As we have already discovered during the pandemic, technology has been an effective way for fashion brands to advertise and sell products in a historical time that has limited the physical shopping experience.
In fact, innovative technology within the fashion industry is more apparent than ever. From updated retail experiences to wearable technology like smartwatches and sunglasses, technology and innovation continuously inspire and influence trends and fashions.
In particular, the new trend is to combine technology and fashion in order to improve clothes and articles with innovative features that – thanks to technology – allow to go beyond traditional use and make clothes and articles smart. . The use of advanced textiles with interwoven circuitry, or the implementation of sensors and additional hardware, as well as the ability to connect to a device via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi are just a few examples of how the garments can become intelligent.
In some cases, traditional fabrics and fibers are combined with electronics to collect and transfer data about heat, light, movement and other local conditions where clothes are worn through the use of electronic sensors. This is the case of electronically integrated textiles – or e-textiles – which integrate electronic components by weaving them with the components of the fabric or by gluing or sewing the printed circuits on a non-textile material on the surface of a traditional textile. .
To empower clothing with technology, adding functionality beyond its traditional use, fashion designers and technical engineers must mix and match their capabilities with the goal of improving people’s lives. In fact, by wearing smart clothes, people can access apps for sharing navigation, music, phone and sports, as well as staying up to date on weather and traffic, or tracking heart rate, monitoring emotions and even pay to make purchases by gestures, without picking up a phone, but keeping it in the pocket.
While Pizza Hut has already experimented with limited-edition connected shoes for ordering pizza, brands like Nike – with its “Nike Adapt Shoes” – and Sensoria have created accessories and sportswear capable of detecting information relating to the posture, health status and your performance during training and send this data to a dedicated application, using performance analysis. Instead, Under Armour’s Athlete Recovery Sleepwear absorbs your heat while releasing infrared light to increase sleep quality and improve muscle recovery.
Additionally, Ralph Lauren’s “PoloTech t-shirts” allow connection to a smartphone app, recording physical activity and recommending new workouts to the wearer, while Tommy Hilfiger’s “Tommy Jeans Xplore” connects to the app Enterprise iOS with built-in Bluetooth technology. tags to track product usage and provide unique pricing and experiences to users based on time spent wearing them.
Even Samsung is betting on smart clothes: in fact, it has already made a smart business suit that can exchange digital business cards, unlock smartphones and interact with other devices, and showed off its “training shirt Body Compass”, which monitors biometric data, as well as a golf shirt which includes weather and UV rating monitoring.
The latest act in this generation of clothing is Levi’s Trucker Jacket with Jacquard by Google. In particular, Levi’s has inserted some features of the Google Assistant to allow you to interact with your smartphone, navigate maps and play your favorite playlist by performing predefined gestures on the lapel of the jacket.
However, fashion brands that want to create their stylish connected wearable must consider many legal issues and requirements before launching their collection of e-textiles and smart wearables in the market.
First, fashion brands have to deal with regulatory requirements on the manufacture and sale of electronic products (e.g. labeling, recycling, product safety, storage and transportation) in addition to those related to textile products.
In addition, the level of service and associated guarantees for consumers, as well as the management of adequate after-sales support to manage defective products, disruptions and associated returns and refunds are essential aspects to consider in creating smart clothes.
Moreover, in such a technological wearable product, data is seen as the new black. As e-textile products and smart clothing are electronic devices designed to communicate with connected devices and the user’s body, they are powered by a variety of sensors that collect the user’s personal data, including biometrics , such as body parameters during physical activity (e.g., temperature and heart rate).
To this end, fashion brands offering innovative products to European customers have to deal with the requirements laid down by the EU regulation on the protection of personal data (so-called “GDPR”) and the national adequacy laws derived therefrom. . In particular, they will carefully consider the type of data to be collected in order to comply with the principles and requirements set out in the GDPR.
For example, fashion houses only collect and process – for the time strictly necessary – the personal data necessary for the purposes of the processing in application of the principle of minimization provided for in Article 5 of the GDPR. In addition, when companies process the personal data of individuals, they are required to transparently provide them with information and details about the personal data processing carried out, guaranteeing individuals specific rights and freedoms in accordance with Articles 13-21 of the GDPR (such as, for example, the right of access to data, the right to be forgotten, the right to data portability, etc.).
In addition, when electronic textiles and smart clothing process biometric data, i.e. information resulting from specific technical processing relating to the physical, physiological or behavioral characteristics of an individual, which allow or confirm the unique identification of that individual, additional safeguards are required by applicable data protection laws. In this case, in fact, fashion brands must collect specific consent and adopt additional security measures – both from a technical and organizational point of view – to legally process the data, including the drafting of an analysis impact on data protection in accordance with Article 35 of the GDPR. In addition, possible procedures for aggregation and anonymization of data collected from smart wearables are in itself data processing activities, requiring a specific legal basis for the processing.
In addition to the general principles above, fashion houses should also consider any specific requirements under applicable national laws. In particular, fashion brands that sell their apparel globally will have the ability to deal with multiple jurisdictions with different obligations to meet, which will also have various business implications.
However, even though the use of technology in clothing has many legal obligations to comply with, people are just waiting to be plugged in, to wear fashionable clothes equipped with sensors and connected, which monitor their heartbeats , their state of health, their stress level or remember appointments, alert on backs, allow listening to music or surfing the net with a dose of style and fashion.
That’s why today brands continue to combine tech and fashion and fill their catwalks with clothes that can warm up, cool down, change color or even carve themselves, playing with the concept of wearable and smart clothes. and connected clothing.