Researcher focus: examining the marriage of emerging technologies and fashion

Crossing disciplinary boundaries

deepika2Deepika Raj, early career researcher and co-author of How do they create ‘Superpower’? An exploration of knowledge-creation processes and work environments in the wearable technology industry, tells us about her research on wearable technology, the reaction to her first published article, and how it has helped her in shaping the on-going focus of her research.

Tell us about your research focus
My research focuses on the marriage of emerging technologies and fashion, especially in the Wearable Technology (WT) industry. WT can positively impact many sectors – healthcare, emergency services, and manufacturing – but that would require multidisciplinary collaboration at a level unheard of until now.

I am particularly interested in equipping the fashion technology industry workforce with soft skills that would help enhance their performance for this heterogeneous and tech savvy industry. I conduct industry-based research to bring innovations happening in the industry into classroom discussions.

“…bring innovations happening in the industry into classroom discussions”

What is your most recent article about and who you were hoping would read and act upon your findings?
My most recent article explored the challenges that WT professionals face due to the heterogeneous teams they work in and unique product ideas, which stemmed from multiple disciplines, they need to bring mainstream.

“…I got a glimpse of their quest for innovation first hand”

It was found that very close collaboration ingrained with empathy and respect of each other’s background is required to succeed in this environment. A lot of trial and error and experimentation was done to make products that can do more with less, or has the ability to give superpowers to human beings. The qualitative nature of the study made me explore the work lives of WT professionals closely and I got a glimpse of their quest for innovation first hand.

I was hoping that people from the fashion industry and professors from the apparel and textile discipline would be interested in the research. Surprisingly, I got the most responses from people of different disciplines, including engineering, as well as from product developers from across all disciplines. I hope this research will inform the WT industry and fashion industry professionals, as it came out of fresh experiences of “the first movers.”

With very little research done on the changing landscape of industry due to the impact of technology, I am optimistic that my research would guide people who are interested to move the field of Wearable Technology forward. The publication also coincided and was cited with news on the Met-Gala event, held in New York, which showcases the marriage of fashion and technology.

“Featuring in Science Daily twice was incredible, as this is my first published research article.”

What was the reaction to your work?
The pick-up was tremendous, as the number of reads reached 1,000 in just one month. We have been getting interview requests from academics and journalists from all around the world. I am intrigued by the kind of questions they ask me and how they relate my research work with other ongoing research and global events. One of the interviewers commented that reading the article was like “…watching a fiction movie!” Students are also intrigued by this research and we consistently receive requests to share the questionnaire used for this research. Featuring in Science Daily twice was incredible, as this is my first published research article.

How this has informed and benefited your on-going research?
The outcomes of this research have become the foundation of my future research. Feedbacks from industry experts and academics have helped me tremendously. One of the basic ideas of my ongoing research is to examine the skill sets of heterogeneous professionals working in the emerging and growing field of WT sector, developing an intervention or training module and testing the module on college students. The analysis of soft skills and the gaps in the skill set of the current workforce will inform the industry of the shortcomings for multidisciplinary collaborations. As the WT sector continues to impact on the fashion industry, the fashion discipline will need to prepare a well-equipped workforce for the future, and this is what I plan to accomplish through my research.

Read Deepika’s article: How do they create ‘Superpower’? An exploration of knowledge-creation processes and work environments in the wearable technology industry, published in the International Journal of Fashion, Technology and Education.


Deepika Raj is a doctoral student at the University of Missouri-Columbia, USA and the vice-president of the Graduate Student Association at the Textile and Apparel Management Department of her university. She is researching the intersection of fashion and technology and is frequently called upon for expert interviews, and presentations on the same. She loves traveling and photography.