The Next Black introduces us to the Brave New World of fashion, placing the garment industry in a futuristic context that most of us growing up with stores like H&M or Zara never thought would be possible. The documentary comes at the viewer in a minimalist, straight-forward and tsunami-like manner, similarly to the clothing industry itself, which holds promises of one day wearing the surface of computers- washable tech, soft tech, and silky tech – on our bodies.
The documentary opens up by explaining that textiles today still cover bodies and indicate social code. However, fusing fashion and technology introduces us to a drastic transformation in textiles- to a machine that alters the way we dress, or a factory disguised as a garment. While this idea seems too cyborg-like or OD science fiction for some, wearable tech is going to make its way to the market sooner or later, and scientists collaborating with designers are ready to tackle the breakthrough. While few interviewees are featured in this documentary, each is an expert in his or her field, and effectively hits viewers with numerous facts about the quickly transforming world of fashion.
The Next Black
Director: Phil Marthinsen
Release Date: June 3, 2014 (VOD)
The New Black brings to the table the concept of smart clothing. In Germany, Adidas has figured out how to monitor athletes’ performance using real time, equipping their clothing with heart rate sensors and working on adding respiration sensors and other features. Elite sportswear is still in the “bacteria” stage, as is most wearable tech, and is focused on developing smaller, faster, and smarter platforms. The concept of bacteria is also introduced to the viewer in a more literal and concrete way, with The New Black suggesting that innovations can take textiles to the next level by embracing nature and growing a dress in a vat of liquid using microorganisms. This process is described as being much closer to brewing beer or baking than one of fashion, but can move efficiently from the lab to the market and also reduce waste. It opens up a broad range of possibilities for what fashion will be able to do for us in the future, potentially being able to protect our skin or even provide us with nutrients.
Almost more important than introducing possibilities stemming from the fusion of science, technology, and fashion, the documentary calls out the concept of “fast fashion,” which is fashion that’s mass-produced, has a fixed price, and is standardly sized. We often blame unethical brands and polluting factories for fast fashion dominating our culture, but The Next Black stresses that the most important shift in textiles rides on the shoulders of consumers, who critically need to come to terms with their place in the garment industry. It’s important for us to be cognizant of the fact that relentless production and consumption stems from companies needing to satisfy our ever-changing desires and needs. Change derives from buying less clothing, but also from caring about the clothes we already own. By being proactive with what we wear, we become proactive with our product, and the tangible experience allows us to develop a more emotional connection with clothing, changing the future of fashion on both an intimate and a grand scale.
The Next Black gives us this sneak peak into what the future holds for fashion in a fitting minimalistic and informative manner, especially considering how dense the reality of tech innovation is for generations growing up deciphering dial-up Internet. Going from having dial-up to having potentially digital skin is not a concept that can be taken lightly, especially by an age group that is still the beta for such drastic changes. While the synthesis of textiles, innovative technology and science offers what seems to be hopeful change in the world where fashion meets futuristic function, such extreme transformations call for a large amount of unknowns. We must be on our game as consumers to avoid being passive with these shifts, in order to enter this Brave New World on alert and fully guarded.