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Interview: Ricky Hendry on Tech-Led Fashion

Smart textiles and the future of innovation within the current landscape of men's style, presented by Cole Haan ZeroGrand

by Graham Hiemstra in Tech on 23 July 2014

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While one of the most evident ways in which technology has seeped into contemporary culture is no doubt wearables; fashion and tech have—and continue—to collide, from DVF collaborating with Google Glass to 3D-printed insoles. While some products seem to be conceived purely for aesthetics, many make the uncertainty of daily life in and outside the city a little bit easier to manage by way of textiles.

Innovative examples of tech-laden materials impacting our daily lives can be found in everything from the new high-tech Cole Haan ZeroGrand brogue to ISAORA's heat-retaining, water-repelling apparel.

As leaders in the menswear community for making fashion-forward performance apparel with the latest in technology, ISAORA is always a sure shot when looking for what's happening right now—and what is to come. The brand's designer, Ricky Hendry says of the current popularity of technology in fashion, "It seems it's becoming increasingly important. It's always been there, to some extent, but it's definitely become more prevalent across the board in recent seasons. My feeling is it's a reflection of the wider trend towards an active and healthy lifestyle."

The focus with some of the most successful products is on function, rather than tech for tech's sake—supporting Hendry's belief that it's a reflection of wellbeing and lifestyle. As he explains, "We're pretty close to a new generation of smart materials that monitor, regulate, respond and adapt to environmental changes, temperature variations, vital signs, heart-rate, etc. Most of that already exists in some form, but it's going to become a lot more sophisticated and widely used. Further out it's not so hard to imagine nano materials that have the ability to change their structure, and everyday fabrics becoming part of the internet of things."

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"What we're really excited about at the moment is a class of materials know as optically modified polymers. [They] incorporate finely ground minerals with a high thermo-reactive value that convert radiant body heat into infrared energy, which is reflected back to the body and proven to increase oxygenation of cells, improve circulation, aid regeneration and recovery, and optimize blood-flow. Sounds pretty crazy I know, but it's scientifically proven to give you super powers. Or so I'm told," continues Hendry with tongue firmly in cheek.

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Regardless of season, certain climates (ahem, New York) demand a serious level of attention when dressing for the day's activities, both in terms of aesthetic appeal and material function. From lightweight shoes (like those by Cole Haan) to bodyheat-controlling apparel, it seems everybody with an interest is genuinely excited to see what's currently available in tech-conscious fashion and what is soon to come in such spaces. Hendry says, "I think it's something that's constantly evolving and evolution is natural, necessary and inevitable. With all the current excitement about wearable tech it's an area that there's going to be a lot of focus on and this will lead to innovation."

Portrait courtesy of Phil Chang, all other images courtesy of ISAORA and Cole Haan

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