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Evolution of Fashion Technology – Part 1

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

Ever wonder how complicated the process of making clothes really is? Starting from filaments, either natural (cotton, silk, wool) or synthetic (nylon, polyester) they are made into fibre that is spun to make yarn, then into thread and finally woven or knit into fabric that is cut, dyed, stitched, washed and pressed to give you the final garment that you see. Apparel manufacturing is a fascinating and complicated process that essentially spans agriculture, chemistry, engineering, production and art. Apparel has been a part of mankind’s basic needs for time immemorial. Hand-stitched garments have been dated as far back as 20,000 years ago.

Throughout history, fashion as an industry contributed greatly to the Industrial evolution of mankind. The beginning of fashion technology dates back to 1767 with the spinning jenny, followed by the power loom in 1785. The first sewing machine was invented in 1790. Steam power added muscle to the process of garment manufacturing, speeding up and making efficient the process of spinning, weaving and stitching clothes. This was the first generation of technology adoption, also commonly referred to as the Industrial Revolution.

Image courtesy: Fashion Innovation)

However, the foundations of the fashion industry from a creative point of view were first set in 1850s, nearly 60 years after, when Charles Frederick Worth began the process of creating collections based on seasons, and having them presented to clients before being openly available. He thus became known as the father of Haute Couture. It was in the vicinity of this period that most of the famous traditional fashion houses in Paris and Milan were born.

(Image courtesy: First Versions)

On the technology side, Singer was the first to come up with a commercial sewing machine in 1851, further boosting productivity in the apparel industry. The use of electricity in place of steam power ushered in the second era of Technology adoption. This era also saw leaps in other areas such as printing, dyeing, fabric and textile design, to name a few. The advent of the First and later the Second World War in a span of 3 decades saw engineering and technology contribute heavily to the development of the garment and apparel industry, with the introduction of fabrics such as nylon and polyester, coordinated assembly lines for bulk manufacturing and standardized sizing to improve efficiencies.

The adoption of technology from wartime to post-war industry in the 1950s onwards saw the industry grow at a phenomenal rate, with countries like Japan and later Korea making textiles and apparel the keystone to their industrial development.

Fashion and technology have always evolved hand-in-hand, and the next two generations of evolution only made the bond stronger. We will share more about the evolution of fashion technology as a discipline in our next post.

Fuel4Fashion is a design, branding and technology consultancy for the fashion and apparel industry. We provide consulting and advisory services across design, business and IT processes to early stage and mid-sized apparel manufacturers and brands looking to grow their business with the help of smart sustainable management practices. Visit our website here and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for regular updates.

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