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Posted by HughB on August 3rd, 2018


Where fashion lies, people go. And they do not just go, they do with all pangs and pageantry, jetting around the world to arrive in the finest style possible. Fashion and the younger generation are like moth and fire, and the first basic instinct of many high school kids looking to work in the fashion industry is to opt out of all STEM subjects.

Such decision is bad, and I have chosen to explain some of the reasons why the fashion industry’s future hangs on the shoulder of STEM skills.

Perhaps we should dig deep beneath the facades of glamour to understand that the fashion space is witnessing disruptive changes as technology advances more rapidly. To put it in retrospect, some two to three decades ago, it is not possible that people watch runaway shows on YouTube from Smartphones, use Google to find an online mart to order a dress, pay for it using PayPal, have it delivered at their doorsteps and then show the world a selfie of his/herself wearing the dress on Snapchat or WhatsApp. These are services made possible by STEM.

In terms of material, materials that were a mere theory as of two or three decades ago are now prevalent across the world, so much you can now get an anti-bacterial fabric with silver nano-whisker coating. To watch the products coming out of footwear companies in modern times, you see shoes seeming out of a science fiction attesting to the precise cutting edge of science and technology. With artificial intelligence expanding boundaries, as seen in the development of temperature control clothes, more is to come. Who cares for a sweater when there is a jacket that handles heat or cold?

Perhaps the time to visit to understand STEM’s important to fashion was 2011, when Iris Van Herpen guest membered at La Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, changing Paris High Fashion forever. It should be noted that Van Herpen is a liberal fashion designer that uses 3D printed high tech materials like custom developed thermoplastics, laser cutters, and magnetic fabrics. Van Herpen arrived at the fashion scene with the STEM revolution and got embraced by the oldest establishment as ‘Haute Couture.’ Already thinking about taking those STEM courses despite being a fashion freak?

There’s more.

Apart from the designs and glamour, fashion requires business skills, art, science and technology and these skills require a polymath to master. It is glaring that STEM skills are changing the manners of doing business, rendering business survival to be more competitive than before. This is a compelling reason enough to learn STEM skills. You'll require some stats and calculus assistance at first but that's what every motivated individual can learn in 3-5 months.

Running a fashion business means you’d probably need a business loan, which requires you justifying your expenditures and income before being secured. Convincing the people in control of money requires sound financial reasoning, which requires mathematics to be well understood and developed. You can’t calculate Rates of return, analyze market statistic or explain a feasibility curve without the knowledge of mathematics. It is with mathematics that you will develop the correct and proper communication means of presenting your ideas to inventors and investors alike.

As a potential fashion designer studying fashion in college, you need material science to understand the nature and characteristic of fabrics. It does not matter if the syllabus at high school is advanced in textile studies as there would certainly be new and more technologically advanced materials around by the time you are in college. A pre-knowledge in physics and chemistry would allow you to understand more, on a deeper level, the principles of new materials science. You’d have learned about measurements and units, lab protocols and accurate recording of experiments if you take physics and chemistry in high school and these are what you need to work with dyes and pigments.

When you attempt to change the color of textile with dyes, it’s called Carbon chemistry, and this requires altering the pH level of the fabric. With the pH level altered, the parts of the dye molecules responsible for birthing colors are easily embedded into the fabric. Understanding pH scale and the color changing molecular chromophores is STEM.

Mathematics Influences Creativity.

When designer Dai Fujiwara worked with 1982 Field Medal in mathematics winners, William Thurston, to develop radically unique garments using the ideas from geometry and topology, they pushed the boundary of creativity. Not done, Fujiwara again met with computer-scientist, Jun Mitanj to develop a folding algorithm for creating innovative clothing, which was showed in his 1325 collections.

For designers with social sensitivity, STEM skills are an essential requirement in learning about environmental sustainability. We have moved from seasonal fashion to having new designs hitting stores weeks in and out such that fashion companies are now being criticized for exploiting worker and being unsustainable. Understanding the complex nature of fashion industry sustainability require a basal comprehension of the fundamental sciences, business methods and economic behavior of the fashion industry concerning their accompanying environmental impacts.

In a time when the fashion industry is witnessing an influx of fake unsustainable marketing with no scientific source, you need STEM skill to adapt to this complex issues and make choices for yourself. While we cannot predict and are yet to witness the future of science, it is nonetheless essential for budding fashion designers to have STEM skills if they desire to be flexible, adaptable and smart.

Also See: Stem Skills, Fashion Industry, Van Herpen, Stem Subjects, Stem, Fashion, Skills

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