The ‘Internet Of Clothes’ Will Find A New Home For Neglected Garmets

The ‘Internet Of Clothes’ Will Find A New Home For Neglected Garmets

A new technology could allow your shirts and pants to give themselves away to charity if they detect that they are not being worn

Ido Lechner, Home Editor
  • 22 august 2016

Using RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags which are both washable and entirely contactless, researchers at Birmingham City University are creating an ‘Internet of Clothes’ which will skim your wardrobe and subsequently recycle the unused materials. On days when the weather makes sense to wear a particular outfit in your closet, the technically apt clothing will tweet out a message asking to be worn—should you ignore the notifications, the garments will then contact a clothing charity asking to be ‘recycled.’ You’ll even receive a mailing envelope, automating the entire process from start to finish.

Though the project can seem frustratingly invasive, the aim is to challenge people’s fashion consumption. Clothing production is extremely damaging to the environment thanks to the petrochemicals used in synthetics and cotton growing, alongside the bleaching, dyeing, additional pollutants and energy necessary to produce the items. Moreover, clothing manufacturing is among the most exploitive industry in the world, paying out ridiculously unethical wages and taking advantage of individuals from low-income households by imposing appalling working conditions.

Its estimated that UK citizens have an estimated £30 billion worth of unused clothing sitting in their closets, and Americans parallel these figures all the same.

“The connected wardrobe is a practical, engaging concept to encourage people to think about their clothing consumption. Ultimately, I hope it will encourage a more ethical [dialogue within the industry],” says Mark Brill, senior lecturer at Birmingham City University and team leader. “Perhaps we can even move away from the idea of ‘ownership’ of clothing, to simply using them as long as we need them. When we’ve worn them enough, the items will pass themselves on to their next keeper to wear.”

Future innovations could see timelines created for clothing so new wearers can see the origins of their items alongside who made it and how much they were paid. A ‘style matcher’ could also be in the works, encouraging greater usage of clothing by establishing overlooked wardrobe combinations. Finally, for the less charitable—the Internet of Clothes can also be used to automate options for selling clothing; items that haven’t received love in some time can take to eBay, ASOS marketplace or Depop for instance, as opposed to the current Twitter/charity alternative.

Birmingham City University

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