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Uniqlo unveils live horizontal knitting machine at Paris exhibition

Uniqlo
Uniqlo

Uniqlo has unveiled an exhibition in Paris today, featuring a giant horizontal knitting machine, which will knit Uniqlo sweaters in front of a live audience.

Called “The Art and Science of LifeWear”, the show aims to tell the story of the textile technology behind the brand.

Held at the Jeu de Paume museum, visitors will also be able to follow the production journey of a typical Uniqlo knitwear product through a series of photographs. The show has fittingly opened just one day after the beginning of Paris Fashion Week.

At the exhibition’s opening, the brand’s founder and president, Tadashi Yanai, talked to the founding principles of the company. “Simple yet functional, high-quality and durable clothes, that’s what we aspire to offer,” he told WWD.

Uniqlo's Horizontal Knitwear Machine
Uniqlo’s Horizontal Knitwear Machine

The machine itself is a unique piece of storytelling of Uniqlo’s history. Established in 1962 by the company Shima Seiki, which works with Uniqlo for all its knitwear production, it innovated knitwear production by creating a machine that worked in a similar fashion to a 3D printer.

A company representative says the machine reduces production waste: “The horizontal knitting machine starts with one string of yarn to create the product. It does not require any different patterns, therefore there is no waste at all.”

This ties in with Uniqlo’s sustainability pledge, to which Yanai added: “Sustainability is everything. This is the most important value for mankind and that’s what we like to keep implementing through our clothing business and we are very, very serious about changing clothes, changing conventional wisdom and changing the world.”

At the end of the exhibition, visitors are able to purchase travel-themed sweaters via the museum shop. A questionnaire poses them the question: “Did this exhibition make you want to buy Uniqlo knitwear?”

The exhibition runs until Saturday, September 29.

How are you thinking about textile innovation and sustainability? We’re all about helping you build strategic integrations. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

 

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business digital snippets e-commerce film mobile product social media Startups sustainability technology

What you missed: Burberry’s ARkit, AI transforming Shop Direct, Stella McCartney and The RealReal

Burberry's new ARkit integration
Burberry’s new ARkit integration

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news over the past fortnight.


TOP STORIES
  • Burberry turns to Apple for augmented-reality fashion app [Bloomberg]
  • AI will transform every retailer, says Shop Direct boss [Drapers]
  • Stella McCartney wants you to resell her goods in new partnership with The RealReal [Fashionista]
  • Could kelp be the future of sustainable fashion? [Observer]

BUSINESS
  • Direct to consumer brands vs commodities: who will prevail? [LooseThreads]
  • Decoding Chanel’s Gen-Z strategy [BoF]
  • More luxury stores closed in China over the last year than in any other country [Jing Daily]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Target will begin incorporating Pinterest’s Lens visual search technology [AdWeek]
  • John Lewis pioneers Facebook’s 360 shoppable ad [Campaign]
  • Dior debuts Weibo story, stays in lead with Chinese millennials [Jing Daily]
  • Inside Birchbox’s 40-person social media war room [Glossy]
  • Snapchat debuts Sponsored 3D World Lenses at Advertising Week New York [The Drum]

MARKETING
  • Gant to launch ‘Couple Thinkers’ TV show on YouTube [Fashion Network]
  • Nas brings street cred to effortlessly cool animated ads for Timberland [AdWeek]
  • Why United Colors of Benetton is parting with catwalk convention to showcase its brand DNA [The Drum]
  • Fashion brands still succumbing to the high-priced artsy film [Glossy]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Patagonia has launched its own online thrift store [PSFK]
  • New Macy’s loyalty program nudges customers to spend more [Retail Dive]
  • Uniqlo’s retail empire embarks on a digital revolution [Nikkei]

TECHNOLOGY
  • AR is now a must-have in retail [Business Insider]
  • A way to repeatedly recycle polyester has just been discovered [Eco-Business]
  • These high-tech knitting machines will soon be making car parts [Bloomberg]
  • Fashion’s future may rest on an old technology: glue [Fast Company]
  • Modiface is becoming the go-to provider of augmented reality to beauty brands [Glossy]

PRODUCT
  • Google and Levi’s ‘connected’ jacket is now on sale [TechCrunch]
  • To make a new kind of shoe, adidas had to change everything [Wired]
  • How these female engineers reinvented the bra [Fast Company]

START-UPS
  • With lab-grown leather, Modern Meadow is engineering a fashion revolution [BoF]
  • Amazon has acquired 3D body model startup, Body Labs, for $50M-$70M [TechCrunch]
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Unmade’s knitting tech brings one-of-a-kind designer pieces to Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony and UMD by Unmade
Opening Ceremony and UMD by Unmade

There’s nothing quite like a personal gift for the holiday season. In fashion, that usually refers to monogramming – the odd initials on a scarf or a handbag, even some unique embellishments on footwear or denim. Standard protocol is for the base of the design to be entirely controlled, while the customised part is merely a miniature accent on top.

Turn to London-based start-up Unmade, however, and what we’re talking about is knitwear that the user can manipulate until it really suits what they’re looking for. Indeed, the name “Unmade” comes from the fact no garment is finished until you, the shopper, come and complete it, as previously covered.

Now, the team is bringing that concept to the US (and beyond) with a unique collaboration with Opening Ceremony. ‘Opening Ceremony and UMD by Unmade‘, as it’s called, is a customisable capsule collection available exclusively on e-commerce platform, Farfetch.

What that means, in a literal sense, is sweaters and accessories that can be adjusted merely with the click of a mouse to suit individual style. Users can drag the tromp l’oeil of traditional knit motifs into all sorts of variations, also selecting the colours they like and adding original, varsity-inspired monogram letters alongside. With Farfetch as the host platform, the resulting designs are also shoppable worldwide.

On the backend, that is of course incredibly complicated – the endless variations of the designs means producing such knitwear on-demand isn’t possible in the traditional way, where machines do mass runs of the same pieces. Unmade’s technology however, transforms each choice into a back-end automation of industrial knitting machines, so individual products are manufactured for the same unit cost and speed as mass production. This has been referred to previously as a knitting version of 3D printing – the info goes in, and the different knitwear comes out.

Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, founders of Opening Ceremony, said: “We are huge supporters of companies that use technologies in interesting ways to elevate fashion, and when we learnt about Unmade, we felt an instant connection.”

I sat down with Ben Alun-Jones, co-founder and creative director of Unmade, to find out more. Head over to Forbes to read the full interview.

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Editor's pick Startups sustainability technology

Unmade: the London start-up ‘publishing’ clothing on-demand

Unmade

For those in London this festive season, there’s a pop-up shop in Covent Garden worth taking the time to visit. Unmade, as it’s called, is tucked down an unimposing side street off the main piazza. Away from the street entertainers and busy Christmas shoppers, it’s a minimal showcase of a knitwear brand currently considered one of London’s most disruptive start-ups.

Sweaters, scarves and a full-sized industrial knitting machine are on display. You can’t walk away with an item there and then, but you can use iPads to design your own and have it made especially for you thereafter.

And that’s the USP. The name “Unmade” comes from the fact no garment is finished until you, the shopper, come and complete it.

Born through frustration at the fashion industry’s stagnant approach to mass-consumption, it’s about bespoke, personalised knitwear, produced on-demand, yet at an industrial scale. Think of it as a 3D printer for fashion, yet using the same machines that make up the $200bn knitwear market worldwide.

Head on over to Forbes to read my interview with co-founder Ben Alun-Jones.

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Editor's pick technology

10 wearable tech gifts for the fashionistas in your life

wearabletech_GIFTGUIDE

If the new Hermès Apple Watch is a little out of price range, but you’re after something more than the standard fitness band to fulfill your wearable tech gift giving quest this holiday, look no further…

In honour of those thinking about fashion and not just function, our Forbes round-up of 10 wearables now on the market, is well worth checking out. Ranging from Everpurse x Kate Spade New York, to Altruis, The Unseen and Topshop x bPay, they not only do neat things like pay for products or help charge your other devices, but look pretty good too. There’s also Unmade, Gemio, Ringly, Away, Misfit x BaubleBar and Love & Robots.

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social media

Warehouse fans go #knitbombing in recent social campaign

Warehouse_knitbombing1

As mentioned in a recent post about the #topmansprayonjeans campaign, there’s a big focus on user-generated content being seen from a multitude of retailers of late.

One of the others referenced in that same story was Warehouse. The UK retailer launched a campaign in late September focused on #knitbombing, a street art craze involving knitted items being placed to decorate public spaces – think trees, bollards even bikes. It’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s one that hasn’t been claimed by a fashion brand before (to my knowledge).

In a nice example of physical meets digital, Warehouse invited its followers to snap photos of their knit-bombing attempts and upload them to Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag. The best would go on to win a £250 gift card.

To help facilitate the campaign, it offered shoppers free knit-bombing kits in-store when they bought certain knitwear items. It also posted a series of inspirational woolly shots of its own across its Facebook and Pinterest pages (a couple of which are above and below).

Read its blogpost about the initiative: “Knit-bombing groups have been springing up everywhere – warming the soul of grey urban spaces with colourful knitted artwork or ‘graffitti’. Obviously we had to share this amazing phenomenon with you.” It also called for participants to “flex some creative muscle; remember the city is your playground.”

According to @Editd, the campaign saw Warehouse’s fanbase grow 10%.

Warehouse_knitbombing2 Warehouse_knitbombing3 Warehouse_knitbombing4