 2018FLEX! 

Download the 2018FLEX app to request meetings with any attendees!  


Topics: Fashion , 2018FLEX , Flexible Hybrid Electronics , Application Trends