Fashion, technology and sustainability: how can they become synonymous?

The encounter between fashion and innovation, in the era of Industry 4.0, is redesigning the fashion industry. Clothes equipped with smart sensors, cutting-edge fabrics with a high degree of technical performance or temperature resistance, synthetic fibers specifically studied to reproduce natural ones lowering environmental impacts: technology has become wearable and the avant-garde approach, typical of high fashion, has become the ideal laboratory to give impetus to experiments of all kinds, especially in the service of an eco-friendly breakthrough.

There are many forms of encounter between technology, digital and fashion. In 2009 a girl from Cremona, enrolled at Bocconi in Milan, had an intuition: to use a blog on the internet to try to become an example of style for anyone who visits it. With 510 € of initial investment she opened her own portal where she simply tells about her daily life, shows the clothes she wears every day, and interacts with the public. The following year she is defined, by the American magazine New York, one of the biggest street-style stars of the year; in 2011 crowned Blogger of the moment by Vogue, in 2018 she reached 10 million € in sales. Thus, Chiara Ferragni created the profession of the influencer through her blog The Blonde Salad.

Chiara Ferragni
Chiara Ferragni

Technology and fashion have come to make products that we’ve been used to seeing only in science fiction movies. Nike in 2016 produced a model of self-tie sneakers inspired by those worn by Marty McFly in Back to the Future, played by Michael J. Fox. Currently, the sneakers can be purchased online at a price ranging between 30,000 and 40,000 €. Furthermore, the designer Hussein Chalayan has created a dress that, thanks to a series of technological devices connected to motion sensors, adapts completely to the body of the wearer, allowing to change the shape, width and length of it.

Nike Air Mag
Nike Air Mag

Even the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), today, has several programs and disciplines that revolve around the study of weareable computing and collaboration between designers, stylists and scientists to rethink the way we wear technology: the potential given by wearing technology is, in fact, enormous. One example is SoundShirt, the t-shirt that vibrates in time and allows the deaf to hear music on their skin. Or clothes that, by incorporating photovoltaic sensors, allow you to recharge your devices.

But innovation does not only concern the product but also, and above all, the production process and the user experience of the end consumer.

In production, the most recent technologies that are being introduced into the processes are laser cutting and 3D printing: cutting, engraving and shaping with the utmost precision any type of fabric and in order to create pieces that are completely customizable to the needs and shapes of the wearer. The user experience of the final consumer is central to these processes of contamination that we could call fashion tech. The YOOXMIRROR project by YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP, aims to meet one of the primary needs of its customers. Certainly, one of the first reasons to cancel or postpone the online purchase of a piece of clothing is the uncertainty related to various factors such as materials, fit and size. Thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence, YOOX has recreated, through a virtual styling application on smartphones, the moment of the fitting in the fitting room of the physical store. Although it is obviously impossible to replicate the sensory experience of a garment, the famous e-commerce company wanted to involve customers in a playful way, giving them the opportunity to try on and combine more than 50,000 garments in the catalog and share their virtual outfit online.


As we said at the beginning, fashion must have sustainability as one of its priorities: clothing is by far the category of products we wear for many hours every day, so it is essential to understand and improve its impact on our planet.

The wide use of synthetic fibers in the clothing industry is becoming a problem with regard to the disposal of old or unused garments: for this reason, reuse, recycling and circularity are becoming more and more popular in the sector.

YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP is also proving to be particularly active in the area of sustainability with a project that will start this year. The aim is to implement the digital identity of garments from all of the group’s collections so that customers can take advantage of care and repair services for the pieces they have purchased, in order to extend their life-cycle and facilitate their resale or recycling. The Digital ID initiative is part of the 10-year CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) strategy called Infinity, which aims to improve product circularity flows in the fashion and luxury industry. Each garment will be equipped with a scannable QR Code that uniquely identifies it, tracing its history starting from the origin of the materials it is made from, passing through their processing and recording the steps of the garment in the processes of resale, reuse and recycling.

Even the world of finance is beginning to look with interest at sustainability in the fashion industry. In January, Wall Street listed Poshmark, a Californian platform specialized in online resale of second-hand clothing with a turnover of 192 million $, which managed to raise 277.2 million $. In addition, there is a Dow Jones Index that brings together the companies that excel most in terms of sustainability, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI). In the textiles, clothing and luxury goods industries, the top spot has been occupied for two consecutive years by the Italian company Moncler, which has secured the role of industry leader. This testifies the fact that investors are also adjusting to new standards when evaluating their investment options, one of which is undoubtedly sustainability.

One last piece of interesting news concerns an element of clothing whose life span is incredibly short: the label. The Italian Bulgarelli Production of Carpi (Modena), specialized in the production of labels for the high-end fashion industry, is the only company in the world in its sector to have obtained a Carbon Positive certification, going beyond and improving the concept of zero impact. Bulgarelli’s production is in fact able to absorb more CO2 from the environment than it produces, benefiting the ecosystem by absorbing 300 tons of carbon dioxide every year.

Subscribe to our newsletter to review the themes of Italian Tech Speak and stay updated on technology topics: link

Share this article