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Emperor’s New Wearables

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Since one of our new satellite data visualizations reminded me of recent Marimekko pattern, and after I was supposed to meet their CEO Mika Ihamuotila last week I’ve given some thought to textile and fashion industries from Spime perspective.

Marimekko’s famous patterns are mostly created by venerable artists, who work for them or whose works are licensed. The creative process is painstaking as everything must fit in place what comes to past, present and future of the iconic brand. I have deep admiration for that kind of work, albeit not all their products please my eye. 

I believe that in today’s design, most original work happens digitally with powerful graphical workstations. Although computers are certainly helpful, this creative work is likely as hard as before; there’s just far more input material readily available. 

Now when I buy e.g. a Marimekko T-shirt or curtains, I pay mostly for the creative work behind the physical product, the raw materials being just a small fraction of the price tag. In addition, a complete piece of clothing is usually put together in a developing country in Asia, where labor is cheap – for now. 

While 3D printing has grabbed most attention, I believe that the Spime revolution (in textiles) will be brought upon us by local, digital and self-assembling sewing machines capable of materializing the exact fabric, pattern and design created by the likes of Marimekko. 

The merchandise will be eventually be mostly digital, connected to the customers’ lifestyle in a more and more integrated way. We have seen some baby steps with new brands like Angry Birds, but with omnipresent connectivity we’ll be seeing digital designs and brands fully permeating our physical world. The emperor’s new wearables – or at least the value of them – will finally be invisible, well, at least digital. 

//Pasi

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