TREND: Well Fashion—Way Beyond Athleisure

Smart Clothes That Actively Boost Health & Wellbeing

Clothes are pressed against our bodies all day, but aside from keep-me-warm or cover-me-up functionality, they’ve been rather “dumb.” No longer; a revolution in smart materials is doing what makes nothing but sense: clothing that optimizes your wellbeing while you wear it. A dizzying array of new technologies—from Internet-of-Things hardware/software to body-mapping technologies—mean futuristic fashion can embed numerous wellness benefits, such as clothes that adapt to all kinds of environmental and bodily changes (heat, cold, air flow, UV rays, etc.). But the trend spans much more than environmental response clothing. An era of “active well clothing” that is connected, intelligent and healing is rising: from antibacterial clothes that clean themselves to clothes that can heal or moisturize your body to clothes that express your mood.

Some of these high-tech concepts give new meaning to the idea of “comfortable clothes.” A collaboration between Zaha Hadid Design and Swiss tech-sports brand Odlo offers base layer leggings and tops that deploy seamless knit technology and organic body mapping to control the flow of air around the body and adapt to your breathing and movement, like a second skin. Ministry of Supply, brainchild of MIT-schooled engineers, has a mission of using tech to make clothes smarter and more comfortable, and their new, wirelessly-charged smart jacket automatically adjusts the temp based on the weather, your body temp, and how much you are moving—and is activated by a phone app or smart assistant, such as Alexa. Clothing brand Become uses techwear fabrics to help menopausal women manage hot flashes and night sweats.

There are clothes that help our bodies heal and sleep better. Under Armour’s Athlete Recovery Sleepwear (created with quarterback Tom Brady) enmeshes bioceramic technology into pajamas that absorb infrared wavelengths emitted by the body to reflect them back as far infrared energy, to help the body recover faster and sleep better. Start-up Lumiton has just created a sunlight-activated Wear Healthy line powered by laser technology that is designed to deliver multiple wellness benefits: The UV-protecting fabrics are infused with laser dyes that get energized with sunlight to produce red and near-infrared light, whose wavelengths, they argue, increase collagen and muscle growth and reduce pain/inflammation. For intense sports, Aexos has created garments that use biomapping and new materials that protect during impact to reduce whiplash and concussion (Hello, football world). For instance, its Halo shirt has a high collar that remains soft and flexible normally but stiffens and protects on impact. Think how an adaption of this tech could help bone-fragile elderly people (all those broken hips), providing stiffening, protecting clothing for hard falls.

If the world is mad for collagen as an ingestible beauty supplement, now wearable collagen is a thing. Tech sportswear brand Buki has released a chemical-free Collagen Collection, which embeds collagen into fabrics to provide all-day moisturizing, and the effect never wears out because the fabric is made of the protein. And new fabrics are being crafted interweaving other proteins, such as milk.

Beyond the futuristic, another trend is weaving “ancient wellness” healing and herbal properties into fabrics and clothing collections. Eco-chic Australian label Kitx uses Ayurvedic recipes to dye their collection and to infuse them with antibacterial properties; menswear line Emily Bode creates aromatic textiles suffused with Indian medicinal plants (such as turmeric, neem and basil). And if we had Earth Shoes in the 70s, trendy footwear designer Astara has essentially created earthing shoes, using crystals, such as black onyx and blue apatite, so that the shoes resonate at the same vibration as Earth’s magnetic field (7.83 hertz), and you feel like you’re walking barefoot on grass or sand.

Another trend: high-tech clothes that allow you to express yourself—or what you might call mood clothing. University of Central Florida scientists have created a color-adaptive material (ChroMorphous) that lets wearers control the color and pattern of their clothes using an app; India-based Broadcast Wearables has created a programmable t-shirt called Sygnal that allows people to change designs and slogans with a tap on the logo.

Forecasting The Future

  • The focus of “well” clothing has rightly been on sustainability, but increasingly, clothing that optimizes our health wellbeing in real-time will make headlines.
  • The scientific breakthroughs for smart, connected clothes are coming fast, with fabrics that can store and generate energy without clunky power cells/batteries.
  • More clothing will function like wearable skin care, infused with healthy compounds such as collagen, Indian medicinal plants, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.


This is an excerpt from the TRENDIUM, a bi-weekly communication exploring the wellness trends identified in the Global Wellness Trends Reports.
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