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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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Editor's pick product Startups technology

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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e-commerce social media Startups technology

Digital snippets: Breaking up with the Apple Watch, NY or London as fashion-tech capital, Ted Baker opens virtual store

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech…

Applewatch

  • Vanessa Friedman: Why I’m breaking up with the Apple Watch [NY Times]
  • New York vs London: which is the world’s fashion-tech capital? [BoF]
  • Ted Baker experiments with virtual reality as digital concept store opens in Shoreditch [The Drum]
  • Net-A-Porter moves into profit after a year of digital innovation [Internet Retailing]
  • Bonobos profiting from surge in online menswear sales [The Street]
  • Avon Ladies learn to tweet, embrace e-commerce [Digiday]
  • Knyttan, a customisable knitwear start-up, gets investors’ seal of approval [Fashionista]
  • Why Amazon’s drone delivery is growing trickier [CNBC]
  • 3-D printing will fix the way we order shoe sizes [PSFK]
  • This high-tech hijab will literally make Muslim women cooler [BuzzFeed]
  • Why ‘buy’ buttons will pose big Challenges for Google, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter [re/code]
  • Real-time strategies essential element of retail rehaul: report [Luxury Daily]
  • ShopStyle banks on bloggers, relaunches influencer network [WWD]
  • How a mole in the tech sector is helping shape the look of ‘Silicon Valley’s’ women [LA Times]
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Blocks technology

Brain scan knitwear designer launches campaign starring women of tech, media, medicine and more

kathrynparsons__brookeroberts

Brooke Roberts, a digital knitwear designer inspired by scan images of the brain and sciences, is promoting her spring/summer 2015 collection with a campaign featuring leading women from the fields of tech, business, media and medicine.

The Super Women campaign, as it’s called, aims to “highlight the [collection’s] fusion of science, technology and fashion”.

It stars 12 pioneering names, including Jemima Kiss, technology editor at The Guardian; Olivia Solon, technology editor at The Daily Mirror; Rachel Bremer, EMEA communications director at Twitter; Kate Russell, technology reporter and author; Reshma Sohoni, founder & partner of Seedcamp; Dr Laura-Ann McGill, cardiologist; Kathryn Parsons, co-founder and co-CEO of Decoded; Sue Walter, CEO of The Hospital Club; Jude Ower, founder and CEO of Playmob; Elizabeth Varley, founder and CEO of TechHub; Amalia Agathou, program leader at London College of Fashion; as well as Roberts herself.

Each appears in a triptych portrait captured by photographer Philip Meech, as well as in a behind-the-scenes film (as above) that includes an interview with them about their work and their involvement with Roberts.

“We’re seeing some really interesting start-ups come up and I think Brooke is just one of a very exciting and very London trend,” says Kiss of The Guardian.

Roberts continues to work as a diagnostic radiographer within the NHS. She previously gave a TED talk explaining how she combines radiography and knitwear design in her clothing range, as below. The full campaign can be seen via Roberts’ website.

jemimakiss_brookeroberts katerussell_brookeroberts rachelbremer_brookeroberts oliviasolon__brookeroberts