Positioned perfectly in tune with trends in sustainability and wearable technology, solar power is an opportunity for buyers to feel good about their purchases while deriving additional utility.

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What have your clothes done for you lately? Sure, they’ll keep you warm and protect you from the upcoming Nude Zoom scandal, but what if there is much more they could do?

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Soon it can be archaic to think of clothing as simply for protection or pageantry. A new generation of designers are using solar power to unlock the potential of the items we wear, making everything from t-shirts that charge your devices to watches that never die.

Solar power, long a hot topic in technology and architecture, is relatively new to the fashion industry. Positioned perfectly in tune with trends in sustainability and wearable technology, this is an opportunity for shoppers to feel good about their purchases while deriving additional utility from it. Finally, moral authority and “wow that’s cool! Can coexist.

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Forget the visions of awkward black panels affixed to jackets; the solar style is often both subtle and chic. Unlike other iterations of wearable technology, there is no trade-off between utility and style.

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For example, Solios Watches of Montreal makes solar powered watches that rival the aesthetics of traditional designer watches and never require a battery change. A quick two-hour exposure to the sun, or even indoor artificial light, produces six-month energy reserves.

“We want to prove that any fashion accessory can be produced with transparency, durability and sustainability in mind without compromising design,” says Alex Desabrais, co-founder of Solios.

Forget the visions of awkward black panels affixed to jackets;  the solar style is often both subtle and chic.
Forget the visions of awkward black panels affixed to jackets; the solar style is often both subtle and chic.

Solios was founded when Desabrais and his business partner Samuel Leroux realized they had several dead watches lying around and decided there had to be a better way.

“The main source of overconsumption for watches is a dead battery. It’s not even because a watch is going out of fashion. Its battery runs out and the watch ends up at the bottom of someone’s drawer or in a landfill, ”Desabrais explains. It is a life cycle that is bad for the environment and bad for the carriers, so solving the problem would be a win-win scenario.

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Accessories are a natural entry point for consumers as they are already used to them and serve utility purposes.

Solar powered watches are more and more common, as are sunglasses and handbags. Solar powered sunglasses have become particularly popular with serious cyclists, with features such as lenses that instantly brighten or darken depending on conditions and sense UV penetration levels to reduce glare. Meanwhile, handbags and backpacks with solar-powered USB ports can charge phones and laptops on the go, and some have Bluetooth speakers for listening to music.

When it comes to actual clothing, innovations in solar power always tend to come from luxury players or experimental independent designers, as it’s more difficult to incorporate solar cells into softer textiles than them. metals, leathers and plastics. Solar powered outfits not only need to be durable, but they also need to be comfortable and flexible. Notable attempts include Dutch designer Pauline Van Dongen’s wearable solar dresses that can charge your phone, German designer Willy Bogner’s solar powered LED ski suits, and Tommy Hilfiger’s solar powered jackets with removable batteries.

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High costs and the difficulties of mass production are the main obstacles to the mainstreaming of solar fashion, but companies like Solios are determined to change that.

The potential of solar fashion is undeniable when you consider that the sun supplies more energy to the Earth in a single hour than the world consumes in an entire year.
The potential of solar fashion is undeniable when you consider that the sun supplies more energy to the Earth in a single hour than the world consumes in an entire year.

“You can create a sustainable product, but if only a small part of the population can access it, you don’t really solve any problems,” Desabrais explains. “The sustainability issue is rooted in volume. If people didn’t consume and throw away watches and other items en masse, there would be no problem. So, to make a difference, we absolutely have to change the mass market. “

Like any environmentally conscious movement, there is concern that big business could jump on the solar bandwagon without committing to the sustainability ethic underlying the trend.

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“Brands need to be held accountable for what they do. Greenwashing [pretending a brand or product is more environmentally sound than it is] is killing us, ”Desabrais says. He cites designers who advertise plant-based leathers, but don’t disclose that some are made with toxic PVC, as an example. “You don’t build anything useful; you’re just doing good marketing. Consumers need to know that they have rights and a responsibility to ask more questions these days.

An easy way to assess a company’s green credit is to check if it is a certified B Corp. the profit is weighed equally with the goal. This means that they are legally required to take into account the impact of their business practices on workers, the environment, suppliers and the community as a whole.

Unlike some toothless eco-deals that brands enter into for advertising purposes, the practices of B Corp companies are independently verified and they are held to a high level of public transparency.

The potential of solar fashion is undeniable when you consider that the sun supplies more energy to the Earth in a single hour than the world consumes in an entire year. Best of all, unlike many other sustainability initiatives, it doesn’t require major lifestyle changes or giving up on anything. With no obvious drawbacks, the future of solar fashion is remarkably bright.

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