Design innovation in the fashion industry.

  • Mocker, M. and Ross, J.W. (2017) The Problem with Product Proliferation. Harvard Business Review, May-June pp. 105-110


The first article interprets the problems and difficulties for customers and employees when product’s excessive innovation causes business complexity. In consequence, the innovation does more harm than good to the brand. There are three principles to avoid this problem, which are “focus on product integration, not variety”, “make sure innovators work closely with operational employees” and “innovate for a purpose”(Mocker and Rose, 2017, pp. 105-110).


The same is true to fashion. Fashion industry does need responsible innovation, rather than too much innovation.


As Mocker and rose’s advice saying, “commit to a vision to direct innovation” (2017, p. 109) is one of the key to successful innovation. An example of this principle in fashion is given below:

Jiang Qiong’er (chief executive, creative director and part owner of Shang Xia – the luxury lifestyle brand she developed in collaboration with Hermès) said, “the best protection for the preservation of craftsmanship is innovation.” A clear mission inspired her and enabled her to innovate the traditional materials for a purpose, which was to interpret preservation through contemporary design and innovation. (Mellery-Pratt, 2015)


What does “too much innovation” mean? According to Mocker and Rose(2017), it refers to the innovations that generate little value and even add complexity to the company’s business. While in the fashion industry, “too much innovation” can be lack of consideration in cultural appropriation, short of supporting systems, or unable to control its environmental cost and so on. Additionally, Simmel argues that the lack of practical use is part of the definition of fashion, as “Fashion satisfies the need of differentiation because fashion differ for different classes – the fashion of the upper stratum of society are never identical with those of the lower…” (Simmel, 1957, p. 543) Thus, excessive innovation will happen when it appears to a wrong target groups. For example, in the context of sustainability, proper innovations should consider about respecting the cultural and environment, managing ethics and protecting workers’ rights and welfare (Amed, 2016).


Other than that, “Technology and fashion is a perfect match.” (Quinn, 2012, p.12) They are closely connected and interact with each other in many aspects. More recently it is thought that some changes have been brought to the fashion design field by the scientific and technological innovation. And more designers start to view digital techniques as an aid that works parallel with some conventional methods of making. On one level, it is possible to see that these technologies enable the designers to produce new works that were previously impracticable, extremely difficult or basically unable to produce by hands with traditional approaches and materials.

Another example given is the Iranian designer Behnaz Farahi’s “Caress of The Gaze” collection (see figure. 1), which contains a 3-D printed garment that can be driven by eyes. What if our garments can recognize other people’s gaze and respond to that? She tried to give her answer through the “Caress of The Gaze”, as it is able to detect the gaze, and respond in the form of waving movement like breathing. To achieve this, she has put many tiny cameras in the 3D-print garment to make it work accurately. By using the image perception and microcontroller technology. The garment can even detect others’ age, gender, and position (see figure. 2).


Figure. 2

“Things make people just as much as people make things.” (Miller, 2010, p.135) The garment and the wearer interact with each other – the gaze influences the textiles, at the same time, the movement of textiles can affect the wearer’s or the observer’s mood in return. It is more like a breathing second-layer skin. (Farahi, 2015)

It is true to argue that too much innovation can be the deficiencies in the fashion industry, especially in the production procedure and material performance. But new digital technologies are still a potential development direction in the field of customized fashion and intimately related to people’s body and emotions.

This is closely related to our MFP project which is about ‘Technology meets Fashion’. We should also consider well about how to properly develpe the chosen tech brand into fashion world in the aspects mentioned above.



Videos about Iris Van Herpen’s innovative designs:



Amed,I.(2016) (Accessed: 24 February 2018)

Farahi, B. (2015) Caress of the Gaze. Available at: (Accessed: 17 February 2018).

Mellery-Pratt, R. (2015) (Accessed: 24 February 2018)

Miller, D. (2010) Stuff. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Quinn, B. (2012). Fashion Futures. 1st (ed). London: Merrell.

Simmel, G. (1957) ‘Fashion’, American Journal of Sociology, 62(6), pp. 541-558


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  1. Posted 28th February 2018 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    I am impressed about the designer, Behnaz Farahi and the collection of her you have mentioned. Her collection truly stands for the cultural background she is coming from, a male dominated society and captivated women. It is sad to know the conditions where she is coming from to end up with this collection. I must again say she did a great work. I cannot really see women wearing this in public right now, but for the future this could be developed and used for different purposes.
    Regarding our MFP project, as we are thinking about producing tech-garments which could enhance the feeling of music and the beat, we can try to understand the science and technology behind Behnaz Farahi’s garment and use it as an inspiration.

    • Posted 28th February 2018 at 12:48 am | Permalink

      Yes, I think one of the meanings of a responsible innovation is to provide consumer with a functional design that can contribute to the social problem. But the example given do need further development to be widely adopted.

  2. Posted 28th February 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Technology innovation in the fashion industry is getting popular these years, and it is a good thing to see that many fashion company to develop their business by adopting technology innovation. However, it is quite hard to achieve the success. The general public may hard to get access to such fashion tech innovation and it still needs to have a long way to go.
    The example of “Cares the Gaze” collection is really inspiring, I watch the video of this collection and it really amazed me. This design seems to make clothing has vitality. It also can inspire us to make innovation in our Beats project, as we try to combine music with different sensory with the garment and accessories.

  3. Posted 28th February 2018 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    I really like your quote from Miller, “Things make people just as much as people make things.” and the idea of interaction between garments and wearers. It will be innovative if we apply it into our project.

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