Blog: Michelle RussellApparel firms tap into growing wearable tech market

Michelle Russell | 24 March 2015

Smart fabrics and wearable technology go hand in hand. And with strong growth forecast over the coming years, it's no wonder fashion and software companies are developing new products to tap into the market.

Some of the latest textile and garment innovations and developments on display at the recent Wearable Technology Show in London ranged from a sock that detects early heart failure, to a smart shirt that measures biometric data with medical precision.

Nike, an early wearable technology pioneer, last week shifted its focus to innovation in sustainability with the launch of its second ColorDry waterless dyed garment. The US sporting goods giant unveiled a tennis polo shirt dyed using CO2 instead of water - a process that also saves energy and eliminates the need for added chemicals.

Nike followed this with the publication of its third-quarter results, which beat analyst expectations. On the firm's earnings call, CFO Don Blair reiterated the company's commitment to investing money and resources in its supply chain to increase speed to market, and ensuring it stays ahead on innovation.

From one sporting giant to another, just-style spoke with Frank Henke, the global director of social and environmental affairs for Adidas Group. He talked about the company having faced a moving target since it launched its first sustainability programmes some 15 to 20 years ago - and how that target is today moving faster than ever.

Sustainability in cotton, in particular, was a topic discussed by a number of executives at a forum in London last week thataimed to address the issue of sourcing the fibre in a more sustainable way. While many are already working to address this challenge, it seems there is much more still to be done.

Meanwhile, the past year has seen value retailer C&A confront head-on the challenge of delivering consistent fit across key categories such as lingerie, trousers and denim. A complete overhaul of its approach is now seen as the precursor to building market share, sales, brand loyalty and a multi-channel push.

The threat of potential disruption as supply chains become increasingly complex is the top concern for manufacturing businesses, a new survey suggests - with natural disasters seen as the greatest threat to apparel sourcing.

Other news included the publication of a year-long undercover investigation by Arabic-language news network Al Jazeera, which claimed factories across China are still using the sandblasting process in jeans production. American Eagle Outfitters and Abercrombie & Fitch, both named in the investigation, have denied sourcing from the factory.

Also, less than a year after a two-week long strike at Chinese footwear manufacturer Yue Yuen, as many as 5,000 workers are said to be taking part in a new round of industrial action over proposed production changes.

And finally, the spotlight will be on Prime Source Forum this week, which takes place in Hong Kong, featuring senior executives from VF Corp, PVH, Under Armour, New Balance, Adidas and TAL Apparel. Discussion will be around sourcing in Africa, the impact of the changing global retailing landscape, environmental issues, and materials innovation.

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