The future of clothing is more than just the future of clothing. There is social impact of who makes the clothing, under what conditions, how much money do they make, and what happens to the makers of clothing.
In 1911 in my local home area of New York City there was a fire that killed 146 people. It was at a garment factory – two are known to have been 14-year-old girls. This was a culture changing event – inflaming needs for unions, worker safety, and city, state and federal standards for safety in the work place.
It seems, though, that lessons of garment workers, fires, standards, wages, and safety are not worldwide. Defying all rules for the dispersal of information and geography, in 2012 in Bangladesh killed 117 people and over 200 people injured. The company produced clothes for lots of different organizations that United States consumers purchase.
Once again, in order to avoid the flames people jumped from the building rather than burn to death.
On 24 April 2013 a building housing multiple clothing manufacturers collapsed killing 1100 workers and injuring 2000 others.
The garment making market has been known for ages for “sweatshops” oriented toward clothing manufacture. Associated with horrible working conditions, low pay, no benefits, and easily threatened workers by management – this practice has not disappeared over time. In fact, as demand for goods (and low prices) has continued the practice has simply become more widespread.
Technology is the answer. This article indicates that 3D printing may offer clothing. It shows a few examples. However; based on the sheer manufacturing output 3D printing would have to vastly improve before it would replace much of the garment manufacturing throughput. Still, it is out there. It is happening. It has created real clothing. Perhaps one day it will be part of the answer to poor labor conditions in the garment industry.
There is automation in the garment manufacture industry. These robots might also be part of the answer. Still, though, the reason people are still making clothing is because clothing is tough to deal with – floppy, with lots of curves cut in to it – and it is hard to cut cloth without some tension. This technology solves the floppy unpredictable nature of clothing by making the cloth stiff.
There is some concern about job losses due to automation, but in this case, let the jobs go. No one needs to be treated like cogs in a machine, with no healthcare, and no future.
So, the future of clothing, involves not just the future of clothes and their manufacture, but the jobs, how people are treated and hopefully the end of the “sweatshop”.