Smart fabrics & wearable tech going hand-in-hand for more fashionable user-friendly innovations
Numbers of experts all around the world truely believe in the future of smart materials. Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, Adjunct Associate Professor at Pratt Institute, author & researcher on smart textiles & wearable technology and previously working as Design Director at Fila USA, Champion and Nike Starter Division, says designers can have a different approach to the design application than technology companies do, which can lead to much more user friendly innovations.
"Successful wearable tech companies will start with the design first, then build the tech around it" she says.
Think about Apple, the greatest example of successful appliance of Luxury Marketing to tech products. Exponential market cap, highly loyal customers: the company has successfully started with the design first, then build the tech around it.
Wait, let's just remind what we put behind smart textiles. They can be broken in two different categories, according to their enhancements purposes: esthetic and performance.
- Esthetics are for example lightning fabrics, changing colors, vibrating, sound making or heatable fabrics.
- Performance enhancing rally temperature regulation fabrics, vibrating muscle control technologies, wind reducing resistance fabrics or can be used for protective clothing for environmental hazards - radiation or effects of space travel... These innovations can be used for athletic, extreme sports, military or even in health (drug releasing medical textile, fabric with moisturizer, perfume, anti-aging properties fabrics...).
Companies and designers have already started working on smart textile, and some of them are doing pretty amazing products using textile innovations. Yin Gao is a fashion designer and professor based in Geneva creating clothes that combine urban design, architecture & multimedia. She uses sensory technologies making her garments more interactive. CuteCircuit, a London-based design duo took their smart textiles and technology to the runway. Showing a collection at NYC Fashion Week (see video below), where models were controlling what their dresses showcased through their smartphones.
Grado Zero Espace is an Italian based company also doing innovation on textile technology and product design. Science has a word to say too, BioCouture is a company focusing on bringing living and bio-based materials to fashion, sportswear and luxury brands by growing clothes from microorganisms such as cellulose, fungi and algae.
Smart fabrics using our bodies as a power source
Tech expert Frank Golding, former YouTube US director of sport, claimed that in a near future, parts of our clothing will be able to use our bodies as a power source. He says technology will be soon so advanced that we will be able to charge our phones and tablets thanks to our clothes.
“Wearable devices will soon transform our entire bodies into power sources. Video will be displayed on literally everything. TV sets in the future will be screenless frames through which holograms appear.” He adds “We already have audio induction but I’m envisioning power induction next. By wearing a certain type of device, our entire bodies will become power sources which allow us to power very small devices remotely.”
Indeed, smart fabrics can harvest kinetic energy to create electricity and they are already being incorporated into clothing & accessories. Some other futurist materials will be able to display information and emit sound, eventually bringing us to more fluidity between devices.
Digital-Printed fabrics brought to NYC Fashion Week 2015
On February 10th, Epson hosted an event where multiple designers from North and South America showcased couture innovation. Yes, the Japanese electronics company, known for its printers, has a made its comeback at NYC Fashion Week by applying its printing expertise to the world of haute couture. As Emilio Sosa, creator of the Esosa Line, said "The more advanced the technology involved, the more forward-thinking fashion will be".
Printing fabric digitally is to textiles as 3D printing is to product manufacturing. The slow process of fabric printing designers are used to is upgrading, allowing them to create things more quickly, says Leonor Silva, NYC-based fashion designer. "Their capacity to create will also shoot through the roof because they won't have as many obstacles. I think this is the cay to the future and, in a couple of years, we won't believe how long it took to create printed fabrics before".
Epson's State-of-the-art Dye Sublimation makes it easier for designers to print as they wish
The SureColor F-Series technology uses heat to transfer dye onto materials such as fabric, paper or even plastic. It was used for the collections' prints, patterns and graphics.
"Unlike screen printing, the speed in which we are able to turn textiles around is incredible" Sosa said. "The ink colors are applied in a single plane rather than sequentially in layers, allowing us to use the technology to explore new possibilities with imagery.”
Designer Alexander McQueen was one of the first to use the technology, which is coming down in cost and going mainstream. Dye sublimation allows lower costs and more reliable printers. It also is fashion-appropriate to polyester fabrics. These progress are giving more currency to the technology. When they exit the printer, the garments' prints are dry and ready to use.
"This method of printing textiles is now available to everyone, when it was once only available to a knowledgeable elite" Stephen Fraser, co-founder of North Carolina-based digital printing company Spoonflower. "It allows designers to experiment with unique colors and designs. It allows a whole new element of expression in their fashion".
Once limited to industrial or high-end commercial printing, the dye sublimation printing is now also used by Canon, Kodak, Sony and Fujifilm - direct competitors of Epson. When Fujifilm's printer costs $1.800, which can be expensive for a small designer house, such printers will soon integrate more innovations and functions making basic models more affordable. Numbers of designers like the idea of using technology in their fashion lines.
Can't wait to see what they will do with it!