Finnish Textile and Fashion arranged a seminar about women +45 and smart textiles together with Happy Textiles, Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Center of Finland. This meetup was the second part of the series about smart textiles. Read our blog on the last discussion we had in April.
What are women + 45 like in perspective of mega trends?
Pirjo Ekman, the managing director of Inspirans, presented insights how mega trends appear in consuming. In their study they have recognized six mega trends:
- Demographic changes
- Sustainability, climate change
- Technological development, digitalization
- Crisis of democracy
Other strong trends:
- Convenience and easiness
- Health and wellbeing
- Change of rhythms
At the moment, there are approximately 1,3 million women over 45 in Finland and their relative share of the population is growing. Compared with their younger sisters living in the so called slavery phase, they are now enjoying freedom in their lives. Being more free from family duties, their life style and values are gradually changing. Having new challenges at work, they want to invest on comfort, convenience and easiness in their personal daily life. Digitalization is enabling convenience in several ways. Women 0ver 45 are making new preferences in food, housework, living, moving and travelling.
Wellbeing is a strong trend that is changing rapidly. Things are being categorized as good or bad, and it is determining the consuming decisions, as one seeks for good and tries to avoid bad. But what is good today, can turn into bad tomorrow. As healthy body and mind are considered extremely important, women +45 are willing to invest a lot of money into wellbeing.
Urbanization has been a mega trend for long, and the urbanization pace is increasing. The urban mindset and lifestyle are evolving and changing, as the countryside life is being adopted to the cities. Building green spaces, community gardens and marketplaces, bring the countryside to the urban environment. The difference between urban and rural areas is getting more flexible. Earlier countryside used to be the ideal landscape, but not anymore as there are increasing problems like agricultural pollution. On the other hand, urban cities stand for good things like tolerance and more advanced possibilities for recycling and sharing.
Sustainability is a new motive structure to make good choices. There are many phenomena like non-plastic movement, carbon footprint and zero waste that have an impact on people’s choices all over the world. For example in food industry, suddenly ugly has become desirable, as perfection refers to mass production. Experiences are a strong trend, as women over 45 tend to prefer life experiences from material things. Having experienced that private ownership can be a burden, they don’t find it so desirable anymore. Sharing economy is increasing in multiple aspects like in dwelling, transportation and clothing.
“All in all, women over 45 are the driving force in these mega trends. It is not the youth anymore, as we used to think. In general, they could be described as a good and responsible group as they speak for reducing of consumption, recycling and sustainability in general. They have a lot of resources, wisdom and compassion” says Pirjo Ekman.
Good user experience brings added value
When exploring women’s expectations for smart textiles, it is important to consider the user experience. According to Teija Vainio, fellow researcher at Aalto University, user experience is the quality of experience a person has when interacting with a specific design. Nowadays, the product design process of smart textiles is mainly technology driven, but the trend is moving to experience driven. The starting point is a design process based on positive psychology that aims for pleasure, personal significance and virtue.
Pleasure can be felt in the details of the textile like in the pattern or embroidery. Personal significance can arise from the possibility to follow and monitor how personal goals have been reached. Virtue can be seen in the possibilities of sustainable materials and recycling.
Wearables challenge the existing value chains and business models
Smart textiles have three different generations in their evolution; in the first phase the electronic components have been attached to the garment. Later, the technology has been integrated into the fabric structure, and in the third generation the components have been integrated to the material fiber.
“The wearables ecosystem differs a lot from the traditional textile industry value chain, and therefore wearables mean a remarkable change for business models, design and production” explains Satu-Marja Mäkelä, Senior Researcher at VTT Technical Research Center of Finland.
In the diverse business model for wearables, there are multiple actors like component vendors, integrators, test houses, network providers, product solutions, service providers and distributors. It will be interesting to see, if there will spring up new distributions channels for smart textiles.
There are various elements to be considered when creating a functional smart clothing service. The maintenance, constant developing and scalability to other systems form the basics of the service. The smart clothing needs to be real-time, but it can also include data gathering, storing and analyzing. In some applications it can be integrated to other services like health service.
Interactive textiles and user interfaces based on touch are being developed to an increasing extent. Softness, different structures and patterns are the basic features of textile materials that enable multiple ways of interaction with our environment, says Emmi Pouta, Doctoral Candidate at Aalto University.